Video Verse: Loop City

Loop City is the spoken word show that wowed Melbourne late last year. In collaboration with former MSO violinist Sarah Curro and composer Yvette Audain, two favourites of the Melbourne poetry scene, Amanda Anastasi and Steve Smart put together a spoken word show that breathes the city we live in, whilst dousing it with some much needed critical eyes. The show traverses tones, with the music underneath lifting the poetry up rather than smothering it, and for you, we have two clips from the show.

You have two more chances to see Loop City in April and May at the Courthouse Theatre in Eltham and a regional show out in Ballarat.

Thursday, April 17 @ 8pm / Eltham Courthouse, 728 Main Rd, Eltham / $5 / Open Mic

Saturday, May 3 @ 7.30pm / The Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard St N, Ballarat / $25-15 (Bookings or on the door)

Right Now looking for poetry and spoken word submissions

Right Now are currently accepting poetry and spoken word for publication on their website edited by Melbourne Spoken Word editor, Benjamin Solah.

Right Now seeks poetic expressions of human rights and social justice. We are seeking poetry of 100 lines or less that fit with monthly themes, touching on the issues of human rights, whether they be in the form of non-fictional poetry, abstract examples or the obscure connections that connect words to the rights of human beings. We are also very happy to accept spoken word recordings as well.

Please send submissions to submissions@rightnow.org.au.

Upcoming themes:

May 2014 – Human Rights and Money
June 2014 – History and Human Rights
July 2014 – Health and Human Rights
August 2014 – Education and Human Rights
September 2014 – Indigenous Rights
October 2014 – Identity and Human Rights

Right Now is an online human rights magazine, published at http://www.rightnow.org.au. Our vision is an Australia where people have informed and inspired discussions about human rights, equality and justice.

Melbourne Spoken Word presents Laneway Words with US Slam Poet Bill Moran

One Night Only, with local features, a poet’s market

Laneway Words

Friday, March 21 @ 8pm / Toot Fanute, Level 1, Door 1, Globe Lane, Melbourne (off Little Bourke St)

$10 on the door or $8 if you pre-book at trybooking.com

Melbourne Spoken Word presents a very special one-time-only spoken word event hidden in the laneways of Melbourne. We have found this very special venue open for a limited time and we would like to fill it up with spoken word and poetry.

Presenting US slam poet, Bill Moran, also known as Good Ghost Bill, born half-Cherokee, half-Catholic, half-Voodoo, he was part of 2011-2013 Austin Poetey Slam national teams and the 2012 & 2013 Austin Poetry Slam Champion.

Also featuring…

Fury: Australian born, New Zealand spawn. Child to a renegade dentist and a right wing oil painter. Fury’s work revolves around perception, empathy & the sacking of facades through colouring things human.

Andy Jackson’s collection, Among the Regulars (papertiger media, 2010) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award. He has performed at literary events and arts festivals in Australia, India, USA and Ireland. He blogs about identity, embodiment and other hard-to-pin-down things at amongtheregulars.wordpress.com

Video Verse: Fade to White by Ee’da

From rural to urban, ancient to contemporary, Ee’da’s work encapsulates diversity. Her music traverses hip-hop, soul, folk, reggae and spoken word and is bound together by a unique style resonating with vitality, passion and grace.

Ee’da has performed spoken word around Melbourne, supporting Luka Lesson and Bob Holman, performing with the Centre for Poetics and Justice and the founder of Sisters for Sisters, a fundraising event, that features spoken word, “in solidarity and support for sisters in developing countries who have been exploited, sold and abused through sex trafficking.”

Let’s talk Chapbooks!

Words by Benjamin Solah

‘Chapbook’ was a term I first heard amongst the poetry scene after arriving at a poetry gig in Melbourne a few years back, probably when Michael Reynolds gave some away as part of his raffle to help pay the wonderful poets at Passionate Tongues. At first, it confused me as I’d associated it with ‘chapter books’ and poetry ‘chapbooks’ rarely have chapters, but whether you call them zines or chapbooks, the petite size, accessibility and DIY nature of many chapbooks is appealing, and for me, one of my favourite ways of reading poets work after seeing them live on stage.

Last year, I’d say, we had a bit of a boom with chapbooks in Melbourne, and self-publishing of poetry books in general. Well, not just books, but CDs and albums as well. I’d always loved that about Melbourne poetry. The grassroots nature of poets themselves – running gigs for each other and the communal nature of writing poetry and performing it – fits well with things like chapbooks as a way of getting your writing out there, especially inside of Melbourne.

I produced a chapbook, broken bodies shortly after Carrie Hagan released her chapbook, Charcoal and Red Lipstick. We did it in similar ways, both printing them in bulk at a local printers with soft(ish) covers and the best bit was they were relatively easy to sell. Going around to gigs, doing features, reading on the open stages, is pretty conducive to selling books, unlike my previous experiments with self-publishing which involved reaching out to the daunting and easy to be ignored world of the internet, where anyone can put something out there and hope someone buys it, but the audiences of poetry gigs often love to take something more home with them after seeing a local poet or touring poet perform on stage.

Jacky T’s chapbook, Things I See Around Brunswick was a light and fun take on the chapbook, printed at home, and containing freestyle poems, totally untouched, and given to us raw.

And before all that, Koraly Dimitriadis’ chapbook, Love and Fuck Poems led to it becoming a book. Before 2013, and certainly into 2014, chapbooks will hopefully remain a way to access poetry easily and cheaply. I’ve heard from poets who’ve been around for much longer than me that’s chapbooks are an ongoing tradition and even seen some of the series of the Melbourne Poets Union have produced. I would love to hear more about how that tradition came to be, and some of the ways in which they sold their chapbooks.

In the past, Melbourne Spoken Word have tried to sell a range of poets’ work as a whole at various literary festivals around Melbourne, with varying degrees of success, but we hope some spirit of collaboration can continue into 2014 and we’d encourage poets to produce chapbooks, nice samples of what we have to offer, into 2014.

Our advice on how to approach it would to not feel the need to make it too grand, a few poems, definitely no more than 20, will do, and it doesn’t need to look all professionally printed. You can get creative or out there if you like, but some people just want to read a little bit of poetry. Let’s give it to them!

Review: Product, a spoken word album, by Randall Stephens

Review by Amanda Anastasi

a2440354700_2Scanning your eye over the cover of Randall Stephen’s CD Product, the first thing you notice (apart from a silhouette of the safari-hatted poet himself) is an elephant, a bra, Darth Vader, the Taj Mahal, a flying fridge… One thing you sense, the moment your eye stops on the flying fridge, is that this ain’t gonna be boring!

The album begins with a short fanfare-like intro, complete with applause, snippets of MCs introducing Randall, more applause…then the energetic burst that is Man Alive, one of the many live recordings on the album. Let me put it this way: if you’re feeling flat or unmotivated, this track is the equivalent of a double shot espresso and a cold shower. There is an urgency and a call to seize the moment with lines like “Let it out because this will die!” There are lines that will make you chuckle: “I wanna fight the good fight with bad timing” and “I wanna be the ironman of irony!”

Brace yourself for Behemoth. The entire poem is a vocal expression of absolute power that opens with a monstrous growl. I know many eight-year-old boys who would go absolutely nuts for this, especially the line about producing “a tonne of shit every day…for millions of years.” Besides the entertainment value, there is something eerily confronting about the depiction of a creature that “has no natural predators.”

Randall duets with Alex Scott on more than one occasion: the interlude about our deceptive perceptions in Bigger Than You Are, the clever and topical The Future of Entertainment, the self (and peer)-deprecating You Fucking Poet and Saharan Siren Song. Saharan Siren Song is the most philosophical moment, and the most atmospheric. Among swirling desert sounds and the whispers of ‘step off’ is a poem about the desire to escape into a silent, tranquil vastness. Randall and Alex, with their contrasting vocal styles and combined wit, balance each other well.

The other collaboration on the album is with Steve Smart in Last Seen, which is a highlight. In Don’t Ask Why the coexistence of both the impoverished and wealthy India is effectively conveyed. We’ll Always Have Paris is another poem with a strong sense of place. Again the theme arises of catching the moment or opportunity before it vanishes, but with a softer tone, much aided by the piano accompaniment. Left Unsaid is yet another on this theme – the lost people, the lost chances.

In Jump, a poem about the initial infatuation stage of a relationship, the image of the flying fridge finally becomes relevant! I Statements is a strong moment on the album – check out the You Tube animated video of this. Darth Vader Died – My Dad is probably the most moving, intensely personal piece. The image of Randall seeing his face on a photo of his father is a powerful one.

Many of the poems have short track live intros and they work well, in that they show the banter and live interaction Randall has with his audience. It emphasizes his skill as a performance poet and keeps the whole thing relaxed and fun. There are four bonus tracks which, interestingly, are listed on the back. I guess Randall doesn’t want you to miss them! It includes a passionate ode to his bicycle and a track read by the wonderful Meaghan Bell. Throughout, the music by Andrew Horne and Jacky T is well done and fitting, never intruding on the words.

This is a poet that doesn’t take himself too seriously – even the title of the CD is tongue-in-cheek – but underlying the liveliness and wit is an emotional rawness and a surprising array of subjects and ideas explored. I must say, I really enjoyed this album – its fun, its clever, its passionate. Randall calls it as he sees it. One poet’s heart and soul jampacked into a little yellow product.

Randall Stephens Product can be listened to and purchased at http://randallstephens.bandcamp.com/

Open Mic Tips for 2014

Words by Benjamin Solah

Open-Mic-Afternoons5

Have you made some poetic new year’s resolutions for the start of 2014 – or at least some in theory commitment to go see some more poetry, write some more, or finally compete in that slam or get up on that open mic?

Melbourne Spoken Word is here to help. The first thing to do is sign-up to our weekly newsletter and/or check our upcoming events page. Find a gig near you or one that you can slot into your calendar. Find the one with the open mic or open slam if that’s what you’re looking for.

And then, if you’ve resolved to get up on stage for the first time, or again, we have some tips and recommendations to help you along the way.

  1. Speak Clearly – whether the gig is with a microphone or powered only by your own lungs, it’s important to make sure you speak clearly and loud enough. You might have the best words in your head on the page but unless people in the audience can hear you, no one will know.
  2. Respect Your Time Limit – whether there’s an official time limit or not (usually it’s around 5 minutes) be sure to keep within that time limit or do not abuse the open mic and go on too long. It’s better to get the audience’s attention with a bang, rather than get known for going on too long. You may think that this one last poem of yours is brilliant but people are more likely to remember the phrase “just one more” rather than the poem if you’ve already gone over your time limit. Some gigs have a bit of leeway or more if there’s a short open mic list but if the queue is packed, best to keep it short.
  3. There’s Always Someone Listening – sometimes the audience might be distracted, with some people having conversations as the night goes on, but rest assured, there’s always at least one person in the audience that will give you the time of day, especially if you’re getting up for the first time. Focus on them.
  4. Listen to Others – it’s just good manners if you get up to read or perform, that you generally stick around and listen to others getting up and reading. It’s also one of the best ways to improve your craft by soaking up the collective inspiration of the Melbourne poetry scene
  5. Paper Crutch – And lastly, at some open mics or slams, a lot of people memorise their poems and don’t read off paper. There’s lots of good reasons to do that, but don’t feel like you’re obliged to or that’s automatically going to make your performance better. Especially if you’re getting up there for the first time, it’s better to have paper there (even as just a back-up) so you can make sure you’re going to finish your piece rather than having to freeze half way through

There’s just a few tips. Feel free to ask questions below or to offer your own tips and tricks on open mics, but also, here’s a few of the best open mics around town to get you started:

  • Passionate Tongues at the Brunswick Hotel: Every second Monday night at the Brunswick Hotel, Michael Reynolds hosts Passionate Tongues from 8.30. There’s a feature performer who does about half an hour but the best is open mic and ample chance to get up and debut. Michael loves first-time readers and often gives them a little something for getting up for the first time and there’s always a supportive crowd. Also, low pressure if you want to get up later in the night.
  • House of Bricks: roughly every month at House of Bricks Gallery on Budd Street in Collingwood, Santo Cazzati is the ‘poetry-jockey’ or ‘PJ’ for a relaxed gig in a warehouse gallery, where he often describes to open mic as just as good as the features. Find Santo in a colourful shirt and hat to put your name down. He’s one of the best people to have in the audience if you’re feeling a little nervous.
  • The Dan: Every Saturday afternoon from 2pm at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in Carlton, apparently they’re giving a free drink to first timers starting this year. What more encouragement can you get? One of the longest running poetry events in Melbourne
  • Slamalamadingdong: want a high energy debut into spoken word in Melbourne? This slam happens every month at the Bella Union Hotel inside Trades Hall in Carlton and the slammers and organisers are incredibly supportive if you want to get up for the first time. Get their early though as spots are highly sought after.
  • There’s so many more I could list like ContraVerse, The Barley Corn, West Word. Check out the upcoming events pages for when they are, keep our tips in mind and have fun!

Review: Sean M Whelan’s ‘Everything all the time’

Words by Hannah Monagle

The discomfort of observing the intricate conversations between two lovers. This is my initial feeling upon watching Sean M Whelan’s ‘Everything all the time’. Set in Melbourne gorgeous bookshop ‘Hill of Content’. Whilst initially an unnerving setting, as two ghost like figures walk slowly before you, the play soon develops into the ‘everyday’ between two protagonists, Tully (James Tresise) and Patience (Kali Hulme). The pair go hurtling from nauseating loved up cinema dates towards the irritable monotony of the everyday. Amongst the super natural themes is something so heart wrenching and so relatable, the quiet breakdown of a relationship, perhaps occurring before either party is quite sure it is there.

Sean M Whelan’s script is laden with visual and pop culture references, a homage to his amazing spoken word and something which enriches the play to no end. The two actors play their roles with compassion but also a firm grip on the ‘everyday’, it feels as if you’re sitting across from two friends watching them interact.

For me Hulme was a clear stand out, polishing her performance with a harrowing rendition of Mama Cass’s ‘Dream a Little Dream of me’ at the end. Tresise without quite so much to work with (the poor dorky besotted hipster) still manages to stand his own. The Script is lyrical and rich, painting a picture of modern day Melbourne and the two lovers embedded in it. The super natural elements are pulled off with out any sense of kitsch as the two lovers watch themselves from afar, stating “we were so happy then” and weren’t we all?, At some point? reminds ‘Everything all the time’.

Meeting the Regulars: La Mama Poetica

Words by Amanda Anastasi

1418194_10151999769819329_176182167_nLa Mama Poetica is held on a Monday night at 7.30 for an 8pm start, approximately four times a year. It is an evening of some of the best spoken word and poetry to be found in Melbourne. Each Poetica event features four diverse poets – some established, others emerging.

As convenor, I give much consideration to the combination of poets I choose. I aim to keep a gender balance (usually two male and two female poets), and to present a range of styles and personalities. While most Poetica features have well and truly ‘earned their stripes’ on the Melbourne poetry scene, the gig will always be the place to come and hear the best of the new poets.

When I visit other poetry gigs looking for future Poetica features, I try to gauge which performers poetry audiences most want to hear more from. At the same time, I am aware of the responsibility I have in choosing quality poetry, which is the La Mama Poetica tradition so well maintained by past convenors such as Lauren Lee Williams, Jeltje, Anna Fern, Andy Jackson and Matt Hetherington. When in doubt, I simply choose the poet/s that I last heard read that gave me goosebumps!

Poetica is promoted through Facebook and additionally in the La Mama Theatre quarterly program booklet. Our usual venue is the heritage-listed La Mama Courthouse Theatre, an icon of the performing arts in Melbourne. It is a beautiful intimate space for poets to perform in and with acoustics this good, we have no need for a microphone. What is also wonderful about this venue is that each month a different play is showing, so we never know what kind of set we are going to get to perform in!

The next La Mama Poetica will be held on Monday, 18th November at 7.30pm @ the La Mama Courthouse Theatre, 349 Drummond St Carlton and will feature Amy Bodossian, Tim Hamilton, Jillian Pattinson and Joel McKerrow. There is a door prize, bar and box office at the theatre. Tickets are $12/$8 and can be prebooked or purchased at the door. To keep updated on all things La Mama, join the La Mama Poetica group on Facebook or visit the theatre’s website.

The Next Tennyson

Words by Emma Kathryn

I remember being a romantic teenager. I loved the story of Cupid and Psyche. About the lonely girl and the mysterious lover whose face she was not allowed to see. It stirred up so many tender feelings in me. Enid Blyton’s “Tales of Long Ago,” presented a somewhat abridged version of this second century story.

I wanted to be part of that myth. One day I found John Keats’ “Ode to Psyche” in a book on my parents’ bookshelf. Many critics agree that it is not one of Keats’ best poems. But it so beautifully visualized the lovers after all their trials were over. It was what sparked my interest in poetry.

I became a poetry-obsessed teenager. I hugged the whole thing to my heart. In my mind I had a special relationship with Keats, Shelley and others. I thought of poets like pop stars! And modern portrayals of them, especially the way books on them were presented, seemed to encourage that.

I would visualize their lives in Georgian and Victorian England. I was so delighted when Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Johnson and Lord Byron were portrayed on “Blackadder.” Even more so when Michael Hutchence was cast to play Shelley in “Frankenstein Unbound.” I was always flattered to hear current references to my favourite poets. It was like people were flattering me.

Well, I grew up. Life hit me hard. My own poetry- yes, I had always been writing it- became a bit more realistic.

These were the days before the internet. It was very easy to give up on the dream of being a published poet. The experience of having a poem published in a paying magazine seemed to be ring-fenced. The best I had done was the school magazine.

Where were these poets who got their work published? Surely there was more to it than submitting a poem to a magazine. Were there those who had the confidence to go to places where editors hung out, and sweet-talk them, and learn what they really wanted? Poets who were not shy? Was there really such a species? I wanted to think all poets were shy like me. I wanted to think we were all sensitive souls. People who had social problems and were far too nervous to be proactive. Well, maybe not all were quite like that.

I finally forced myself to go to a poetry competition at my local library. The other poets there invited me to come to The Dan with them. The whole poetry scene became a part of my life.

However, when I was at The Dan the other day I was reminded of how I used to think about it. How it all seemed so romantic to me. Hey, the poetry scene is what I’m living now! One of these days one of the Dan poets might be dreadfully romanticized and built up into a legendary figure.

I can’t see anybody at The Dan who seems to have a golden halo around them. Who seems to have a sign over their head saying, “One day I’ll be a huge legend, and people will aspire to be like me.” But then, neither did Shakespeare, I guess. Or Banjo Paterson. Or Wordsworth. If they did, we would have heard about it!

I had a huge laugh thinking one of us might become an awe-inspiring myth. The Dan yielding up the next Tennyson? The next Sappho? The next Plath? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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