Submitting doesn’t mean submission

Spoken Word artists just get asked to do gigs, so are we out of practice of submitting our work? Melbourne Spoken Word’s Benjamin Solah ponders.

If you’re like me, one of the attractions to the spoken word scene was actually that you just weren’t getting rejected all the time. It can seem like a bit of a sad thing, but the truth is being an ’emerging writer’ writing alone and sending your work out to strangers only to receive rejections with no feedback can be extremely disheartening.

The democratic space of the open mic can therefore be welcome but potentially misleading if you’re the kind of writing who’s looking to develop their own writing. It can be a good way to get initial feedback, reading the attention or lack of from the audience, or their body language and comments after. All of this can be useful. Though ‘politeness’ and social niceties can sometimes mean you might want to take advice or praise with a grain of salt (or sugar) unless you have a relationship with other writers where you can be honest, sometimes brutally so, without taking it personally.

But we’re accustomed to not really submitting to do gigs, unless in the rare instances of festivals, and so the open mic is a kind of no pressure approach to being published. And yes, it’s being published. More poets potentially reach more of an audience performing in a pub on a Monday night that if they were put in print, though funding bodies and other arts organisations might not see it like that.

Spoken word artists aren’t reliant on ‘gatekeepers’ in the same way other forms of writing are, we can just put on our own gig and self-publishing your collection is more acceptable, but submitting and being published outside of performances can still be useful. I’ve been thinking about this when producing Audacious, our new audio-journal. Are we a little out of practice of submitting? Do we brace ourselves at the thought of putting our work out there for potential rejection?

There are very few publications that accept spoken word recordings. Going Down Swinging is the best of them and one of the only places that has been doing it regularly. Audacious hopes to become the second. But other places do special editions where they might produce a CD with their journal as a once off. Overland have done two ‘Audio Editions‘ published online.

Having your piece as part of a CD and downloadable album of spoken word, alongside other writers, opens you up to new audiences and is a treat to existing ones. People that can’t attend gigs get to listen to you, those that enjoy your work live can take a piece of you home, listen to your poem as they’re on their way to work, or at home, without your physical presence not needing to be there. It’s like a gig but you not needing to be there. Perhaps it’s not as good because you don’t get to see or hear the reactions of people as they listen but they will remember your poem that’s played in their head as they do the dishes and when you’re next feature comes around, they’ll more than likely come along.

It’s best not to think about it as being rejected or accepted too much. From our point of view, we hope to listen to more poems that we want to publish than we possibly can and sending you an email saying we chose not to publish it is not a sign we thought the poem was bad.

We really hope the birth of Audacious can exist side by side with the likes of Going Down Swinging, begin to encourage further publication of spoken word, compliment the live gigs and perhaps begin more of a culture where poets record their work and produce their own albums.

Submissions for Audacious can be made through Submittable and close December 19, 2014. Though we might extend submissions.

Annie Solah