Poetic Preface: Rochelle D'silva

Rochelle D’silva lived in Melbourne for many years, where she regularly featured around Melbourne, before returning to India. She’s visiting us again and has a stack of gigs you could see her at, so we thought she was a good starting point for our new interview series.

Can you think of a moment that was probably a dead giveaway you’d become a poet?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was about 6 years old so I’ve always felt more poet than human on any given day.

How’d you discover spoken word?

I discovered spoken word in 2011, quite by accident actually. I was doing my Masters on the Gold Coast when a good friend passed away. I was quite affected by his death and wrote a poem about him and shared it with my class as part of an exercise. My classmates asked if I had tried spoken word, so I came back home and googled it and was both amazed and intimidated by what I found.

If you only had one poetry book to take with you in the bunker when the end of the world comes, what would it be?

Too easy.

Walking,: New and Selected Poems: Kevin Brophy

I love his poetry and would gladly drown in it every day.

When you write a brand-new poem that you just have to read, which open mic do you first think to take it to?

If I’m in Melbourne, my fav open mic is Passionate Tongues. Michael is easily one of the nicest humans out there. He always makes poets feel welcome and appreciated.

Which legend of the Melbourne poetry scene do you wanna become when you grow up?

Could the growing up be optional? I greatly admire Sean M Whelan’s poetry and I’d be happy being even half as awesome as him when I ‘grow up.’

What’s one spoken word artist or performing poet you wish more people knew about.

There a lovely young poet in Bombay called Imaan Surve. I am constantly amazed at her poetry and her general awesomeness in life.

Do you have a

I want to be boring

Why should poems always be interesting? For some time I have wanted to write a poem that is perfectly bad, or boring, or both. On purpose, I mean: poets strive to make their audience happy or sad or amused or anticipatory or intrigued…. why should they not also strive towards the full gamut of poetic emotion and also make their audience tired or apathetic or full of ennui or sickened at the tedium of it all? Boredom is really an incredibly interesting emotion: why do we get bored? What do we do when bored? Can boring things be comforting? If we can even get bored by the things we know and love the most, does this mean that the things which bore us straightaway will be the things we come to know and love the most? If we get bored to distraction, what do we think about in that distraction?

The secret lies in making the boredom seem interesting to the audience: in making them not bored by their own boredom, but rather simultaneously bored and fascinated. Boring boredom bores me, oddly enough, and it is, after all, easy to achieve by not trying: that is why I used the words ‘On purpose’ in the first paragraph above: it is easy to write a boring poem by accident, by not caring much about it, by paying no attention to the audience, by not ever once attempting to actually speak with them, and by not even really thinking what we are writing. We’ve all heard that boring poem, which, whatever it actually says, somehow says exactly the same thing as every other boring poem. No, I’m more after my own individual style of boredom, my own voice of tedium. Maybe something like

Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock! Who’s there? Knock knock

Honest Criticism: the challenges of critiquing within a spoken word scene

One of the things Melbourne Spoken Word is going to try and focus on more in 2017 is the culture of critical discussion and writing about spoken word. Since we relaunched the website in 2015, we’ve had a few people review books, gigs and albums from around the scene but it’s never quite taken off as planned. I wrote in 2015 about the challenges of reviewing spoken word as an art form. But another element of this is how we go about having open and honest critical discussions about each other’s work as a close-knit community of artists.

So far, most of the reviews we’ve published have been wholly positive. Many of the reviews have been written by friends of the artist, or artists find someone they know to review the work. This isn’t in line with other publications that require minimal correspondence between the producer of the work and the reviewer, so it’s unbiased and as objective as possible. We’ve tried to address this by asking that reviews go through us. This is extra hard for us to avoid because most poets within the scene know each other.

“Friendly” reviews take on more of an explanatory role, almost advertorial in nature, describing a work they like and highlighting it for the rest of the community to engage with. This is one way of reviewing work, but another one that I think is beneficial and would enrich our artform is going beyond the surface level and having more critical discussions in a mature way. The issue is: how would poets react to critical or even somewhat negative writing about their work? How would you react if someone reviewed your chapbook and said some of the pieces fell flat in places, for example, or critiqued your work in depth? I think poets would react differently to this. Some might take the criticism on board or accept it as a difference of opinion, a different approach to the art form. Some might take it more personally or as an offence.

The point isn’t to