Interview by Carrie Maya
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Omar Musa outside a cafe beside Readings on Lygon St in Carlton. He had the Melbourne launch of his book Here Come the Dogs there the night before – which I had, sadly, been unable to attend. So having the opportunity to interview him was cause for excitement.
When I rocked up to interview him, I was doubly excited to see that he and Rob (a.k.a. hip-hop Artist, Mantra) were just chilling and chatting over pots of tea. I sat with them for a little bit and felt a little bit lucky to be a fly on the wall during their conversation; so passionate and articulate.
Once Rob said his goodbyes, I began the interview with Omar over a cup of Earl Grey.
So, Omar, whose hands would you like to see this book end up in?
That’s always a really hard question. When people ask me that I always just think “Why did I write this book?” And I wrote it because I, personally, find writing pleasurable, I wanted to get my head around certain things, and I was writing the type of book that I would like to read. Something that was about dreams, and madness, and chaos. So I wrote it for myself, principally.
But then, after that, I would really like it if it stirred up a little bit of debate about race and class in Australia. I’d like young people to read it, but I’d like old people to read it, too! It’s such a hard question. I wrote it for everyone, you know? It’s about a specific social milieu and it’s about the hip-hop generation. But I tried to put structural things in there that are, hopefully, timeless; largely concerns about change, generation, love, redemption, and violence.Whether I’ve been successful at that, I don’t know, because I was looking through that small key hole at the world.
I also hope that people from other countries could find something interesting in this book. Something to wrap their heads aroun
Written by Carrie Maya
I’ve only been involved in Spoken Word Poetry for about two years. That’s nothing in comparison to many of the poets I’ve seen gracing stages and pages with their words; some of them have been at it since before I was a zygote. It’s for this reason that I am a little hesitant to make the following claim, but it feels necessary nonetheless: there are a few elements within this community that have been detrimental to the creative health of poets of all shapes, and sizes, and genres.
Indie v. Mainstream
This seems to be one of the most toxic attitudes in the community. At least from my perspective. In all honesty, I’ve been guilty of it, myself. If someone takes the stage with a stylised, slam style, they get labeled ‘mainstream’ or ‘sell out’ . I’ve had my issues with slam, for sure. But I also recognise the role it played in creating a platform through which I had the opportunity to build confidence and receive prizes which facilitated my professional development. Things I am genuinely grateful for. But, during the time I was more heavily involved in the slam scene, or if I experienced a degree of popularity and success, it was hard not to listen to self-proclaimed ‘indie poets’ or ‘real poets’ say things like “I’ve been doing this for ten years. You’ve done this for two and you’re more successful than me. That’s not fair.” I’m like: okay, sorry about that.
Then there’s the flipside. There are incredible poets who don’t attend slams, and who stick mainly to readings and page poetry. And because they’re not engaging with slam culture, they get labeled ‘snobs’ or ‘elitist.’ Totes not cool, bro.
Here’s the dealio-yo: there are good and bad poetry apples in every basket. And it’s just not fair to pit them against each other out of so