Paul South launches new gig, Alakazam! in a magic shop

Alakazam! featuring Amy Bodossian and Robert Drummond
Wednesday, April 1 @ 8pm / Dane Certificate’s Magic Tricks, Gags and Theatre, 859a Sydney Road, Brunswick / $3 / Open Mic

Poet Paul South has launched a new monthly spoken word gig and open mic in a magic shop, Dane Certificate’s Magic Tricks, Gags and Theatre. The new gig, run on the first Wednesday of the month, is called Alakazam! and launches next Wednesday, April 1, with feature poets Amy Bodossian and Robert Drummond.

Host Paul South said, about why he started a gig in this little magic shop on Sydney Road after launching his book Little Book of Birds there in February, “As my Dad said after the launch, the venue reminded him of Jazz clubs from the early sixties. If you ask me, it’s a jazz club designed by Dr Seuss! I was having a cider and talking to Amanda after the gig that night, and she said it was a crime that there wasn’t a regular poetry gig there. Later that night, mentioned the idea to Dane, and he said that I should host it.”

South hopes to inject something different in the space that’s sure to enrich the landscape of live poetry in Melbourne. “The gig should be spoken word in it’s broadest sense. There will be two features per gig, and we’ll try to contrast their styles as much as we can. Comedians will feature alongside poets and storytellers of all descriptions. There will be an open mic section. Dane is happy to sprinkle some of his magic throughout the night too. I’ve always complained about the lack of variety in the spoken word scene. Now I have the task of trying to do something fresh and interesting. It’s kind of scary, but it’s also very exciting.”

Food for poets #1: what to eat when you write about nothing

Words by Timothy Train

As a poet, at some point you will of course have to tackle the subject of nothing, writing about the fundamental nothingness of existence, or the basic nothingness of something (or something), and what to do when that horrible event comes along that we’ve all been dreading and nothing much happens. Obviously it is very important for you to take this all incredibly seriously, and wear black, scowl gloomily, and sit about doing…. well, nothing. Good.

So, writing about nothing is the most important thing you can do as a poet. Basically, nothing is really something, or should I say, you should be able to make something out of nothing, or maybe writing something about nothing should make you really feel…. something. I don’t know, you’re a poet, I’m sure you’ll be able to get round to it. Point is, writing about nothing is so incredibly urgently mindblowingly important, that you shouldn’t be on an empty stomach when you start. You need to get some food into you. But what?

1. Donuts. Donuts are an excellent food to eat when writing about nothing. You need to take those donuts out of the bag, one by one, and admire their wonderful shape, their smooth curves…. and most importantly, the little empty hole of meaninglessness at their centre that makes them look like a zero. You really need to get those donuts into you, straight away, so you can have that little empty hole of meaninglessness at your centre and you can start writing about nothing. But make sure they’re hot, fresh out of the oven and dusted with cinnamon sugar! Otherwise it won’t work.

This food is so important for poets that I’d go so far as to say that you should eat it every day.

2. Also good: Cheezels, Toobs, Burger Rings, and those types of breakfast cereals that have holes in them. You could even try a little DIY project at home and make pancakes with a hole in the middle, but this subject is so incredibly technical and complex that I wouldn’t bother if I were you.

3. Some poets, when thinking of writing about nothing, have ventured into a Wholefoods store on false premises. Poets, never do this. This is based on a fundamental misunderstanding and in years to come dieticians will write about this as one of the short-lived food fads of the early 21st century. Sometimes you will be lucky to find even one foodstuff in these stores with a hole in it.

4. Acceptable: foods like KFC, the sort that of food that you at once compulsively eat, and and leave you wanting less.

5. Controversial, but still acceptable: foods such as crinkle cut chips. Do the crinkles actually add more to the chip, or are they actually cut out of the chip? The crinkle cut chip is therefore a fundamental study in somethingness or nothingness, or something like that.

That’s all for this episode of ‘Food for poets’! I hope you all have a lovely time contemplating the bleak nothingness of everything, or how to live up to the legacy of other poets and do nothing at all with the rest of your day!

Originally published at Will Type For Food

1458480_10151834737076610_343604781_nTimothy Train lives in Lalor with all his friends. Oh, wait. He means cats. And chooks. And a whole bunch of bees. When he is not appreciating the wild life, he is busy avoiding work or very occasionally writing a poem or two. He blogs at, self-publishes Badger’s Dozen, and poets at the Dan O’Connell Hotel on Saturday afternoons.

Being asked to ‘feature’

Words by Benjamin Solah

A question I often get asked at gigs by people new to poetry and spoken word is how to you become the ‘feature’ poet? The ‘feature’ or guest poet, or poets, is something almost unique to poetry events in that alongside those on the open mic, some poets are asked to do a longer set and the event is advertised as ‘featuring’ them so many in the audience are there to specifically see their work, on the premise that they’re a quality of poet. Some events don’t have open sections and just have feature poets, people invited to perform. To go from open mic to a feature slot, I’ve compiled some useful tips, but by no means are final.

The Open Mic

The open mic is there for everyone to get a chance to show the audience and event organisers what they’ve got. It’s there for people who just like to read their own work for their own benefit but also to develop your work and get noticed for potential features. Aside from the quality of your poetry, there are other things, such as not going overtime, that help or hinder your likelihood of getting features. See my open mic tips for more.

Your work on the open mic should show that you have a body of work long enough to sustain at least a 15 minute set, so reading new work and reading often is a good idea, as well as trying out different venues and events. Different places have different tastes and styles, so whilst you might not get a feature at one venue, another gig might like your style enough to ask you.

Do I ask for a feature?

The general advice is you shouldn’t ask an event organiser to feature for them, unless they put an open callout for features. It’s best to wait until they think you’re ready and you don’t want to put them offside. There are some exceptions though, usually made easier if you’ve featured before, such as if you have a specific pitch for a show, a certain kind of set, or if you want to launch your book. I would tread cautiously with this though.

Examples of your work

Alongside open mic, not all gig organisers get out to all the gigs, so it’s easy to be missed by someone and some events look elsewhere for features, such asking other event organisers or more commonly now, online. Examples of your work online and published elsewhere is important. It’s not too much work or skill to set up a simple website, something with WordPress for example, with a bio, a few photos of yourself, and some good quality videos of your best work from open mics, maybe some written pieces and/or audio clips.

This also helps when you do get a feature as it allows easy access to things gig organisers often need to promote your feature slot and for the audience to see what they’re likely to get when they turn up.

Run your own gig

If you haven’t been asked, no one’s stopping you from just doing it yourself. Find a venue, maybe ask a few others, and run your own once off gig. If you manage to pull a crowd, it can be a great way of showing other gigs that you’ll bring people to your gig.

When you feature

Speaking of bringing people to your gig, when you do finally get asked, it’s a good idea to help out the event and really promote it yourself. Invite your friends and family, invite other poets at the gigs you frequent and help make the event a success. Unless it’s not possible, it’s a good idea to stick around and listen to the open mic as well.

Feel free to add other tips, thoughts or questions below.

The Last Word with David Stavanger

Amanda Anastasi talks to David Stavanger about The Special.

the-special (1)Your collection is divided into five sections, Axis I-V, an axis being an imaginary line about which a body rotates. It strikes me that The Special is full of imagery of the body and opens with a poem (Optimism) containing the image of freefalling from a plane. What experience in your life came the closest to freefalling?

Two things come to mind. The first time I fronted the band I used to work with, Golden Virtues. Actually, every time. Not being a singer and not having a song, I felt a total lack of control (not the Tom Petty version either). It was like tripping into an abyss. Live performance always has an element of that for me, the fall in.

The other was last week riding a motorcycle in Bali without a helmet at night having never ridden one before.

What is a headline about yourself that you would like to read?

EAT PRAY BRAKE: Cult Singer killed on scooter near Ubud after hitting Julie Roberts body double.

One of my favourite lines in the book, from the poem The Future, is “danger is a door.” What else is a door?

The body. Travel. Sleep. Ovens. Music. Poetry. The Doors. Pretty much anything that opens and closes (except for mouths, they are more windows)

“My son walks a dead dog” is another line that stuck with me. Which line in the book are you the most glad you wrote?

These days, the last line ‘I wake up living’.

What is your favourite word?


Name the poetry collection you keep returning to.

The Wrecking Light by Robin Robertson

Poetic self-portrait: in no more than seven words, describe David Stavanger.

Cult Singer killed on scooter near Ubud.

David Stavanger will be featuring at La Mama Poetica on Tues, 24th February 7.30pm @ the La Mama Courthouse Theatre, 349 Drummond St, Carlton. His book ‘The Special’ is available at Readings bookstores.

Melbourne Spoken Word’s Poetic Lab featuring Geoff Lemon

Friday, March 6 @ 7.30pm / Under the Hammer, 158 Sydney Road, Coburg / $5 / Open Mic / Facebook Event

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 2.45.58 pm

The Poetic Lab is a bi-monthly spoken word event and open mic that provides space for open stage performers to get feedback on their work, from the feature poet and the audience in order to develop your writing in a constructive way. We aim to feature spoken word performers, editors and event producers to provide valuable feedback and high quality feature performances.

Our feature for March 6 is spoken word artist and editor of Going Down Swinging, Geoff Lemon. Geoff Lemon is a Melbourne based spoken word artist and the editor of iconic journal Going Down Swinging, which hosted the fabulous series, One Night Wonders last year. He also writes about other things, including cricket.

Register for the open mic by emailing to avoid missing out. One poem per person. Max of 5 minutes. Some spots may become available on the night but not guaranteed.

$5 on the door. Doors open 7.30. Show starts 8pm. Also remember that it’s 158 Sydney Road, Coburg, not Brunswick.

First Time Reading

Words by Sil

There is something invigorating about reading poetry to an audience for the first time. As I discovered at the Dan, it’s like taking a plunge into freezing water. It’s nerve wracking. But what is so invigorating about it is the sense of accomplishment after you’ve finished reading out your piece and come to realise that, even though you felt like your piece was bad, you’re reading to a room full of like minded people, some of whom are probably just as nervous as you. And in some cases, likely just as mad.

This is what I discovered at the Dan. The first time I had ever been to a poetry reading, on the 7th of February, was a competition organised monthly by the Dan Poets who run weekly poetry gigs at The Dan O’Connell Hotel. It was sincerely the most unexpected experience I’ve had in meeting with like-minded people. Hosted by Libby, the group consists of authors from many walks of life. Some of them already published authors (A couple proudly read books they had just printed), while others, much like myself, were shut away writers who had decided to take the leap.

If someone who writes poetry were looking for a warm welcome, I’d highly recommend this meeting. No sooner had I walked in the door, I was met gleefully. (The fact that first timers get a free drink played no role… Ok, maybe a little). The readings themselves were fantastic; there was no holding back or no mind for what content was in the poetry. Some of it was quite comedic. All in all, most people had a lot of fun in their writing and the reactions they received.

Of course, when it came time for me to read, it really did feel like plunging into freezing water. I did have to inform the audience that I might stumble. And one point, I thought my leg would give out, considering how violently it was shaking. But I stood and read with confidence, met greatly with applause. The invigorating factor, for me, came in when people came to me and commented on what I had written. It was at that moment that I knew most of these people knew exactly how I felt, both in terms of an artist sharing their work (Because we’re all our biggest critics, right?) and being a first time reader.

All things considered, if advising someone who wants to attend such an event and has never done so, I can only be blunt: do it. You can learn a lot about where writing can take you, make new friends, and form new connections. Pessimism and negative thinking are left at the door, and you’re amongst people who genuinely want to know what you have to say, and what you will express in your reading. You also get a free drink on your first visit. (But really, that plays no part in the decision right? Right??

SavedPictureMy name is Sil, currently living in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. I started writing when I was 11 years old. No one theme is constant for me. I draw influence from many sources; some of the music I listen to and books (Especially Tolkien). My first time ever reading poetry was at the Dan, but I have a background in acting and music.

Review: Coyotes by Ken Arkind

Review by Benjamin Solah

Technically, this website is meant to discuss poetry written by Melbourne poets, but Ken Arkind has been here enough so we can kind of adopt him. Plus, if he likes this review maybe he’ll jump on a plane and move here and we can smell his honey badger beard all the time and the poetry will be really great.

But in lieu of him not coming to Melbourne, I’ve always wanted a collection of Ken Arkind’s since seeing him perform here a few years back alongside a whole bunch of cool poets from The States. They all blew me away but especially Ken. Maybe there was something about this cadence and tone that reminded me of the poetry I was striving to write but just falling short of like making an awesome jump above a gorge and just missing and falling to my death.

81a-gcy07qLCoyotes contains a bunch of those first poems that got me hooked like ‘Maggie’ and ‘An Experiment in Noise.’ As you get to those pieces in the collection, they orient your reading, you read them with his voice in your head and add clarity to the new pieces. They are also just as strong yet different in how they’re read on the page. The way he plays around with the placing of the lines, sometimes shifting the font, goes someway to capturing the way it’s spoken. Like when it opens with ‘An Experiment in Noise,’ with lines like ‘Remember that refrain when the waves come. they will come‘.

But ‘David’ is clearly the standout piece. It’s the one that makes my insides stand in silence and it was an interesting experience when the lines ‘When I looked down the screen read, / I live you I live you I live you I live you‘ hit me like they always do. Usually, you can sit there as the lines collectively hit everyone around you and react naturally, but this time I sat on the tram, the passengers around with no real idea what I was reading, and I had to hold it all in, behind my sunglasses, but I really wanted to jump up and say to the whole carriage, ‘Listen to this! It makes you feel something.’

What is clear in Coyotes is Arkind’s particular accuracy with the contemporary image and metaphor, his ability to pluck something that fits his generation and deploy it with clarity. ‘Portland is Seattle’s know-it-all little sister / who went backpacking across Europe for a semester / and came back with an attitude.’ Some of them are particularly American, but not so much that you’re left totally confused. The metaphors from backstory and pop culture make the poetry accessible, but not in any cheap or easy way. His language is gritty, not with one arm tied behind his back, tied back by form or obscurity. Most of all its a great accompaniment to his performance work that Melbourne would be love to see again.

Poet bio photoBenjamin Solah is the Director of Melbourne Spoken Word. He is also a spoken word artist from the western suburbs of Sydney, now calling Brunswick West home. He has performed at the National Gallery of Victoria, featured at Passionate Tongues, The Dan, among others. He released on EP with Santo Cazzati called Duel Power in 2012 and his chapbook broken bodies in 2013.

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