Let’s make 2015 big for poetry in Melbourne

It’s been a busy year for the Melbourne poetry and spoken word community in 2014, and especially here for Melbourne Spoken Word. As usual, Melbourne was full of events on most nights of the week, we had special features and lots of open mic, and international poets and slam champions and people released books and CDs into the wild. We would love to see more of all of this in 2015. Melbourne has a reputation as one of the most vibrant, busy and exciting poetry and spoken word scenes not just in Australia but around the world.

In 2015, Melbourne Spoken Word hosted a number of events, 6 in fact. We held a showcase of Melbourne poets at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of the Melbourne Now exhibition in January, where we performed behind the waterfall entrance and lots of people came past and became exposed to a wide variety of poets. We were also very proud to host US slam poet Bill Moran, alongside local features Fury and Andy Jackson and many of those faces in the crowd were totally unfamiliar to us. We hosted our first ever ‘Poetic Lab’ with feature Steve Smart, where open mic poets get feedback on their poems, and we hosted two workshops, one with Brisbane poet Scott Wings.

But by far our most successful event was in September with our Drag Slam. We sold out Hares & Hyenas, and with Fury MCing the night, it was spectacular and very much in the vein of the unique poetry events we want to put on in 2015. We were event lucky enough for it to be the subject of a documentary, ‘Slam Poetry – Dressing the Medium.’

Our public goal right here, and we hope you’ll hold us accountable to it, is we want to host at least one event a month all year round, whether that be a feature poet, a special event, a workshop or a Poetic Lab. We’ll try to announce the events as soon as we know. We’ve got some cool ideas in tow.

2014 was also the year of the Crowdfunding campaign. We were pretty proud and excited to raise over $5,000 for the new website and our audio system and once again, we thank everyone who donated to us. Our goal in 2015 is to continue to collect ongoing donations, apply for funding, and run events and produce publications that can help us do what we love most, which is promoting and expanding poetry and spoken word in Melbourne.

Of course in 2015 our big project is the release of our new website. Our designers, Phil and Toby, are working hard on bringing our design to life where all of the gigs in Melbourne will become front and centre of what our website is all about, with individual event pages for each event, alongside more content. We hope more people will contribute reviews, interviews, their opinions and advice to make this truly a community website, plus we intend to get out and record more spoken word videos at some of Melbourne’s top events.

And of course, Audacious will be launching in early 2015. Our first spoken word audio journal or album is still looking for submissions. We’ll have a pop up recording studio in 2015 for submissions and we can confirm that the first issue will include touring American poet, Emily Weitzman plus the Victorian Finalist of the Australian Poetry Slam Championship and Slamalamadingdong Season Champion Brendan Reed Dennis. We’ll be opening pre-orders soon to help us pay for printing and the pressing of the CDs.

Personally, I have a million ideas for what we could do, but it’s often limited by funding or time, and so one our goals in 2015 is for more people to be involved in Melbourne Spoken Word and to help support people in their own projects. We’re very happy to reply to emails and chat to people at events if they have questions or need help if they want to put on a gig, publish their work in either audio or print form.

I’m issuing a challenge to all poets and spoken word artists to make 2015 big, let’s push ourselves, push ourselves in our own writing to produce new work, get it out there, on the open mics, as feature gigs, producing chapbooks and CDs, or submitting to Audacious, Going Down Swinging and any place that will take spoken word. Let’s push ourselves to put on new events, to cross promote and support each other’s gigs and projects. Let us all work together to bring us together even stronger as a community.

All that may sound very sentimental and over the top but there’s something in the do-it-yourself and community-minded nature of our scene that attracts people to it despite not having the backing of arts funders and big money promoters. Of course, if you have any ideas to improve our website or Melbourne Spoken Word, or the scene in general, we’d love to hear it, either in the comments or by submitting an article to our website.

Annie Solah