More Than A Literary Festival

Joel Philip

Age: 21
Area: San Fernando
Year: 2023
If you would have told me 3 years ago I would be a x2 semifinalist in the National Poetry Slam, I would ask, "What's the National Poetry Slam?" This chapter would've looked like a myth to me then. From growing up too shy to make friends, or even talk loud enough to make my presence known, "outspoken" would never be a word associated with Joel Philip [PHILIP WITH 1 L :) ]. Until I found choir, found acting, and found the voice I was hiding. The joy I got from performing superseded any fear I had of being heard, so from being able to count the words I spoke in a day with one hand, to countless "I never expected this from you" comments, was a welcome change. With respect to poetry, that came to me out of the need to share my story. In the height of the 2020 pandemic with no choir or cast to back me up, and seeing the then state of the world, I had an idea that couldn't just be pondered on or written down in a journal. Might be the theatre in me, but I knew I NEEDED it out of my head, and I NEEDED to share it with others. But when I didn't have the confidence to sing, rap or play an instrument well enough to do my idea justice, the only other form I had a clue about that might be able to help, was spoken word. The first poem I ever wrote and performed is still on my Instagram, and I still refuse to ever watch it back. Regardless, poetry has been with me in many key moments of my life, from graduating secondary school, to competing in the biggest spoken word competition in the Caribbean. I could have never imagined the life I live now at any other point in time, and a part of me likes it that way; makes these victories sweeter when they're a surprise. Just shy of having three years experience, I gained a few accolades in winning national competitions and simultaneously performed at the UWI Got Talent and National Poetry Slam Finals in 2022. From the rhythmic patterns I utilise, the topics I choose to speak on, or my boldness in executing them, I have never been one to hold back from making my presence felt in the spoken word scene. After all it has done for me, who am I to keep hiding? I almost didn't audition this year, but I made it here for a reason. Some could call winning, the "climax" of my career so far, and though it'd be the biggest moment, I know my story can't be confined to the parameters of Slam. But taking the stage in front of me for granted would be a rookie move, and I'm far from who I was 3 years ago. I'm a x2 semifinalist, looking to be a x2 finalist as well. And after that? Well, there's a first time for everything.
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