Embracing Voices, Creating Personal Landscapes
“I wanted this place to be a cultural centre for things going on in the community,” says Jeff Stewart, owner of the new sandwich restaurant/cafe, Pressed. Open to the Ottawa community last November; Pressed is a unique, quirky place where artists, activists and anybody else who enjoys comfort and quiet beauty while working or enjoying people’s company.
The idea for the Pressed sandwich restaurant stemmed from a similar venue in Brooklyn, New York. Inspired by the “urban lifestyle,” Stewart wanted to bring a different “indie coffeeshop vibe” to Ottawa, which is something that he appreciates in other urban centres.
On Wednesday July 4th, 2012, Pressed collaborated with the slam-poet and musician, Jenna Tenn-Yuk. On her personal blog, Jenna discusses her experience at Pressed, a place that instantly became one of her favourite spots in Ottawa. Tenn-Yuk, describes the building of her relationship with Stewart where he brought up the thought of hosting slam-poetry in his restaurant. Unbeknownst to Stewart, Tenn-Yuk herself, was a poet.
“Going back to that urban lifestyle that I like in other cities where, you are staying in your own neighbourhood, drinking a cofffee, drinking a beer, while listening to a band,” expressed Stewart when describing why he wanted poetry to come to Pressed. He wants his restaurant to become a place for various cultural events to be open to the community.
Located on 750 Gladstone Avenue, Pressed is a hidden-gem on a street that has a feel of quiet desolation. As you walk in, you automatically feel that you are in a familiar home. Although you know its not yours, the vintage ambiance, dim-lighting and great music, transports you to a world away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. The environment is perfect for poetry, where friends and strangers can intimately share the experience of raw and honest poetry.
During the month of July, every Wednesday people can share their stories and words in a safe environment. Although Ottawa has a plethora of spoken-word events, the collaboration between Tenn-Yuk and Pressed may in fact create a path for new voices.
“Sepideh [another slam-poet] and I were chatting about safe spaces for people to speak their voices and even when you go to a slam, they have an open-mic component, but it can be intimidating if you don’t have sort of a slam sort of style. We wanted to create a space where any kind of performer, could come and share their voice, regardless of their style.”
The open-mic was a breath of fresh-air. Men and women, young and older graced the stage sharing their truths. Danielle K.L Gregoire sung a haunting lullaby, entitled Grey Day. What was perhaps the most special part of the night was when Jenna invitingly asked if anyone in the audience wanted to speak after the last scheduled open-mic performer graced the stage. As members of the audience looked around, finally a young girl bravely got up from her chair and headed towards the stage; ready to tell her story.
A raw moment, Jenna later told me that Beatrice didn’t intend to perform, but she did because she felt safe.
Special moments continued to surface throughout the night. Slam-poet Sean O’Gorman performed as the feature poet, perhaps for the last time in Ottawa for the next year, as he gets ready to travel to Seoul, South Korea.
Using his boyish-charm-- O’Gorman delivered the poems that the audience has grown to love.
“I did the poems that I got the most feedback, I wanted to leave people with something they enjoyed, and poems that were like “this is me,”” chimed O’Gorman, when asked what he wanted to leave the audience with.
As poetry travels and weaves into different places and spaces, Tenn-Yuk’s desire for those who will be coming to upcoming shows is to “embrace your own voice, and share that with the world.”
When asked what he wishes his customers feel when they leave his restaurant, Stewart replied, “I want them to leave with that glowly feeling...where everyone is comfortable and feeling there is magic in their own backyard...That this becomes a part of their own personal landscape.”
Perhaps a night of poetry at Pressed will be your new “personal landscape."
Check out the next show this Wednesday with feature poet El Jones.