Review by Heidi J. Loos
My emotions were stretched and twisted and snapped on Thursday March 21st at Slamalamadingdong, a local, monthly poetry slam here in Melbourne. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much in one sitting, at one event, ever. My heartstrings plucked, then stroked, and healed by poet after poet after poet. They sucked sadness from my soul, vacuuming in the depths of our shared despair, relatable struggles, and shared oppression, then handed me a ticket to an even darker place where sadness meets hate and violent histories bleed into the present: lives are ruined by rape, racism, colonialism, war… I was so deeply saddened in one moment by one poem, but by the next, my tears had evaporated into laughter, pure awe, overwhelming inspiration and ambition. Rage erupted from my stomach to my chest, exploding in my head, but my rage was welcomed, invited, accepted, and harmonized by other voices.
They say every book you read changes you, but I think every spoken word event, every poetry slam, changes you too. Slam poetry is such a powerful genre and I think this particular slam was a really great showcase of all of the things slam can do. Whether its autobiography, memoir in poem form, relating funny anecdotes, or just telling really good, relatable, fictional stories, short and snappy, three minutes max, pointing out the good, the not-so-good, and the down-right-horrendous; instructing, complaining, entertaining, and transforming audiences. These slamalama poets had the crowd snapping constantly, snapping our fingers in appreciation of really magical moments, for poetic lines that blew our minds and rhymed words we had not even known sounded alike until tonight, for metaphors we’d never tasted and rhythms we’d never danced to: foreplay for our ears, and sex for our brains. I cried, and I laughed, and I snapped my fingers more.
I snapped for humour, for boldness, for performance, for poetry that raised me up to the moon and poetry that pushed me down, six feet underground. The people beside me, behind me, in front of me, snapped and snapped, and clapped and whistled too. It was clearly a well-received and well-attended event. The venue was packed, all chairs were filled, and everyone else stood in the back, around the edges, so still, watching, snapping. The only stir of disappointment came from the questionable judging, but as is true slam tradition, the crowd was always ready and quick to boo any score less than eight, and then applaud the poet not the score. The judging became more and more generous as the night went on, and as the beer was bought, sipped and spilled. Coincidence? Maybe. But, for me the poetry started strong and ended strong, and everything in between was pure gold. Almost every poem would have received a 9.9 from this judge right here…But honestly, it wasn’t just the slam participants that made this event so great, it was the music, the DJ who mixed beats in between each poet’s appearance, and the colourful, artistic and political backdrops, the video message shout out from the 2012 Slamalama Champion, and the exceptional feature, Omar Musa, and the charismatic host who got the crowd ready, and kept the energy level up until the very end. Through all of this I was able to witness and experience firsthand the love and strength and power of Australia’s spoken word community. Like, Omar Musa said, Slamalama is his favourite Australian spoken word event, and I can definitely see why.
I am still snapping for Slamalama!
Heidi J. Loos is a Canadian writer, musician, and activist from the Yukon Territories. She holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia. She has experience writing and editing across genres. Currently, she is travelling around Australia on a working holiday and blogging about her experiences at http://heidijontheloose.com/