Melbourne Spoken Word presents a workshop with Scott Wings


Sunday, July 20, 6-8pm / Under the Hammer, 158 Sydney Road, Coburg / $20 (booking recommended as spaces are limited))

Melbourne Spoken Word is proud to host a workshop with acclaimed Brisbane poet, Scott Wings following his show Icarus, on the Saturday evening.

Scott Wings is renowned for his comedic and energetic writing/performance style, dripping with meaning. Spoken word can be a delicate balance between saying what you feel, yet inviting the audience in to experience it with you. This workshop will explore writing and performance techniques taken from his wide array of poetry writing and physical theatre experience.

Scott Wings is a multi-award winning poet and performer from Brisbane. His internationally acclaimed tour of South East Asia saw him perform in decaying schools in Manila for theatre troupes and immaculate high rise apartments in Kuala Lumpur for spoken word nights. From the cafes of Bangkok to the Sydney Opera House, there is little this spoken word artist has not accomplished. His new show Icarus Falling launches in Melbourne on July 19 before premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Book tickets to avoid missing out.


Breaking Down Barriers in the Poetry Community

Written by Carrie Maya

I’ve only been involved in Spoken Word Poetry for about two years. That’s nothing in comparison to many of the poets I’ve seen gracing stages and pages with their words; some of them have been at it since before I was a zygote. It’s for this reason that I am a little hesitant to make the following claim, but it feels necessary nonetheless: there are a few elements within this community that have been detrimental to the creative health of poets of all shapes, and sizes, and genres.

Indie v. Mainstream

This seems to be one of the most toxic attitudes in the community. At least from my perspective. In all honesty, I’ve been guilty of it, myself. If someone takes the stage with a stylised, slam style, they get labeled ‘mainstream’ or ‘sell out’ . I’ve had my issues with slam, for sure. But I also recognise the role it played in creating a platform through which I had the opportunity to build confidence and receive prizes which facilitated my professional development. Things I am genuinely grateful for. But, during the time I was more heavily involved in the slam scene, or if I experienced a degree of popularity and success, it was hard not to listen to self-proclaimed ‘indie poets’ or ‘real poets’ say things like “I’ve been doing this for ten years. You’ve done this for two and you’re more successful than me. That’s not fair.” I’m like: okay, sorry about that.

Then there’s the flipside. There are incredible poets who don’t attend slams, and who stick mainly to readings and page poetry. And because they’re not engaging with slam culture, they get labeled ‘snobs’ or ‘elitist.’ Totes not cool, bro.

Here’s the dealio-yo: there are good and bad poetry apples in every basket. And it’s just not fair to pit them against each other out of some sense of allegiance to a ‘scene’. We are all poets and that is what should count in the end.

But how can we talk about Indie v. Slam without addressing the underlying issues…

Competition and Jealousy

This is where my personal struggle with slams have popped up. Although I have been lucky enough to win and place at multiple slams, the heart of the matter is: poetry, infused with a performer’s heart and soul, is being scored on a scale of 1-10. And, separate from a few special souls, most of us can’t escape the direct hit our self-esteem takes when we don’t do well. Or the inflated sense of our own importance if we’re a crowd favourite. Also: totes not cool, bro.

The reality is: slam is a competition so competitiveness is a given. But, despite the fact that I’ve only been doing this for two years, it’s been enough time to see that competitiveness and loving community cannot co-exist. But healthy competition and loving community can. I am still trying to detoxify myself of that nasty thing inside of me that feels slighted if I don’t succeed. But, gradually, as I train my self to think differently, I am able to feel like another slammer’s win is my own. Because the whole point is that whoever takes the stage is taking their turn to nourish the souls of our listeners. And if we step up to the mic with that intention, there is no room for unhealthy attitudes.

How can we see the breaking down of walls in the Melbourne poetry community?

Well, it starts with people like Benjamin Solah – founder and editor of this here Melbourne Spoken Word website. Through his hard work and kindness he has created an avenue of free exposure for poets; young and old, stage or page. In my experience, I have not witnessed any bias toward a specific genre or toward specific performers. Benjamin is a great ally to poets in this city for the above, and many other reasons.

It starts with conveners like Amanda Anastasi who runs La Mama Poetica. She aims to select a mixture of styles and performers in her quarterly line-up so that there is a diversity in poetic representation.

And it continues with the broader poetry community waking up to ourselves and stepping outside of our generic bubbles. It would be so cool to see more slammers heading over to poetry readings! And it would be wonderful if people who’ve bagged slams out without even experiencing them to go check one out! Younguns seeking out the older, more experienced poets with humility. Not just to glean from their expertise, but also to truly appreciate styles of work that we aren’t necessarily accustomed to. Older poets taking interest in we younger guys because, hey, we have a unique view of the world from down here.

We are at a tipping point. I totally confess to being one of the grumblers and complainers about the state of Poetry Land. But it gets boring after a while. And I know other poets who are sick of the energy drain that maintaining bad attitudes causes. So, my New Half-Year’s Resolution is: I’m going to cross back and forth across the invisible border in our community until I forget it’s there. It’s high time we start truly supporting each other where it counts: the moment we step off stage. CM



Review: Fixing the Broken Nightingale by Richard James Allen

Fixing the Broken NIghtingale

Review by Gemma White.

Fixing the Broken Nightingale is a small, compact, beautifully produced book of poetry divided into seven sections; Prologue, Natural Disasters, Unanswered Questions, Occasional Truths, Flickering Enlightenment, A Scheme for Brightness and the Epilogue.

The preoccupation with artistic legacy is clear from the Prologue “Here we are, you and I, writer and reader/bound together in an eternal timeless dance”. It is later revisited in the poem The Disappearing Soul with a kind of melancholy disappointment in humanity, with the opening lines “I want to say something which makes us believe that the/human race was worthwhile after all./That we left some kind of legacy”.

The speaker in the poems highlights the fallibility of humanity, with personal confession: “if I had been a lesser man/I might have really/fucked up my life/but all I did was fuck up yours” and an psychological insight into the ‘shadow-side’ of the personality, the “dark, selfish, gaping, un/speakable, wordless part of each other/…The great, putrefying deep sea monster/…squatting in the heart of each of us”. The grossness, vulnerability and exposure of sexual relations is also explored in graphic detail in 13 Acts of Unfulfilled Love, with also a sense of searching, of the vain hope of finding a missing piece in the Other: “I have lost something/and am wondering/if I’ll find it/inside you”. But again, this idealised search for meaning is foiled, with a partner who compares sex with “taking candy from a child”.

In Fixing the Broken Nightingale, the creation of art emerges as a singular avenue of redemption for the failed human, as the speaker grapples with the big questions of existence – the intangibility of God in Chimera, the question of “not how to die but how to live” in the poem Flickering Enlightenment. The speaker counsels the reader “don’t try to lock down the mysteries” as even language is not sufficient, with poets mistaking “the prison bars of their minds/for the harpstrings of the heart”. Even so in The Disappearing Soul the speaker admits that “In this dark, my only candles are -/the poets,/who believed with their blood/in the secret potency of words”. So even as the speaker claims the power of art is an illusion, he still wants to believe.

I think this book has particular relevance to a largely secular society where there is still the human need to worship, without the outlet for such a need to be successfully fulfilled. Religions have been exposed, our idealistic search used in someone else’s private agenda. But still there is “the prayer that we may be useful before we perish”. Throughout the whole book there is a persistent need for meaning which I think is characteristic of the times in which we live. Richard James Allen’s work is informed by the struggles of humanity in a contemporary world. Rather than ignoring complexity, or seeking escapism, he enters the void, his words glistening with the many-faceted acts of life, love and creation.

The title of the book, which carries echoes of a whole poetic tradition of preoccupation with the nightingale, could most successfully be related to Shelley’s quote from his A Defense of Poetry: “A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.” Similarly, in Fixing the Broken Nightingale, although the problematic nature of language, of legacy, of humanity and intimacy is explored and admitted, the fixing is in the cheering of solitude, not only for the writer but for the reader as well, so that all might feel “moved and softened”, and thus in some way redeemed, faith curiously restored in an inexplicable transaction of truths between writer and reader.

Fixing the Broken Nightingale can be bought directly from Richard James Allen via his website: www.fixingthebrokennightingale.com

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Luka Lesson’s new album EXIT released for free

706luka-final-flat-e1395121404793Australian slam poet heavyweight Luka Lesson has released his latest album EXIT for free! The album is available for download for free from his website and features 11 new pieces.

Luka Lesson spoke to Melbourne Spoken Word and told us “EXIT is an musical album, but I approached everything as a poet. After finding my poetic roots in Melbourne and watching them grow, leaving to tour worldwide pushed me even further into the deep end of words, cultures and finding out more about who I am. EXIT is about escaping our comfort zones, and the person we meet when we are faced with difficult and ‘foreign’ situations, both internally and externally.

“The Melbourne spoken word scene is a place for me that sparked the beginning of something big, and that inspired me to make something different – not hip-hop and not straight poetry, and not even something I would call ‘Australian’. I know when we search we don’t necessarily ever find an end point, but EXIT is a chronicle of the internal and external landscapes I’ve been walking over the past two years. It is personal and vulnerable, I took risks with it and made sure I made things that were honest and powerful.”

Check out his latest video clip below.

Upcoming Dan features

tumblr_l68ov47ILo1qb69qjThe Dan O’Connell is pretty much the oldest running poetry gig in Melbourne, and it happens every week on Saturday afternoon with a feature poet each week and an open mic, it’s a relaxing afternoon of poetry, free entry at 225 Canning Street, Carlton.

These are feature poets at the Dan over the next two months.

May 3 – Emily Manger

May 10 – Lee Kofman

May 17 – Dan Poets Competition Registration Day

May 24 – Eric Beach

May 31 – Dan Poets Competition Day

June 7 – Domenique Hecq

June 14 – Kristin Henry

June 21 – Double Feature New/Young Poet Day with Bridget Loughhead and Brendan Reed Dennis

June 28 – Patrick Boyle

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 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!

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