Melbourne Spoken Word was founded in 2015, with the idea of it being a central online hub for spoken word in Melbourne, the place to find out about events, discuss spoken word, and involve the spoken word scene in a unified platform to amplify our artform and bring in new audiences.
A couple of years ago we expanded from a website that people could add their events and submit articles to, to an organisation consisting of a committee from the spoken word community to create accountability and share some decision making. This year, as we move towards incorporation, we wanted to expand that further.
We’re calling out for those involved in spoken word in Melbourne to fulfil some specific roles, namely some people for our new Board and some fresh perspectives in the current committee. We also want to create some co-ordinator roles, including a reviews editor, a comment/opinion pieces editor, some interviewers and a producer to help to produce our podcast and audio-journal, Audacious.
All roles unless otherwise stated are currently volunteer roles, and for people with a passion for spoken word and existing support for the aims of Melbourne Spoken Word. Currently, MSW is applying for grants and seeking other funds to provide payment for roles. We’d love for you to be part of the process of MSW becoming an official not-for-profit organisation for the spoken word scene in Melbourne. MSW believes in paying artists where funding is available. We’re not looking for someone who merely wants to use the role to add something to their CV, but someone who sees the value of this work in the community.
Board Members MSW is in the process of forming a legally recognised incorporated association, with membership, that is registered as deductible gift recipient (DGR) – that’s a not for profit organisation that you can become a member of. In order to do that, we need to form a board, and are calling for expressions of interests,
Queensland Poetry Festival runs the annual Queensland Poetry Awards. Their Arts Queensland XYZ Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word is Australia’s only 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. Open to all Australian residents, this award comes with total prize money of $1000 with winning entries also to be published online and CD by Melbourne Spoken Word (MSW).
2017 Selection panel: Benjamin Solah (MSW) + the 2017 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence Courtney Sina Meredith
Judges Comments: I really enjoyed listening to all the tracks, I tried them out in different settings – through a PA / on my headphones/ with the dog/ with friends – trying to get more of a panoramic feel for it.
I was thinking about innovation in a variety of ways: innovating from new perspectives, innovative content, and of course production value. Careful to place especial care and thought when dealing with the most tender of voices – that is – voices standing in their own light – voices coming from a space that many of us can count on our hands just how many times we’ve had such insight into that particular way of be-ing and see-ing. The journey for that voice is generations in the making.
The eventual shortlist and the top 3 selections by myself and co-judge Benjamin Solah, demonstrated the strata of innovation in contemporary Australian spoken word and the promise of development and exploration within and beyond the form.
Winning & Shortlisted poems
Winner Monday June 27 – Quinn Eades http://melbournespokenword.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Monday-June-27th.mp3
Highest Placed Queensland Entry Fight with my soul – Anisa Nandaula http://melbournespokenword.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Fight-With-My-Soul.mp3<
Melbourne Fringe offers an amazing space for people to come and see art, performance and words each year. Jam-packed with too many shows to possibly go to all of them, we can understand that the guide can be a bit overwhelming. Within those shows, spoken word is representing and there’s some amazing shows you can get along that feature some familiar and not so familiar faces of spoken word.
This year, The Fringe program features a Word and Ideas section, and within that, Melbourne Fringe has partnered with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office to present the Open Book section to support artists who are casting light on Melbourne’s relationship with literature.
On September 23, we are of course hosting Wham Bam Thank You Slam at Second Story Studios in Collingwood. Like last year, we’re sticking poets, slammers and spoken word aaaaartists in a wrestling ring, pitting them against each other in a battle of words. Hosted by myself and Anthony O’Sullivan, it features Sean M Whelan, Alicia Sometimes, Steve Smart, John Englezos, Scott Wings, Roshelle Fong, Chalise van Wyngaardt, Will Beale, Timothy Train and Eddy Burger, plus anyone could be in our 12-poet Battle Royalle. It could even be you. Go on. Enter. We dare you.
From the 20th to the 22nd of September, Joel McKerrow and Anna McGahan, are putting on The People of The Sun described as ‘an immersive, roaming-theatre and spoken word experience’ at 75 on Reid in Fitzroy North. The audience are strongly encouraged to bring their fully charged phones especially if they have the torch function on them, adding to the intrigue about this interactive theatre piece.
From the 16th to the 23rd of September, performance poet Amy Bodossian is showing ‘Salvation Amy’ at The Fringe Hub at the Melbourne Lithuanian Club in North Melbourne. Amy mixes spoken word with cabaret to tell the story of a woman with OCD working in an op shop. It’s bound to be hilarious.
The Queensland Poetry Festival is probably the biggest festival in Australia that has a focus on spoken word at the moment. Happening at the end of August this year, it’s definitely worth going up the east coast to check it out if you can.
One thing introduced last year was the XYZ Prize, the only major prize for (recorded) spoken word in the country. Major prizes and publishing opportunities for aural poetics are few and far between so it’s worth having a crack and getting something in, especially with $1,000 in prize money up for grabs and your piece gets published in Going Down Swinging. It’s judged by 2016 Arts Queensland artist in resident and well-known spoken word artist, Eleanor Jackson.
Entries close July 19, alongside a whole bunch of other poetry awards.
Are you planning to send something in? What do you make of the state of awards for spoken word artists in Australia?
Photo of last year’s Queensland Poetry Festival award winners. Provided by QPF.
The Emerging Writers Festival rolls around in Melbourne for another year, between the 14th of 24th of June, there’s a stack of events for all kinds of writers, but mostly emerging ones. And for emerging spoken word artists, performance poets and slammers, there’s a nice little chunk of events especially for us featuring names and faces of those we’ve seen regularly around poetry gigs in Melbourne all year round.
The one event that jumps out at us, of course, is Late Night Lit: Poetry Slam. Yes, a slam at EWF this year with a line-up of heavyweights including The 2015 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize winner, Steve Smart, Australian Poetry Slam Victorian Final Winner, Abe Nouk, and fellow Australia’s Got Talent finalist, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, plus the well-known Emilie Zoey Baker and from New Zealand, Jess Holly Bates.
Poet, slammer, rapper and novelist, Omar Musa, is an EWF Ambassador who will be hanging around and doing sessions during the National Writers’ Conference, which includes a range of informative sessions for emerging writers, including one on poetry.
The program also includes Soreti Kadir, Abdul Hammoud, Alicia Sometimes, Rania Ahmed, Jessica Alice, Jax Jacki Brown, Bigoa Chuol, Quinn Eades, Lee Kofman, and Joelistics, all faces we’ve seen grace open mics and featured at the gigs we list at Melbourne Spoken Word.
Check out the program for more info, to see where various poets are featuring.
Photos by Michael Reynolds (Steve Smart, Emilie Zoey Baker) and John E Photography (Abe Nouk and Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa
Melbourne Spoken Word is excited and frightened to launch our Patreon campaign. We’re calling on our supporters to pledge to support this community organisation that supports the spoken word scene in Melbourne.
It’s a scary time to be an artist or working in the arts right now, especially in Australia. With arts budgets being cut, and therefore arts organisations facing the very real threat of closing, alongside the current pressures on artists to do things “for exposure” making earning a living harder and harder, it’s fair to say we’re all kind of staring at walls trying to work out ways to make this work.
It’s with this black cloud hanging over us poets that Melbourne Spoken Word is trying to work out how to make the organisation an actual organisation and to make it financially sustainable and how to look after the human beings at the heart of it, including yes, the author of this piece.
We’re working toward being a not-for-profit, becoming something you, yes you, can become a member of just like you subscribe to that journal, subscribe and support community radio, or become a member of Writers Victoria or Australian Poetry etc. We’re applying for grants and seeking out sponsorship.
In the meantime though, Melbourne Spoken Word is mostly run on its own steam, aside from that awesome crowdfunding campaign we ran that paid for the website and a new PA. We pay the poets who perform based on whatever’s in our account or from the ticket sales we get from the door. Sometimes we get small donations or sponsorship but it’s rare. We pay the contributors to Audacious from the sales of those albums. If there’s money left over from selling tickets to gigs, or selling Audacious or the small cut we take from selling poets books on the store, that goes toward paying website fees, the things we need to run gigs like hiring venues, printing, boosting a few Facebook posts –