Spoken word poetry

I don't hate the sinner, I hate the sin (poem)

Have you ever heard a Christian person mention, “I don’t hate the sinner, I hate the sin” Can I tell you how annoying that comment is? And I grew up Christian.

(Michael Vidler)

I recently had the opportunity to film one of my poems, I Don’t Hate the Sinner, I Hate the Sin, in a Vancouver church. I’ve wanted to film one of my pieces about being gay and Christian in a church for several years, and I finally had the opportunity during my Vancouver Biennale artist residency over the summer.

It was an interesting experience to film in a place that has become foreign and scary to me. I had many thoughts and feelings of belonging (or lack thereof) while I was there.

It brought me back to the place in which I had written this poem. It brought me back to harmful comments that many Christians say to people who are LGBTQ without thinking twice.

It was a place of hurt, pain and shame.

One of the most common phrases is, “I don’t hate the sinner, I hate the sin.” Christians often say they don’t hate LGBTQ people, but their “lifestyle." It's a shame that same-sex love is somehow reduced to a lifestyle and not simply love.

But this poem reminds me that change can happen.

Since writing this piece, I’ve grown in loving myself and accepting my story. Others have also grown in listening and understanding my experiences. We may have different perspectives, but I know how much they love me and our hearts are softening.

It would mean a lot if you checked out this personal poem when you have a chance. Thank you to Michael Vidler for producing this video, and Canadian Memorial United Church for allowing us to film in their sanctuary.

Let’s keep chatting, breaking down walls, hearing each other's stories and living in the grey.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmxT4hhGc6M

To be or not to be a minority - that is the question (poem)

To be or not to be a minority – that is the question A question I have been revisiting and trying to comprehend From the outskirts, being a minority doesn’t seem like the ideal position Being different, perhaps a dissident, maybe exotic And I’m all too familiar with these words and trends Having used them, even in my favour. But as I have come to understand and accept my story This minority status has become a fallacy A malicious status imposed on me The dominant norms and ideologies that have bruised and broken and beaten me Boxing me in to this tiny crevice of being a minority.

Have you ever felt different, or that you didn't quite fit or belong?

Most of us have felt that way at one point or another in our lives. It's not an easy place to be, especially when we desire love, connection, acceptance and belonging.

Puzzle

I've felt different for most of my life and my puzzle pieces never seemed to line up. There was always a part of me that didn't quite fit the community I wanted to belong to. It has been really challenging negotiating the various pieces of my identity and figuring out how I belonged (or didn't).

In some groups, I held back certain aspects of my identity and part of me was missing. In other spaces, I hid different pieces and didn't feel whole. There was silence, insecurity and often shame.

Gay AND Christian? Chinese AND Jamaican? Say what?!?

Many of us never feel like we're enough.

Never forget these powerful words. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Can I tell you how awesome you are? It's true! Many of us navigate these in-between spaces and yet, we often marginalize others who are different. We really need to listen and hear each other's stories, and not be afraid to bring our whole selves.

I'm still figuring out what it looks like to bring all the pieces of Jenna to the table. It's tough and will be a lifelong journey, but I know it'll be worth it. When you have a chance, check out my poem, Minority, and I hope you can connect.

Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? How have you negotiated the various pieces of your identity?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFejUFU8sDo

Creating spaces and showing up: my last Words to Live By show

I can't believe it has been two years since I accidentally started Words to Live By! It was meant to be a five-part series over the summer, but there was a demand to continue a monthly show. Several people said this kind of series was missing from Ottawa's spoken word scene and there hadn't been a show like this since the Oneness Poetry Showcase.

A beautiful and intimate atmosphere. (Rebecca Jones)

I really wanted to create a space to encourage first-time performers, up-and-coming poets and women. We've had many people courageously share their poetry for the first time, while others have had their first featured performance.

Artemysia Fragiskatos first poetry feature. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Benoit Christie performing during the open mic. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

It has been beautiful to see people step out of their comfort zone, and recognize the power of their voices and stories.

“Open mic with the bestest people in the world. Thank you for providing space for all those wonderful poets and incredible human beings. Learning to own my voice and be my kind of beautiful :) Jenna, thank you for introducing me so lovingly into the stage…the warm feeling is still spreading from my chest to my smile. Thank you for being your awesome self and organizing the best show in town. I look forward to it every time.”

It has been such a pleasure showing up and creating a place for individuals to own their voices and be their kind of beautiful. Often, we just need the opportunity, encouragement and space to realize how awesome we are.

Many great memories at Words to Live By. (Artemysia Fragiskatos)

If you're around tomorrow on Tuesday, August 26, it'd be awesome to see you for my last Words to Live By show at Pressed Cafe. I'm also excited to let you know that Artemysia Fragiskatos and Brad Morden will be continuing the show.

Doors and open mic sign-up are at 7pm. Come by, share some poetry and celebrate our two-year anniversary with us!

Everyone loves an Asian girl, right? (poem)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9vYtk9Xzuw&feature=youtu.be Everyone Loves An Asian Girl was the first poem I wrote four and a half years ago. I was inspired after a poetry show and the words quickly flooded out of my pen.

Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. Those countless hours of writing, reflecting and performing have brought me to Vancouver as a Vancouver Biennale artist-in-residence.

Since that first poem, my work has continued to deal with who I am and the complexities of identity. Writing has helped me to negotiate, work through and come to terms with the various pieces of my story. It has also caused me to reflect and ask even more questions.

Since being in Vancouver, I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and my roots.

It's uncomfortable to work through these difficult and complex parts of who we are, but it's necessary for change and growth. We often don't give ourselves the space to deal with these issues and questions.

Vancouver Poetry Slam

Last Monday, I did a mini feature at the Vancouver Poetry Slam. I performed two of my poems, Everyone Loves An Asian Girl and Minority. I hadn’t performed that piece since I wrote Everyone Loves A Jamasian Girl, a poem exploring my Chinese-Jamaican roots.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2h_aPX99Qo

So when did liking Asian girls become a trend When my friend asked me, “Jenna, why do guys like Asian girls?” I let out a smirk and didn’t know what to say It’s because we’re cute and petite and “exotic?” Wait a minute! Why did I justify? Offended because she reduced me to that I was more than just an Asian girl Who got all the stares at my – Everyone loves an Asian girl t-shirt.

This poem was inspired by my t-shirt, Everyone loves an Asian girl, which I bought in high school. I thought it was cute and true, especially with so many people having “yellow fever.”

Everyone loves an Asian girl. (Kaite Burkholder)

What's this “yellow fever?" It's a term used to describe people of non-Asian descent who have a strong interest, attraction and preference for Asian people and culture. I’ve been on the receiving end of this “fever,” particularly from men.

I used to think this obsession was funny, flattering or made me special in some strange way. However, I've come to resent this exoticization of my appearance and the assumptions associated with being an Asian woman.

It’s tiring to be objectified for how you look and having people constantly ask, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” Many people aren't usually satisfied when I tell them I'm from Canada.

Check out my poem when you have a chance and thank you to the Vancouver Poetry Slam for filming it.

Let the Vancouver Biennale adventures begin!

It has been just over a week since I arrived in Vancouver, and I’ve already met some incredible people who are doing amazing work. I’m excited to be part of the Vancouver Biennale and for the opportunity to connect with other artists and community partners. I've already learned a lot from those around me and it has been great spending time with other Biennale artists, including Andreas Strauss and my coordinator, Ken Lum.

(Andreas Strauss)

Exploring a studio space. (Andreas Strauss)

I love new adventures and exploring new places. It has been refreshing creatively to be here, and I've enjoyed taking the time to dream big and appreciate my surroundings. It's easy to move through life quickly, and forget to slow down and soak up the little moments.

A beautiful discovery on a hike with my friend. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Meet my friend, Molly. (Amanda Watson)

I'm drawn to passionate people who want to make a difference in their communities, and there's definitely exciting work happening in Vancouver. I've connected with some movers and shakers here, and I'm thrilled to be part of fostering this dialogue.

This week, I'll be starting my workshops and I have a few performances and interviews. Feel free to tune in and/or check out the workshops if you're in Vancouver.

I'm excited to see what happens as people explore the complexities of identity, spirituality and sexuality. I hope participants will see the power of their voices and will mutually learn from one another through their stories.

The F Word interview Date: Monday, June 9 Time: 12pm Vancouver Co-op Radio (online) or CFRO 100.5FM (Vancouver)

Vancouver Poetry Slam performance Date: Monday, June 9 Time: 8pm Place: Café Deux Soleils (2096 Commercial Dr)

Spoken word workshop Date: Wednesday, June 11 Time: 7pm Place: Heartwood Community Café (317 E Broadway) Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504765246404418

Spoken word workshop Date: Sunday, June 15 Time: 1pm Place: Heartwood Community Cafe (317 E Broadway) Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504765246404418

I'll be writing some blog posts for the Vancouver Biennale, so look out for more of my Vancouver adventures! I'll also share how a random hug with a stranger three months ago got me here. Spoiler alert: that stranger happened to be the founder of the Vancouver Biennale, Barrie Mowatt.

I'm off to Vancouver: building bridges as a Vancouver Biennale artist-in-residence

I have some very exciting news to share with you. I’ll be taking part in the Vancouver Biennale's artist-in-residence program in June! The Vancouver Biennale is a non-profit organization that celebrates art in public space. Over the next two years, the group is inviting 92 artists from around the world to come to Vancouver to create public art and dialogue. Some of the incredible artists include, Ai Weiwei and Jonathan Borofsky.

The theme of this Biennale is Open Borders/Vancouver Crossroads, and the residency program is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, I Have A Dream speech.

I have many dreams for change, freedom and equality.

I’m planning to lead numerous creative and hands-on spoken word poetry workshops, which will culminate in a public event and dialogue at the end of the month. In particular, I’m focusing on bringing together voices from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ), Christian and feminist communities.

There is often a lack of dialogue and understanding between these groups, and I’m interested in helping foster conversations and peacebuilding through spoken word. There are many bridges and connections to be built.

My purpose is to create spaces in which people can openly and freely share their stories through poetry. I also hope the workshops and event help participants see ways they can use their voices as a tool for social change in their own lives and communities. We understand the world around us through stories, which helps us to grow, learn and be challenged.

Let's bring these issues out of the shadows. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

I also want people to sit in the complexities, messiness and ask questions.

This dialogue is not about finding the answers, but living the questions and mutually learning from one another. Change takes time, but I believe it begins when we listen to one another and come to recognize our similarities and common humanity. I really hope participants will be open to having these important conversations.

Change is happening and it’s exciting to be part of the movement and dialogue. 

Last month, I spoke to high school students at the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s first gay-straight alliance (GSA) conference. When I was a student at a Catholic high school, I could’ve never imagined having a GSA or attending one of these conferences. It was amazing to see these students step out in courageous ways, and create safe and open spaces for LGBTQ people.

I'm excited to see what's happening in Vancouver and to hear people's stories. If you are in Vancouver and would like to be part of this dialogue, please be in touch at jenna.tennyuk@gmail.com. I hope we can build some connections and bridges together.

“ I have a dream that one day… we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)