Share this post!
Crow Reads is a podcast series by Rayanne Haines, in which she interviews intersectional women, LGBTQ+, and non-binary authors, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and more—all of whom are working and living in Alberta—about their books and the current state of the publishing industry. In this month’s podcast Shima Robinson a.k.a Dwennimmen speaks to Rayanne about finding your place in the poetry community, supporting the community while advocating for artist payment, self-publishing and self-creation, and finding the intent of the poem through performance.
Shima Robinson is a spoken word performance poet. Her voice is her instrument, and she wields it with power and precision. Shima found her way to spoken word at the young age of nineteen while watching a show featuring the activist band Eshod Ibn Wyza at a local university club called the Power Plant. The nine-piece collective showcased the talents of the rap, hip-hop scene, along with a feature poet. Through this scene Shima began to find her voice and wrote her first poem “Bellow,” which she later published in the chapbook Bellows. Becoming a practising poet, she says, “came from seeing it being done live in my hometown. I was like, oh, yeah, that’s possible here.” From this tentative beginning, Shima went on to attend the Raving Poets, a weekly staple in Edmonton where, in addition to the featured poets and a live band, there was an open mic.
Shima has performed at countless events, created two spoken word albums, self-published a chapbook, and had another traditionally published by Glass House Press. She’s also recently taken on the role of artistic producer of the Edmonton Poetry Festival, a role in which she advocates for broader understanding of what poetry is and for equitable pay for artists. Shima notes how, as a performance artist, she has to offer “teachable moments” to people. “It’s very remarkable. Some people think that because it’s just the voice as an instrument, or the voice as a tool for expression, it is too convenient. Some people are seemingly completely ignorant of the work that goes into creating that voice.” And so she starts conversations by addressing “the proper way to book someone or the proper way for engagement. But I think that that’s been a winning battle.” She goes on to add that the work she’s doing to elevate new voices at the poetry festival “is important because some communities have almost no voice in our social lives. And so having that amplified and having that be an articulate voice and having that voice be multifarious; there’s many people contributing to a sort of composite of a testimonial or something, what it is to be here in the city doing this work, whatever the work is.”
Shima’s poetic voice has been honed through linguistic musicality, and emphasis on the cerebral, and power, all if which is showcased in her spoken word album, Bellow. She received funding for the album (on which she is backed by the Damn Magpies) from the Edmonton Arts Council just as the world shut down at the start of the pandemic. “I got the grant in February 2020,” Shima says. “That’s when the money hit my account, and then the world shut down. I waited a year and a half. I created raw vocal tracks, live off the floor from my living room with some equipment that I had purchased from my first producer.” The album is a testament to the value of patience and time. Shortly after completing the album, Shima received a call from Glass House Press asking her to submit a manuscript to them. “They were like, we were wondering if you have a manuscript ready? We want to publish you. And I was like, Oh, do I ever? I have one ready to rock. It’s all in order. All I need is for somebody to talk to me very seriously about what you expect for an editing process because there’s already a recording. So, the edit has to be for fidelity to the words I use in the recording, and not necessarily for fidelity to any sort of standard or a rubric.”
You can hear more from our conversation at:
Shima Robinson: amiskwaciwâskahikan- (Edmonton—Treaty 6) born poet and spoken word artist Shima Robinson embodies, with every poem, the ancient meaning of her chosen pen name. Dwennimmen is the name of an ancient African Adinkra symbol, which means strength, humility, learning and wisdom. It is no surprise, then, that this veteran of the Alberta poetry community uses her searing intellect and dynamic precision-of-language to create poetry which ushers her readers and listeners toward greater understanding and poignant reflection. For Dwennimmen, poetry has long been a compass, a salve, an anchor, and guiding light. She uses the potential and force of poetry to uncover the full range of her cerebral, linguistic, and spiritual fortitude. This is why her every poem and performance testifies to an emerging power and wisdom, an authentic, deeply human potency which she hopes to pass on to listeners and poetry lovers around the world.
Published: Glass House Press
About the Host
Rayanne Haines (she/her) is a pushcart nominated author, educator, and cultural producer. She was the 2022 Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries and is the author of three poetry collections. She hosts the literary podcast Crow Reads, is the newly-elected president of the League of Canadian Poets, and teaches with MacEwan University. Her collection, Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the ReLit Award and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award. Recent work has been published in The Globe and Mail, Minola Review, Qwerty, and Prairie Fire.