The Melbourne Spoken Word Prize

The Melbourne Spoken Word Prize is an annual prize awarded for exceptional and innovative performance in the field of spoken word by an artist practising in Melbourne or Victoria, judged by influential and respected leaders in the spoken word scene.

Held each year at the beginning of December, the final performance night includes finalists nominated by regular event conveners. Performers are nominated on the basis of exceptional and active participation in the spoken word scene during the calendar year.

Performers seeking to be nominated are encouraged to participate regularly in many of Melbourne’s open mic and slam events. In November, The MSW Committee invites conveners of regular events to nominate people for the shortlist.

The winning performer is awarded a cash prize, trophy and professional prizes including performance opportunities, and publication in video and Audacious.

The 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize will be held on Friday, December 6 at Collingwood Town Hall.

Previous winners


Overall winner: Natalie Jeffreys
People’s Choice Award: Rania Ahmed
Convener’s Choice: Santo Cazzati
Honourable mentions: Thabani Tshuma, Rhiann Isaacs, Jennifer Compton


Overall winner: Alan Pentland
People’s Choice Award: Trixi Rosa
Convener’s Choice: Amy Bodossian
Honourable Mentions: wani, Chalise van Wyngaardt, Jennifer Compton, Tim Evans


Overall winner: Kylie Supski
People’s Choice Award: Alex Fusca
Honourable mentions: Amy Bodossian, Anna Fern, Roshelle Fong


Winner: Steve Smart
Honourable mentions: Brendan Bonsack, Carmen Main, Abdul Hammoud

The Melbourne Spoken Word Prize Rules

Nominations for the Melbourne Spoken Word prize shortlist

  1. Nominations for the shortlist of the Melbourne Spoken Word Prize will open on the 1st of November each year.
  2. Any regular spoken word event within Victoria is eligible to nominate. Regular events are defined as taking place three or more times during the calendar year before the nomination period opens.
  3. Members of the Melbourne Spoken Word committee at the time of nominations are ineligible to be nominated.
  4. Regular events may not nominate any official member of their own crew or related to running their event or related to the organization or organizer of their event. This does not include occasional volunteers and does not preclude other regular events from nominating those people.
  5. Any poet found to be asking for/requesting/influencing nominations will be disqualified immediately.
  6. Regular events may nominate three (3) poets, ranked in order. The first preference will be assigned three (3) points, second preference two (2) points and the third and last preference one (1) point.
  7. As of 2017, poets nominated multiple times will be given 0.5 points for each repeat nomination received from a different event.
  8. Regular events are asked to nominate based on the quality of the poet’s work and their contribution to the poetry scene in the year of the prize, especially poets that are active.
  9. Conveners are responsible for nominating poets that are eligible and willing to participate. Melbourne Spoken Word will not be held responsible if a poet is unable to participate, and will not give conveners alternative nominations if someone declines or is unable to attend.
  10. The shortlist shall consist of at least the top fifteen (15) nominations, based the points system. If there is a tie, all poets on equal points will be shortlisted and invited to perform.
  11. Shortlisted poets will be invited to participate and once all shortlisted poets are confirmed or not, the remaining places will be given to wild card entrants until the number of participants in the prize number twenty-five (25). Wildcard entries are poets who were nominated by not shortlisted, and will be invited to enter the wildcard draw.
  12. Shortlisted poets and wildcard entrants will be given free entry into the prize night.
  13. Five reserve wildcard spots will be assigned in case of last minute cancellations.
  14. The nominations of poets and which events nominated them are to be kept anonymous by Melbourne Spoken Word, but can be publicized at the event convener’s own discretion.
  15. All shortlisted and wild card entrants shall be residents within the state of Victoria at the time of nominations opening and have a reasonable expectation that they will remain residing in Victoria for 12 months.
  16. The shortlisted poet with the highest points in nomination will be awarded The Melbourne Convener’s Prize, regardless of their ability or availability to attend the final. This prize is only awarded in the case of a clear points winner.

The Melbourne Spoken Word Prize Final

  1. The Final of the Melbourne Spoken Word Prize will take place on the first Friday of December or later if there are urgent or unavoidable circumstances.
  2. The final will consist of twenty-five (25) poets performing in an order drawn at the same time as the wildcard draw.
  3. Participating poets shall arrive before the advertised door-open time, otherwise, risk their spot being given to a poet on the reserve list at the Director’s discretion.
  4. Poets should perform for no longer than three (3) minutes. A warning light will be provided at two minutes, 30 seconds (2:30) and at three (3) minutes. There is a 10 second grace period, but after that, at three minutes, and eleven seconds (3:11), 2 points should be deducted from the score every ten seconds over. At four (4) minutes, the performer’s microphone will be cut at our discretion.
  5. Poets must perform their own original work, with no props or costumes.
    1. A costume is anything judges reasonably expect you did not wear all day, walk into and out of the venue wearing, and is used to augment the poem.
    2. Notebooks, phones, paper etc. used to read the poem are not considered props.
  6. Seven (7) judges will be selected by the Melbourne Spoken Word committee and announced by the publication of the shortlist.
  7. Judges will score based on the poems and the performance of the poem on the night. Each judge shall score the poem out of 10, using decimal points, with 4 points allocated for writing (use of language, writing craft etc), 4 points for performance (use of voice, movement, memorization, audience engagement) and 2 points for originality (originality of language, concept or theme, method of performance)
  8. Each judge will take their own scores, to be submitted at the end of the night. Judges scores are to be made independently of other judges on the night and to be kept confidential.
  9. The scorekeeper/timekeeper shall tally scores and once submitted to the scorekeeper, the decision is final. Judges are able to adjust scores throughout the night.
  10. The highest and lowest score will be dropped from the final scores, unless there is a tie, in which the highest and lowest scores from the tied poets will be used to break a tie. In the event there is still a tie, the prize will be shared.
  11. Each audience member will also be invited to vote on the People’s Choice award and that will be awarded based on the most votes.
  12. The Prize Money will be announced at the announcement of the shortlist.
  13. The Prize Money shall be deposited into the winner’s bank account nominated by the winner within fourteen (14) days of the prize.