Wednesday, February 1 @ 7:30pm
204 High Street,
Has an Open Mic?
Girls on Key is a monthly poetry and music gig offering a platform for female-identifying performers. All genders welcome on the open section.
Girls on Key was established to provide opportunities for women performers and to raise funds for arts and refugee charities. Delicious crepes and mulled wine! Can’t go wrong.
Rochelle is a page/performance poet who writes about her travels, cultural influences and personal experiences. She’s been performing since 2011 and runs a monthly open mic in Bombay called ‘Words Tell Stories’. She also started the first slam in the city called ‘Mumbai Poetry Slam’. Rochelle has been published in numerous anthologies and has performed on various stages across Australia, Malaysia, Nepal and India. She has a love affair with trees and hopes to live in a tree-house someday. She is more poet than human and has perfect bottle-opening hands. Catch her at a poetry gig before she disappears into the mountains.
Piriye Altraide is a writer, spoken-word artist and self-proclaimed dance-floor extraordinaire. Having escaped Perth and her past life as a Chartered Accountant, she is now undertaking a Masters in Creative Writing and on her way to calling Melbourne home… whilst transforming into a hipster. Piriye is a 2014 Perth Poetry Slam finalist and has had her work published in Mirrors of Africa.
Hosted by ‘the patron-saint of Melbourne poetry,’ poet and photographer Michael Reynolds, what began as a one-off gig on Valentine’s Day in 1999, has turned into one of the longest running gigs in Melbourne, now hosted every second Monday at The Brunswick Hotel, with a diverse range of features from Melbourne and sometimes from beyond, and a substantial space for open mic, it is great for first time readers or performers.
Yoram sometimes has the air of a man possessed when he’s performing. I was interested to find out what drives this dynamic performer. I wasn’t surprised he suggested we meet at the underground bar, E55. When I arrived, he was already comfortably ensconced in a background of drumbeats.
Where did you start with spoken word? I’ve been involved with public speaking all of my life. From an early age I was trained to deliver long speeches without notes and without learning content off-by-heart, but rather, to take a theme or topic and improvise on it, sort of like a jazz of public speaking. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I practiced this kind of speaking extensively, but exclusively within the Jewish community, and almost always within the context of a religious setting. Basically, I was a preacher.
Regarding the Spoken Word form specifically, it began for me in about 2014. I had returned to Australia from Israel where I had been deeply involved in the Arab Spring movement in that country. I had been engaged in everything from street protests to electioneering and when I returned I felt compelled to write about my thoughts and experiences.
I found, however, that when I actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I was writing in a totally new way for me, using loads of rhymes and masses of adjectives and weird assonances and alliterations. It seemed entirely gratuitous for prose. So I sat there looking at my screen and wondered; “Is this was what people call spoken word?” Shortly thereafter I came across Slamalamadingdong and so it began.
Why spoken word? You aren’t explicitly in it for the self-exploration… That’s definitely true, I am not in spoken word for the self exploration per se. I am really in it for the revolution. I see the spoken word stage as a place to talk about political ideas and use the voice to inform and effect political transformation.
Spoken Word serves
You wrote a poem about last year’s tragic Bourke Street incident, which was read at the Bourke Street Memorial Service in January by the Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood. What were you feeling, hearing your poem read by a public official at a major event?
I didn’t watch the poem read live at the venue or on TV. Let me explain why. One of the survivors of the Bourke Street attack is a friend of mine. As the first anniversary of the attack approached I found myself dwelling on those days. It was a difficult month. My father had died a few weeks before, in terrible circumstances. One day I was talking to my friend about what happened to my father, trying to make sense of it all. Then, a week later, I was visiting that friend in the Alfred Hospital, trying to make sense of such a senseless act.
So, a year on, I was thinking about January 2017 when the organisers of the Memorial emailed to ask whether I knew any poems that might be appropriate to read out. That email triggered me. I spent the next three days trying to write a poem about the events of January 2017. Before I sent the poem to the organisers, I told my friend what I’d done. I guess I was seeking his permission. He told me to send it, so I did. On the day of the Memorial I watched a bit on the TV, then turned it off. Once I heard from my friend that he liked the poem, I went back and watched the video. I thought Arron Wood did a great job with the reading. As for me, I was just relieved my friend thought it was OK.
Most of your poems are rather economical and look as though they are suspended and solitary on the blank page. Others are longer, less spaced out, and laid out in neat lines. What dictates the way a poem looks on the page?
I don’t know the answer to that question. The truth is that, for me, writing poetry is all about the process. I only write a poem when I feel something I don’t understand. Once I start writing, the poem shows me its form