Shima Robinson: “Life is hard, so I process those things with poetry.”
I met with Shima Robinson, a.k.a. Dwennimmen, and spoke with her about her former work with Heart of the City, among other things.
“I sat on the board of Heart of the City for three years. I used to help out with marketing and communications and the poetry stages. I have performed at Heart of the City since, I’ve done hosting at the Beat Stage, and I attend every year.”
I asked Shima about her connection to the downtown core. She said: “I have a lot of friends who live downtown. I do a lot of my work centrally: half downtown, half in the Old Strathcona area. I enjoy the energy of downtown, I like to see what is going on in my city – the good, the bad, the in-between. I like the proximity to all the things. Downtown is chock full of interesting places and spaces. There are institutional spots like the AGA and iHuman, but also venues like the Aviary or there is also Giovanni Caboto Park or the Italian Centre. A lot of good work happens in Boyle Street/McCauley. There is a lot of community outreach in the area that I am connected to as well.”
Shima shared with me about her work in the arts community. “Right now I work for the Fringe as the manager of learning and outreach and I work for the Edmonton Poetry Festival as the artistic producer. I am also an artist myself. I got published in April by Glass House Press, a book called Bellow that has an album that accompanies it – the QR code for the album is in the back of the book. The album was recorded with the collective Damn Magpies,” she says.
“I’m very busy in the arts. I’m a spoken word poet, performance poet, written word poet, stage poet, all the poetry stuff I do. I do a lot of performing at festivals. I did the North Country Fair this year, I did the Found Festival this year, I’m doing Purple City this year. I’m really into improvisational music.”
When I asked Shima what brought her to poetry she said, “I needed an outlet that was verbal when I was very young. I started to write my own poetry when I was 19. I was performing shortly thereafter with the Raving Poets. I kept doing it. I kept doing it because it allows me to explore in a very healthy way, and in a potentially introspective way, the relative duress of being alive. Life is hard, so I process those things with poetry.”
She continues: “A lot of people have very strong reactions to the things I say and the way that I say them. There are critiques in the poetry. I don’t make it a political mission but there is politics in everything.”
When it comes to poets, Shima says, “I think as poets we speak our minds. We tell it like we see it, we tell it like it is. Everyone has a responsibility to profess what they feel or give a testimony, but I think poets as a disparate group of people have a responsibility to honour themselves.”
Shima also takes part in poetry slams. “The slams both locally and nationally have had a huge impact on how I orate. I try to stay away from trends while taking cues from the way people do their thing – what makes the message clearer, what makes the story more interesting or more rich.
In the future, Shima will be releasing a book of poetry written in 4/4 time, inspired by hip-hop.
_Corine Demas is the President of the Heart of the City Festival. _