Arabic spoken word poet finding her voice

Jordan Saab pauses to collect her thoughts during a run through of her spoken word piece “Good Morning You” in the Arts Lounge on the University of Calgary Campus on Sept. 23, 2017.

Jordan Saab, a 19-year-old Arabic spoken word artist, performed her piece “Good Morning You” for the first time on Sept. 18.

Saab performed at the Dickens Pub’s monthly poetry slam, presenting the piece in honour of a member of her family.

“My grandmother’s last name Saab means ‘morning.’ Growing up, whenever she would see me, she’d say, ‘my morning is here.’”

After the death in March of her grandmother, Saab wrote “Good Morning, You” as a tribute.

In high school, Saab’s first fan was her Arabic grandmother Aida.

The older woman pushed Saab to perform at the Lester B. Pearson High School annual talent show.

“As a growing poet, I was still learning how to write the right rhymes,” said Saab.

“My first piece was about the struggles of high school and finding your identity.”

Though she did not place in the contest, it taught Saab a valuable lesson.

“Performing in the talent show in Grade 11 really helped me come out of my shell.”

Saab’s grandmother was a lover of poetry, who often read Arabic poetry to her granddaughter.

A member of the University of Calgary’s Spoken Word Association and the Muslim Art Movement, Saab speaks on behalf of Muslims and Arabic artists who have not yet found ways to express themselves.

With her mother’s help, Saab began to work on pieces in Arabic as a way to get in touch with her culture.

“This is her passion,” said Oma Rahman, mother of the young poet.

“Whenever she writes Arabic [poetry], her sisters and I gather around to listen to her. She has so much heart in her words, I only hope others can feel it as well.”

Despite the increasing cultural diversity in Canada, Saab has experienced discrimination when performing in Arabic instead of English.

Lauren Thompson, a member of the spoken word community and a friend of Saab, has witnessed it.

“She once performed a poem in Arabic at one of our poetry slams and it was about how she feels lost in her culture and its traditions as a third generation Arabic-Muslim in Canada,” said Thompson.

During the performance, a middle-aged [Caucasian woman] whispered to Thompson, “shouldn’t she be performing so we can all understand? What’s the point of performing if no one can understand?”

There have been other times when Saab has performed in Arabic at poetry slams held at pubs where customers have directed racial slurs at Saab.

“I don’t really let it affect me,” said Saab.

“I’m content with who I am and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to listen to my poetry.”

I have the right platform to express who I am. – Jordan Saab

Despite the discrimination she has faced, Saab has the support of her family, friends and community.

“I have the right platform to express who I am.”

After performing in March at the Muslim Art Movement, Saab feels secure with her identity and who she is.

“I feel like I have a place to speak my true feelings and a place where I can be accepted and welcomed by my peers,” said Saab.

About May Nguyen 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, May Nguyen worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.