With the world in a pretty unprecedented situation, as people already know, and although it’s by far not the most important issue right now, it’s had a pretty devastating effect on the arts, including the spoken word community.
Obviously, us coming together as a community at events in person are a crucial part of spoken word, and one the main reasons MSW exists is to support those community events. For us, it’s not just about the art form or individual artists, but how the art form brings people together, whether you’ve been doing this as a career for ages or whether you’ve turned up to an open mic for the very first time.
It’s been a learning experience and a bit of brightness amongst the darkness to watch how people have responded to self-isolation and lockdown measures by finding ways to use online platforms to continue to host open mics and other events. Alongside us starting to live stream events, we’ve been watching the rest of our community and the different ways events have gone online.
Spoken word, storytelling, poetry and writing still remain a way we can express ourselves and try to make sense of the world we live in and for us to come together as a community and for people’s voices to be heard. This remains critical in a time of self-isolation.
With most expert opinions predicting that this situation is likely to continue for months, not just weeks, the likelihood of us being able to hold in person events with an audience in July or August is pretty unlikely, and so Melbourne Spoken Word has made a decision to not hold The Melbourne Spoken Word & Poetry Festival in 2020.
Instead, we’re announcing The Melbourne Spoken Word Festival Online for 2020, with a new expressions of interest period now open for organisations and producers to propose events to be held on online as part of our program this year. We’re excited to see what spoken word
Morgaine van Wingerden, honourable mention at The 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize performs ‘The Waitlist’ at Collingwood Town Hall. The 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize was supported by Yarra Libraries.
Morgaine is a Melbourne based poet and artist who shares stories exploring family, mental health, relationships and womanhood. She has featured at numerous events across Melbourne and Sydney, and has performed at the Bowery Poetry House and Nuyorican in New York. She has been a member of Slamalamadingdong’s Team Slama the last two years in a row and was awarded an honourable mention in the 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize.
Miss Yankey performs ‘The Rose That Never Grew’ at Slamalamadingdong in March, 2019.
Miss Yankey is a British/Ghanaian Spoken Word artist; Founder of Poetry Prescribed; FLO Poet; Co-host and Resident Poet at The Chocolate Poetry Club; Open Mic Host at Mind Over Matter; and milli-tasking mother of twins. A passionate advocate of mental health and domestic violence awareness, she often writes poetry on these topics in a bid to takle the stigma attached to them.
Thabani Tshuma, winner of The 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize, as well as The People’s Choice Award and The Convener’s Choice Award, performs his winning poem, ‘No Strings’ at Collingwood Town Hall.
The 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize was supported by Yarra Libraries.
Thabani Tsuma is Zimbabwean born and raised, living abroad for the greater part of the last decade. His work is influenced by the myriad identity challenges of the diaspora, expatriates and immigrants, while also addressing awareness around addiction, mental health and generational trauma. He is currently in his final year of studying journalism, a 2019 Hotdesk fellowship recipient with the Wheeler centre, Featured author with Djed Press, Slamalamadingdong’s 2019 Grand Slam champion, a member of the National poetry slam’s winning team and ranked among the top 50 slam poets worldwide at IWPS 2019. Writing is the aperture through which he views the world and experiences self in relation to others.
In its 5th year, the Arts Queensland XYZ Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word is Australia’s only national arts award that recognises the growing field of spoken word and is named after the former 2010 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, Emily XYZ, who left a deep impression on many of today’s Queensland spoken word artists. It is open to applicants Australia-wide.
This year, the winner of The 2019 XYZ Prize is Fable Goldsmith and the highest placed QLD entry is Rae White.
Home – Fable Goldsmith
I kiss her first.I wait I hold my breath, in this moment reciprocation means everythingI do not know if I can take another breath without it.I draw breath as she kisses me back I take her in, Holding on to each breathAs If I have only ever breathedunderwater,
How light she feels,How she fills the empty spaceinside my chest,How she navigates her way into my veins,turns question to meaning, meaning to answer.I surrender.my body to hersnaked and honest, tremblingThis is the first time I am not afraid. The first time another body has become a safe space.
We find each other in the dark,as our hands reachwe find ourselves in each othernavigating new worlds under bed sheets.
She tells memy body is a poemshe will never get tired of readinga trailshe will never tire of taking She tells me homeis where we both stand.
Years pass, Every time I touch her feels like the first time, I still catch my breath from her kissesHer skin is always new
Years pass, I kiss her firstShe stallsHolds her breath,hands trembling as if holding a trigger she just can’t bring herself to pull
BangHer honesty becomes a rain of bulletsand I the only target
She tells me her heart is needy,never full
she tells meher hands are travellers,that have wandered from my touch.
She tells me her mouth is hungr
So you want to try your hand at open mic spoken word or poetry for the first time and you’re either too nervous or don’t know where to start or have never done it before and are just curious on the best tips/advice to do it without making a fool of yourself?
The good news is that there are always so many more people trying it for the first time and as Hamish Danks Brown says there’s a 100% survival rate for performing, you’re not going to die on stage and will probably want to get up again.
That said, here’s some handy tips for performing on the open mic for the first time or times.Pick your gigThere are a lot of open mics and places to perform. You could go to a lot of them or you could find your home in one gig. Gigs like Bar Oussou and Passionate Tongues are great for first time performers, there’s gigs that tend to have different styles or create spaces for groups of poets like for women poets or poets of colour, so it’s worth going to a couple to see where you want to settle. Some poets recommend finding your favourite and sticking to it, others say read as widely as possible. But if you go to one and it isn’t quite your cup of tea, the good news is there’s many more to try out instead.Follow the rulesGenerally all gigs have a time limit and a way of signing up to perform. If you don’t know, check with the gig host. It’s a good idea to not go overtime (less is often more) and to respect your audience and the space created. Usually time limits either 3 minutes or 5 minutes. Sometimes there’s a theme or certain types of poems of encouraged or discouraged, you want to check whether your content fits, e.g. some places might not want swearing or adult themed content. Some open mics have limited spots and so it’s a good idea to turn up early or time to get a spot. If in doubt, ask the host.It’s ok to be nervousBeing nervous is normal, even poets that ha