Drek Daa

Photo credit: Ryszard Hunka.

While Drek Daa has a public persona as a performance poet and musician, he’s also  a practicing psychotherapist. It was during a stint of serious study at Simon Fraser that Daa found the muse. “I was in Vancouver, and I was doing my PhD in Psychology,” Daa said. “I was setting myself up for becoming an academic. I was doing everything in that direction, and then at some point I became tired of sitting in front of the computer and all this brain work, and I discovered the Vancouver poetry scene.... When I was entering that scene, there was people like Shane Koyczan, C.R. Avery, later Brendan McLeod, Barbara Adler came in, Fernando Raguero, R.C. Weslowski, Al Mader – these are amazing, very unique voices.... I left Vancouver in the fall of 2002 to go to my internship in Winnipeg, to finish my PhD. I started the Winnipeg Poetry Slam, and it was an extremely vibrant slam season in Winnipeg. I had a lot of fun, it was a great experience for me.”


Daa brought prodigious energy to bear on the Canadian slam poetry scene. As a member of the Winnipeg slam champion team of 2003, he competed at the American Slam Nationals in Chicago. Discussions with various other Canadian slam poets led to his campaign to start a Canadian national slam poetry festival modelled on the American slam nationals. This came to fruition in the fall of 2004, with the inaugural Canadian Spoken Wordlympics (since renamed the Canadian Spoken Word Festival), co-founded with poets Anthony Bansfield and Oni the Haitian Sensation. Currently, Daa continues to his involvement through his membership on the board of Spoken Word Canada, the organization that co-ordinates the annual festival.


As a performer, Daa has performed at countless venues, poetry and folk festivals across the country and abroad. Most recently he was a commissioned poet for Canada Speaks: New Literary Performance Works By Twelve Canadian Artists by The Poetry Gabriola Society. This summer he wrote and produced the 2011 Winnipeg Fringe production It’s YES: A one man mockery of all things human. “I’m fortunate enough right now to have a clinic and I work three days a week at that clinic and that gives me enough income so that I don’t have to worry about making money,” Daa said. “The other three days, I’m just playing. I call myself more a performance artist, I always like experimenting with stuff. I did a Fringe show that incorporated a lot of spoken word, but also elements of mime and clown and singing ... it was physical theatre, lots of props. That’s my journey, I just like playing, I just like doing whatever is fun.”


Daa’s community-building energy has been finding its outlet in The CYRK since July of 2006. “I have a little venue in my house, its called the CYRK,“ Daa explained. ”I have fun having these amazing performers in my living room (laughs). I have bands there, super-nice sound system, café-style seating.... The bands come through town and I do one or two events per month max, and then all the proceeds go to the bands.” In the past five years, Daa has hosted poetry, music, film and dance gatherings, including Fringe performance poet Jem Rolls, Vancouver alumni from the slam scene like Raguero, The Fugitives and C.R. Avery, and the CBC Poetry Face-Off. Recently he’s come full-circle by offering this unique performance space to the Winnipeg Poetry Slam. “I’ve asked the slam people back to the CYRK. We’ve decided to do it at the CYRK this year because it’s pretty happening right now.”