Brave New Words is a local, monthly event open for literary artists to perform their prose, speak their minds, throw down their rhymes and sing parts of their soul.
But it is when the gathering goes silent that producer Lauren Tuck knows it is truly successful.
“When you have somebody that comes up and they blow you away, and everyone is speechless and I’m not even paying attention to the five-minute maximum because everyone is engaged,” said Lauren Tuck of the monthly events, which are held at Baked Cafe. “That’s why I do it.”
Tuck started them exactly three years ago.
The self-employed event planner is a literary artist herself, specializing in poetry, rap, songwriting and hip hop.
As an organizer of a local art collective, Brave New Works, Tuck thought she would try out the night, just once, in August of 2008 to see what would happen.
It was very well received, she said. So she put on another one. It was also well received, so she put on another. And another.
“And the rest is sort of history,” she said.
The night – now part of Baked Cafe’s schedule from 7 to 10 p.m. every last Tuesday of the month – is special, said Tuck, who pronounces her words with precision.
And her hands are hardly still when she talks.
They move like waves, flowing and twisting, as she juggles words to describe what happens during each show.
“It’s special because the people who come to it accept you,” she said. “They accept your work, no matter what it is.
“The main goal is to inspire people to come out and share what they’re passionate about, to come out and reveal a piece of their soul, to come out and share a part of their creativity.
“There is a community aspect as well.”
Each “open mike” show varies, but there tends to have between eight and 15 performers and between 40 to 70 attendees, said Tuck.
And while she secures a new musical guest (for the break) and graphic designer (for posters) for each event, the performances can never be fully predicted.
Deciding which artist goes next is kind of like making a mixed tape, said Tuck.
Except she can never know for sure who will sign up, or what they will do.
“I know what they say about making assumptions, but when you’re going by the seat of your pants you have to use your instincts,” she said about gauging how to line up artists who have become regulars.
When it comes to first timers, a general “boy-girl-boy-girl” equation has to suffice, she said.
Brave New Words sees a plethora of literary art from a cappella or hip hop, to postcard and love-letter readings, to poetry, prose, story, spoken word and rap.
“It a way of people pushing their own limits, stepping out of their own shell and saying, ‘Listen to this,’” she said. “There’s something here for everybody and we accept everybody. You never know what’s going to happen up there, but you’re safe. You’re safe to be who you are.
“And as long as you’re not saying offensive things or bringing forth offensive content, we accept you and you’re entitled to your own view. And I would never stop anybody from having their opportunity to say their piece.”
There has never been an experience, yet, where Tuck has had to enforce any limits against anything obviously offensive or racist, she said.
“I’ve had people say, ‘Is it OK to use the word ‘erection?’ Or, ‘can I tell a really dirty sex poem?’” she said. “And I said, ‘Fuck yeah, you can.’”
The only, real censorship that hits the Tuesday night group is nervousness.
Kelvin Smoler is a local hip hop artist.
He, as simply “Kelvin,” is in two different groups: thirtythreeonethird and KIDS, which stands for kinetic intelligence develops soul.
He has been writing and making beats since 2003. He has gone to school for recording and he has been welcomed into the hip hop communities both in his hometown of Whitehorse and in Vancouver.
But the vulnerability of standing up in the silent room at Brave New Words still makes him nervous, he said.
“You no longer have the beat to flow to,” he said. “It’s more like you’re on your own metronome. Everybody can hear every word you’re saying. That’s the beautiful thing about it.
“It’s also a bit scary.”
Before Brave New Words, the only real venue for hip hop artists like Kelvin was “Freestyle Fridays,” that used to be held at the former location of Triple J’s Music Cafe. It was something all the high school kids would flock to, to listen to hip-hop beats and throw down improved rap, said Smoler.
But the variety Brave New Words offers is particularly satisfying, he said, noting how much he appreciates cross-blending genres, like his own hip-hop style with that of folk artists, for example.
And Freestyle Fridays doesn’t happen anymore.
Brave New Words is one of the only places for literary artists to perform and grow here, and it is important, said Smoler.
After a year-and-a-half hiatus, when Tuck left the territory to work on her own art and career in Montreal, the reception of the show’s return was gratifying.
Tuck’s summer in Whitehorse was only supposed to be a visit. Now she is arranging for all her things to be shipped back to her hometown.
And the community that has developed around Brave New Words has something to do with it, she said.
“You can notice the appreciation for each poet, each person that throws down, or even people that attend but don’t speak but like the atmosphere,” said Smoler. “I think it’s an important thing to do. Folks just love it and they will stay until the end. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The next edition of Brave New Words will take place at Baked Cafe on Tuesday August 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. Admission is by donation.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at