Motion in Poetry

Johanna Brand

Participants in ETFO’s 2006 Leadership Conference were able to experience Wendy Brathwaite’s work first hand. Brathwaite, whose stage name is Motion, performed several powerful poems.

The year 2002 was a significant one for Motion: her book was published, she won CBC’s Poetry Face-off, and she  began teaching in the Toronto District School Board’s Section 23 program. In 2005 she received ETFO’s award for an unpublished author.

Section 23 students are those who for a vari- ety of reasons cannot attend traditional school. They may have  mental health challenges, be in crisis, or be in trouble with the law. Motion cur- rently teaches at the Youthdale Treatment Centre, which provides crisis intervention programs for youth with mental health issues, and at the York Detention Centre.

“I’m an artist who teaches,” Brathwaite said in an interview. “I’ve expressed my self artistically through poetry for a long time, ever since I was a child.” She comes by her interests naturally: both parents were teachers and many family members are artists.

“I’ve  made  records and  CDs. My  work  has been included in anthologies and I’ve acted on stage. I was a host on the University of Toronto radio station CIUT for 10 years.

“I use poetry and music to connect with my students. I like to get them writing short stories or poetry, to write about their lives, their stories. in Poetry They all have stories.

“Often in my English class I will have them work on their own book, something that they can take away  with  them when they leave that showcases their work. They are a very transient group, involved with many  agencies. This way they have something to show others.

“The other staff and I focus on helping them understand that the interest they have can be a spark or light  they  can use to connect to their ultimate life purposes. A lot of times they’ve been told that what they love is not valid. I believe that the more they engage in their passions in daily life the happier they can be.

“So if a girl loves shopping, we try to find what about  that  interests  her,  whether  it’s  fashion, design, media. We’re offering a space for dream- ing but also showing that there can be a reality within dreams.”

In her own artistic life, Brathwaite is studying creative writing because “I  wanted to  increase my own knowledge and be mentored as I work toward my next book and album.”

Brathwaite’s book, Motion in Poetry, and her CD, Motion in Poetry: The Audio Xperience, are available from Women’s Press in Toronto;

Motion in Poetry is currently being used by teachers and taught in a number of public and high schools, as well as at the college and univer- sity level. You can contact Brathwaite by email at