It is no surprise, on the basis of his noteworthy talent and skills, that Patrick de Belen is one of the most well-respected voices within the local, national, and international spheres of performance poetry. He is an undeniable pillar of insight, devotion and energy for poets in his home city of Toronto, and has garnered praise and attention in the United States and the Philippines as well. From the stage, he is best known for his ability to deliver clear-eyed, incisive social commentary in a voice that is authentic to his experiences and the complexities of the urban cauldron that raised him. Like his hometown, Patrick de Belen’s poetry is a dynamic meeting place: a thing of beauty wrought from many influences and forces. It is natural, then, that Patrick’s words often reflect the beauty and profound ugliness that our world is capable of. He manages to articulate, with ceaseless wit and ingenious flares of language, the human capacity for togetherness–and its equally-frequent tendencies for violence, small-mindedness and ego. All of this is possible because Patrick is among the necessary category of people who understands that every poet and artist of acclaim is indebted and accountable to the communities that amplify their voices. This truth is what propels so many of his poems to become both subtle and explicit calls to increased action, consciousness, and ambition for those within earshot of his evocative verse. Patrick de Belen understands that the social position of a poet and public speaker is a rare and special one; he is therefore compelled to use his platform to speak of the issues that most affect the city, country, generation and historical lineage to which he belongs.

 

It is this same community awareness that motivates the other aspects of Patrick’s professional life: teaching and community building. For as much as Patrick de Belen has garnered renown and adoration for his work as a writer and performer, he is equally respected as an irreplaceable pillar of community and organizational insight for young poets across the continent. As a frequent mentor for youth poets and writers trying to harness the power of their own voices, Patrick de Belen has facilitated programming in conjunction with The Toronto Public Library, The 2015 Pan Am Games, Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture, correctional facilities all across the province, and many other community groups and national institutions. He is also the director of Toronto’s only poetry slam for youth, “BAM! Toronto Youth Poetry Slam”. The themes and aesthetics of his own poetic work are meant, alongside his tireless efforts in the community, to iterate one essential goal: use poetry to uplift and challenge those around him to be better, more fulfilled and ambitious artists and human beings. In addition to being rewarded by the members of his direct community, Patrick’s gifts and contributions as an artist-educator have been recognized in other ways. He was the first ever recipient of the Poet of Honour award from YouthCanSlam–Canada’s national youth poetry festival. In the arena of slam poetry, he is also one of the youngest poets ever to perform as part of the national championship-winning team, as he did at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2012. His work has been featured on CBC, TED and Sportsnet (TV commercial for the Toronto Raptors), among other platforms.

 

   Patrick de Belen’s poetry and his professional life as an artist are powerful articulations of his place and ambition within the world. His poetry is a meaningful bridge between the interests, desires and unique challenges of urban youth of his generation and a world that often misinterprets their voices. This Toronto poet is a powerful catalyst of community, unity and artistry. He intentionally and eloquently embodies the ideals he believes art should serve. He is, therefore, one artist whose career exemplifies how much good can be done when a poet chooses to make every aspect of their creative life an expression of service, ambition, social consciousness and passion.

Brandon Wint

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