In defence of slam and what we make with it

Slam poetry. The term isn’t so much loaded but more what other people have loaded it onto it, a gun with whatever ammo you want to shoot out of it, but regardless is very much a major part of poetry and spoken word in Melbourne. I see it as attached to a revival in contemporary poetics around the world, particularly for popularising poetry amongst young people. Love it or hate it. You have to respect it and what it does.

In Melbourne, we have Slamalamadingdong, Word SLAM?!, the new Slam of the Century, poet IQ hosted a bunch of slams years back and we’ve done a Drag Slam and have a special slam event on later in the year, as well as compete in the Australian Poetry Slam every year.

I’ve been thinking a bit about slam, my own approach to it in my own writing and performance practice, and in relation to how people approach it following Bill Moran touring Melbourne last week. We billed him as a “US slam poet” and I did wonder at times whether some people didn’t turn up to the gig due to that term, that they’ve attached what they think of slam to what they expect Bill to be like. The thing about Bill though is that if you want to call ‘slam’ a ‘genre’, then Bill has some hallmarks of what slam is perceived to be, but also incredibly experimental in his use of language and pushes the boundaries of those tropes. He is loud and punchy but probably without the usual story arc or intensity arc that a lot of people would point to to say it’s all the same.

This debate came up during The Dirty Thirty Poetry Month, when Abdul Hammoud (sorry to single you out!) set a prompt one day to write ‘a slam poem.’ It caused a bit of controversy with many refusing to do the prompt, and arguing about their issues with slam, or whether or not it’s a genre. Is it a genre or is it simply a format for a poetry event? I think Marc Smith’s original intentions were the latter, an

Captured Whispers

Review by Fury

If Captured Whispers were running again, I would attend as many times as possible as there was so much in each performance that I’m sure I missed 90% of what was going on.

Andy Jackson’s work was to do with the loss of his father and the exploration of selfhood. With a tiny, puppet version of himself perched on a suitcase, he read about his father. What stuck with me was the longing in the poem – particularly for touch and embrace.

One of my most loved aspects of puppetry is being able to play with scale and pushing how far the audience will forgive the surrealism of a piece. Jackson’s work particularly hit the mark in the moments when there was a gaze held between Jackson and the puppet. It was as though he were looking at himself; as though he were his father and the puppet, him or perhaps as though he was in a mirrored hallway and he become recursive.

I really liked Terence Jaensch’s poem worked with Eliza Jane Gilchrist. Upon entering the venue, the audience was given a small package with the poem on the back and told not to open it. During the performance, the poem was read three times. Once, quickly. Then, we were instructed to open the package and inside was the poem performance was through several items – a Rochester blot eye mask, some alphabet pasta, an emergency landing card with the phrase “I’m trying to lift love, I am trying”, and a bent plastic spoon.

Call me old fashioned* but bribery always pleases me. I very much liked the poetry party bag. I think the main selling point for this piece, however, was the overwhelm of emotion on the third reading. Jaensch explained that he was an orphan and the closest person he had to a mother had died a couple of days before the launch of the book that included this poem. As such, the poem is permanently entwined with that grief and it was really intense to experience that in the final reading.

Barry Dickens and Rod Primrose worked a p

The Last Word with Jennifer Compton

Amanda Anastasi talks to Jennifer Compton about Now You Shall Know.

This collection contains observations about family and the various people you have encountered. There is the woman at Flinders St Station, the Dutch widow, a Frankston masseur. Has anyone recognised themselves in your poems?

No. I am thinking of going down the road though, and showing the Dutch widow her poem. I would have loved to have been a photographer. I should have been one.

The subtitle of your title poem Now You Shall Know mentions an aria sung by Maria Callas. Were you listening to this piece while you were writing this poem? Do you listen to music while you are writing?

I wasn’t, and no I don’t. There are enough sounds that surround us. I can’t take too much noise these days.

The Name Of The Street refers to Hope Street in Brunswick, where Jill Meagher was murdered. What kind of response did you receive to this poem.?

Interestingly, there has been more interest in this poem overseas.

If you could choose the name of the street you lived in, what would it be called?

Bridge Street. I used to live in Bridge Street. The bridge between Australia and New Zealand, the bridge between page and stage, between men and women, between young and old. I like to be in the middle.

In Four Lines By Ezra Pound you touch on plagiarism. How difficult is it to be original?

It is difficult not to be original.

What is your favourite word?

Emeraude, a word I must have misread years ago in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, because I can’t find it in any of the versions now. I thought I read – ‘as green as emeraude’.

Name the poetry collection you have kept referring to.

Selected Poems by Yevtushenko, in the Penguin Modern European Poets series.

A poem I have read many times is Auden’s September 1, 1939.

Poetic self-portrait: in no more than seven words, describe Jennifer C

Bill Moran on visiting Melbourne again

US Slam Poet “Good Ghost” Bill Moran visits Melbourne next week to perform for Melbourne Spoken Word and host a workshop, as part of a tour around Australia. Melbourne Spoken Word Director Benjamin Solah asked Bill a few questions about visiting Melbourne again, and a few things about poetry.

So Bill, you’re coming back to Australia and Melbourne after visiting just over a year ago. What’s made you want to come back so soon? You must like us a lot.

The short answer: cabin fever. The long answer: I recently started working towards a graduate degree in creative writing and I’ve been pretty heavily steeped in reading, writing, and teaching. So it’s important to me to keep one foot in the world of performance poetry, to keep myself situated in front of an audience, and let my work be informed by its real-life intervention. Some of the biggest strides I’ve made as a writer came from holding my work up to the light of an audience and seeing how it immediately bears on its readership. The best way for me to do that is to put myself behind any and every microphone I can– both overseas and at home. And now that I have a few months free for summer break, I can do that!

More importantly, I’d like to help further carve out the poetic community that incorporates Australia and US in the same circle. We each have a lot to say and I think a lot to learn from each other, and I’m aware of a few poets who’ve already done amazing work in traveling and putting the two groups in conversation with one another. I hope I can likewise contribute to the conversation by carving out something of a presence in both circles, at least beyond being simply a tourist with a lot to say.

And of course: I like y’all a whole lot! I was received with such hospitality last year, and had such a great time– which is the ultimate selling point and a huge gift. If my experience is half as great as last year, there’s no way I’

Outer Urban Project's Poetic License

Review by Fury

“I don’t do assimilation, I do adaptation”

In Aristophanes’ The Frogs, the god Dionysus goes down into the underworld to bring back the poet Euripides. On his way there, Dionysus meets the far older Aeschylus who claims that of him and Euripides, he is the better poet and as such he should be brought back to the land of the living.

Both segments of Outer Urban Project’s Poetic License cleverly mimics the difference between Euripides and Aeschylus. Euripides is portrayed as a flashier, more “now” poet and Aeschylus is portrayed as one of ‘the greats’.

For the opening, Divine Favour were the Euripides representatives wowing the audience with truly masterful harmonies influenced by Gospel and Hip Hop. The Outer Urban Projects string quartet was the Aeschylus, playing a wide range of very familiar classical music with phenomenal skill. Contrary to the plot of The Frogs, neither was lorded over the other as the opening performances finishing on pieces that married both their styles.

In the second portion of the performance it was mentioned, more than once, that it, itself, was not a play. I think it’s fair, then, to talk about the performance as though it were a chorus. Lacking any set, Greek plays used choruses in conjunction with two main characters to set the scene, enact the various minor parts and comment on the two characters – often to make jokes at their expense.

Poetic License’s chorus was interesting in that it was enjoyably haphazard. My date commented that it made no efforts towards a cohesive plot line – which is somewhat to be expected with a devised reimagining of the Greek play – but instead focused on transitioning and giving weight to each voice and each story within it. The broad spread of age and experiences were discussed comically and seriously. Kominos spoke from the equivalent of a pulpit, merging tone and style with content to make comment on Christianit