What we share

As I set to work on my first (written) poetry collection, I have been thinking of my task as trying to find a body for each poem. A physical form; something that will allow to speak and act from the page with as much presence as if I delivered it myself. After nearly 20 years speaking my poems aloud on stage, I’m not so comfortable on paper (or screens). My poems feel disembodied.

In performance, the actual voice and body, and the air we share, does most of the convincing. It says, ‘We are here. We are connected. We share this’.

How do you convince a reader to come along and give some of their precious time to your words? In performance, the actual voice and body, and the air we share, does most of the convincing. It says, ‘We are here. We are connected. We share this’. It’s a simple but profound transaction, and the audience has already showed up to listen. They are already there. On the page, I need to substitute that connection with something else: line breaks or word choices or commas – and that seems like a poor trade-off. But it’s necessary, I can see why a critical reader wants to be convinced that we are, in fact, here together.

So many textual tools can feel like the complete opposite of embodiment. They are small, inconsequential marks, that can be read many ways. They can be interesting, exciting, and also alienating. Poetry as text, to me, does not feel like a language that is easily shared; or at least, its shared-ness is complicated. When we physically share space, it often feels fine to hear a poem in a language we don’t know. We listen, we hear the ebb and flow of the voice, we hear the emotion, we hear the real person within the poetry. We are surprised by how much we do, after all, understand. But by the patterns of readership of much contemporary Australian page poetry, it might seem that the language of poetry is particularly resistant to being shared by people with widely or even slightly divergent backgrounds and experiences. That’s not to say it is all inaccessible; but most of the readers are other poets. They want to be challenged. In another sense, they are also an audience that is already there, with their own ideas of where ‘there’ is.

Into the silence of the white page, all sorts of nefarious comments come creeping…

The awkwardness I feel working on this book is perhaps a disconnect between my familiarity with performance, a literal embodiment of the poem, and my lack of a language to describe or explain what I am doing in that performance. Without any formal performance training, I couldn’t exactly set out my intentions for each piece, and therefore its difficult to translate these hazy and instinctive performance choices into textual choices. I’ve heard that page poetry is framed by the silence of the white page, like song is framed by the silence it breaks. In the real, embodied, person-to-person world, I’m very comfortable with silence. On the page, not so much. I struggle to cut, to condense, to stop talking over that white space. Into the silence of the white page, all sorts of nefarious comments come creeping… “This poem has no urgency or interest. This is not what poems look like. Maybe I have nothing to say. Maybe I’m not a poet.”

The community of spoken-word has been, for me, a miraculous support network that usually carries me through these doubts before they can get too much of a hold on me. I’m just beginning to feel part of a wider community of published poets too, who are every bit as supportive and inspiring as I try to become a better writer. It’s just that the feedback takes a little longer to return once you throw the words out there. Perhaps it’s not any tangible, textual details that I’m missing in these poems, but the bright, vivid attention of the audience themselves. The way their thoughts and stories arise silently in their listening, and fill the space with sudden, urgent significance.

Open mic poetry with Zoom

My 10 tips for using Zoom to put your open mic event online.

I had to cancel all live events for Poets Out Loud recently, like arts producers everywhere. With no chance of hosting open mic nights I had to figure out a new way to do what we do. I was skeptical that such a personal form of sharing could be translated to a new medium, but wanted to try. Almost immediately, I started to think about moving our open mic events online.

It seemed important to carry on, not just because performing artists needed new opportunities now that the industry had taken a massive blow, but because people need a creative outlet. I needed to find the right online platform for people to share their experiences through poetry.

What I was looking for

To closely replicate the experience of an open mic night, I needed a set-up that would allow:

  • Participation. Open mic is all about giving the stage over to others so they can have their say. I needed a tool that would allow not just broadcasting, but also bringing in participants for a 3-min reading.
  • Interactivity. I also wanted the audience to have the ability to respond to what they heard, even if they didn’t want to be ‘on the mic’ themselves. At a spoken-word night you get instant feedback from the audience and this is a big part of the experience.
  • Easy for users. I knew that if people had to skill-up on using lots of new tech, set up an account, or pay, they would not be so keen to watch or join in.
  • Host controls the broadcast. As MC, I needed to be able to control who was seen and heard so we wouldn’t get background noise from listeners. This would be similar to a live event where the host controls who is ‘on stage’ and where audience focus is.

I settled on Zoom, mostly because a lot of people recommended it. As it turns out, Zoom did everything I was looking for. It had the benefit of feeling quite intimate as it’s designed for meetings, which means you feel like you’re in the room with everyone present. It all went off beautifully although it was the first time I’d used Zoom or anything like it. The comments that flowed into the chat window speak for themselves:

“Sarah – this is SO good seeing artists from all over”.

“As a regional human, I so often miss out on attending anything, so this is perfection. <3”.

“Brilliant night – brilliant initiative – thank you SO much everyone!”

10 Tips

Here are my tips for anyone else planning to run a poetry open mic using Zoom:

  1. Although Zoom is free for meetings up to 40mins, I paid up for a pro account so my events could run for longer. I’m not sure that an audience would stick around if I needed to end the session and start again.
  2. Share the invitation wherever you announce your event. This will allow people to try it out earlier, prompting them to download Zoom if they don’t have it yet. If you have required a password, it seems you need to share the whole invitation, not just the link.
  3. Test, test, test. I did a few trial runs, and the most useful one was getting 4 people on at once. That’s when I really got the hang of what it would look like to host; how the comments appeared; who could speak; and how to control the audience experience.
  4. Mute all. Maybe the most important control for a performance-based event is ‘Mute’. You can select ‘Mute participants on entry’ in the advanced options when you set up the meeting, which will prevent any disruptions to your performers. But keep checking during the session, as people can unmute themselves.
  5. Use comments. The chat window is a great way to share responses to poems, continue discussions privately, or share links to external sites. Poets who have books for sale were able to add these links straight after their reading, so we didn’t need to look them up later.
  6. Find a way to interact. You might do this by unmuting everyone at the end of a performance to let the applause through, but personally I felt that put too much pressure on attendees to respond every time, and not be in the middle of a conversation in their loungeroom. I liked that people could engage in a way that suited them; either watching passively or interacting like we would at a live reading. I encouraged people to use the Auslan clap, as a visual response to the performance, but there are lots of ways you could do this.
  7. Spotlight video. It’s not essential, but you can control who is seen ‘on stage’ by selecting ‘spotlight video’ for the performer. Zoom’s default is to feature the person whose mic is picking up sound, and this is useful in a meeting where people naturally take turns to speak. So if your poet is the only one speaking, they should be the one on screen anyway. Spotlight gives you more control, but remember to disable it after each performance.
  8. Keep it simple for audience. People are now getting used to Zoom as it’s being used more and more to replace in-person gatherings. But initially, there’s only a few things the audience needs to know, such as: Mute your mic. If you want to watch with privacy, turn off your camera. And use ‘speaker view’ to get the most out of performances (Gallery view is like watching the Brady Bunch; but it can be fun to see everyone’s reactions too!).
  9. Running order: shared and flexible. One of the side benefits of meeting virtually to share poems is that we don’t have to disrupt our home routines to do it. If you have small children like me, you can ‘go out’ to a gig while they are in bed, and still be there if they need you. However that also means that while we’re watching poets, we might also be eating dinner, cleaning up, or even choosing our own poems at the last minute. Knowing who is coming up next gives a sense of security, and to do that I posted my running order before the event. Being online though, you can also count on a few people not showing up, and maybe one or two tech fails, so keep it loose and roll with the unexpected.
  10. ‘Rehearsal’ time. When people are new to Zoom, you can ask them to come a little early and do a ‘rehearsal’. Check that their sound is clear, that you can see them, and let them try out any controls they need to use. While this is going on you can enable ‘waiting room’ for others joining the meeting, then invite everyone in when you’re ready.

I have been really pleased with the Zoom experience. The sound quality is always great, which is important for spoken-word of course. There have only been about 3 out of 38 people who weren’t able to connect, most likely because of slow internet speeds. I was happy to be able to provide an accessible, use-friendly, interactive event with this platform.

There are further questions and issues to explore in this new performance space, which I hope to see discussed in the spoken-word community as we evolve online. How do we support artists financially without ticket sales? Will newcomers feel encouraged to read at an online event if they never have before? In what new ways can we connect poets, supporters and audience across geographic boundaries?

For now, a shared love of spoken-word is drawing us together in ways we couldn’t have ever managed in person, and it’s thrilling.

Watch out for my online open mic at Poets Out Loud, plus more from my friend Miriam at Poetica. To see how things play out for poetry slams in the online world, check out The Bunker, Bellingen Poetry Slam and Australian Poetry Slam.

SlamCraft face-to-face course starts soon

There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people fall in love with poetry. For those located near me in the Tweed region, NSW, here’s your chance to join the most comprehensive poetry course I’ve created yet.

SLAMCRAFT is a unique course in writing and performing powerful poetry. Over 4 weeks, you will create new, authentic poems and gain skills to perform them with confidence. Learn creative strategies to unlock ideas, build your writing skills, and explore your voice in a safe and inclusive setting.
SlamCraft is not just for slam poets; it is for anyone who wants to connect with themselves and others through their words. Developed over 15 years of practice and research, this is the most comprehensive SlamCraft course offered to date.

SlamCraft runs for 4 consecutive Sundays from 2-4pm at the Frances Mills Education Centre in the Tweed Regional Gallery.

Course outline:
Oct 27 – Week 1. Love your materials.
Nov 3 – Week 2. Writing for the ear.
Nov 10 – Week 3. This is my voice.
Nov 17 – Week 4. Taking up space.

Cost: $155 / $135
Beginners are most welcome.
For an enrolment form or more info, contact Sarah:
Ph: 0428 256 531
E: poet@sarahtemporal.com

What people say about SlamCraft:

“This is the first creative writing workshop I have ever attended. I came thinking I’m not a poet; I’m leaving with a poem I’ve written and am proud to perform. Thank you.” – Dee Milenkovic, SlamCraft participant 2018

“I’ve never been so moved by my own poetry. This experience is with much thanks to Sarah for creating and facilitating a workshop which helps people to connect with themselves and others through their spoken words.” – Gabrielle Journey Jones, spoken word artist and author of ‘Spoken Medicine’

“Sarah Temporal’s SlamCraft is a much-needed excavation of the components behind successful spoken word poetry. Sarah uses an in-depth study of successful spoken word artists and the form’s hip hop origins to educate those wishing to hone their writing for the stage.” – Elliot York Cameron, Word Travels Program & Education Officer 2018

SlamCraft online course starts soon

Hi friends! I’m very excited to announce that I’m offering SlamCraft as an online course for the first time.

SlamCraft online course with Sarah Temporal

Oct 26 – Dec 6 2019

SLAMCRAFT is a unique course in writing and performing powerful poetry. Over 6 weeks, you will create new, authentic poems and gain skills to perform them with confidence. Learn creative strategies to unlock ideas, build your writing skills, receive detailed feedback, and explore your voice in a safe and inclusive setting.

SlamCraft is not just for slam poets; it is for anyone who wants to connect with themselves and others through their words. Developed over 15 years of creative practice and research, SlamCraft excavates what it is that makes live poetry powerful by breaking down the techniques used by the world’s best spoken-word poets.

Outcomes:

  • At least 3 spoken-word poems
  • Detailed feedback from Sarah and other course members
  • Understand spoken-word form and techniques, such as flow, memorisation,
  • Find your unique, powerful voice
  • Creative strategies to unlock ideas

SlamCraft runs for 6 weeks using a private Facebook group, so you can complete the activities at any time in the week. Each week, you’ll receive videos, examples, and instructions for a writing or reflection task. Upload your new poems-in-progress as video so we can experience them as spoken-word performances. The next week you will give and receive constructive feedback on the poems while exploring another aspect of craft or creative practise.

Cost: $95 for 6 weeks

Beginners are most welcome.

For more info, contact me.

What people say about SlamCraft:

“This is the first creative writing workshop I have ever attended. I came thinking I’m not a poet; I’m leaving with a poem I’ve written and am proud to perform. Thank you.” – Dee Milenkovic, SlamCraft participant 2018

“I’ve never been so moved by my own poetry. This experience is with much thanks to Sarah for creating and facilitating a workshop which helps people to connect with themselves and others through their spoken words.” – Gabrielle Journey Jones, spoken word artist and author of ‘Spoken Medicine’

“Sarah Temporal’s SlamCraft is a much-needed excavation of the components behind successful spoken word poetry. Sarah uses an in-depth study of successful spoken word artists and the form’s hip hop origins to educate those wishing to hone their writing for the stage.” – Elliot York Cameron, Word Travels Program & Education Officer 2018

If you want to know more about SlamCraft, check out the book or the SlamCraft blog series.

New spoken-word poem published

My spoken-word poem, ‘Something’, was published in audio in the August edition of Baby Teeth Journal. I was honoured to be chosen as a featured contributor for Baby Teeth, an online publisher of literature and arts.

Click here to listen to the poem, or read the transcription. It’s free to access.

‘Something’ came about after a mellow night of writing in my room, recovering from the post-gig blues that sometimes follow the intensity of live performance. I had lots of fun producing the soundscaping for this piece.

I’m a little bit in love with journals like Baby Teeth that offer multimedia publishing options. There aren’t many like it; many journals, even if they publish exclusively online content, are tied to print as a basic format, and it can be difficult for spoken-word poems to find a home in that world. Baby Teeth support a whole range of traditional, digital and new artforms, and are also committed to giving voice to emerging writers. I’m especially thrilled to be included as Baby Teeth are based in Illawarra and South Coast where I grew up.

They’re also 100% supporter funded. You can support Baby Teeth Journal for as little as $1 a month, which gives you access to exclusive content like my creator interview.

Check out the rest of my poetry portfolio for more poems to read, watch and listen.

SLAMCRAFT: Timing part 2

 

Hello Wordsmiths! Last week in Timing part 1, I shared my thoughts on time limits for poems and how timing can actually enhance, rather than limit, your creativity. Today I’m going to explain what I’ve found works when it comes to perfecting your timing.

Lately, my thoughts are with the entrants to the 2019 Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup, which is only 3 weeks away. Not only do they need to write and memorise 8 minutes of mind-shattering, heart-stopping poetry, they also need to prepare to perform it as close to the time limit as possible. They will lose points for going under or over 8 minutes. For anyone used to the Chicago-style slam (previously a 3-minute limit was common, now it’s usually 2) or just open mic, the precision required in this competition is an added challenge.

I first got curious about the secrets to perfect timing when I was writing my fairytale poem Sleeping Beauty. I had a lot to say but I wanted to squeeze it into 2 minutes so that I could enter the piece in a slam. As there are elements of story in it, I asked myself, how long does each little ‘chapter’ of narrative take? How many chapters fit into 2 minutes?

To answer these questions I studied Kate Tempest’s poem “Icarus”. Like mine, it is a retelling of a traditional tale with contemporary characters and issues; it also needs to move through a narrative sequence in a short space of time. Here’s her performance:

You can already see that this clip is right on 3 minutes. I’m not sure if the piece was created for a slam, but it would certainly work well in that space. I also noticed the repeated phrases which make up a kind of chorus; so I looked a little closer to find out how the structure worked. What I found was kind of amazing.

KateTempest-'Icarus' timingbreakdown

Not only is the total time spot on 3:00; each section is exactly 30 seconds long. It’s now clear that we’re looking at the lyrics of a song, not just a poem. Tempest writes verses and choruses with a control of craft that is so precise she can evoke a narrative in short bursts that give us exactly the picture we need, and no more. It’s also a superb example of how spoken-word can do all of its work in a single iteration, and yet make us want to listen again and again for the sheer beauty of it.

So besides being a great songwriter, what else can you do to time your poems with this kind of accuracy? Here’s the 5 tips I’ve found to work best.

1. Break it down

Tempest’s example shows the value of working in short sections, and knowing exactly what purpose each of them serves. But even with a much looser structure than this, breaking your piece into sections will help narrow down what is essential and what can be cut. Sections might be based on narrative progression, repeated images or phrases, or different moods you want to create. Break down the total time available and give each section a time value that reflects how long you want the audience to linger in that mood.

2. Less is more

It’s always going to stress you out if you know that your poem only just fits into the time limit. Rather than cramming in every line and speaking fast, be brutal about what you can lose without damaging the piece. You will get more value from taking time in your delivery and allowing space for listeners to soak up your words.

3. Use the structure

candyroyalleNPPWC

We’ve looked at verse-chorus structure, but there are lots of poem structures available that can help keep the timing of your performance on track. List poems, or those with a refrain, can be great to anchor your delivery in a well-known rhythm. While you will probably also have a dynamic arc that builds in energy where you can potentially get carried away, the refrain will bring you back to awareness and control of your performance. It’s a technique used masterfully by the late and much-loved Candy Royalle in her winning 2012 performance, with the refrain “I am my grandfather’s memories”. Watch it here.

4. Rehearse with intention

This point may seem obvious but it’s worth saying. Your timing can only be consistently accurate if you rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Do it to death. You might reach the point where you think “I hate this piece, it has become utterly meaningless.” What’s on the other side of that wall? If you can remember why you wrote it and inhabit that feeling in every rehearsal, your timing will be better. It’s one of those weird paradoxes I don’t quite understand… When I’m fully feeling a piece, I can actually perform it with robo-style precision.

5. Replicate the conditions

You’ll probably hate me after I tell you this secret, because it seems to contradict everything I’ve just said. I did not go into the Nimbin World Cup with a perfectly timed piece. I used all of the strategies above and felt like I’d done my best. I rehearsed my piece twice in the car on the drive there: one was 30 seconds under, the other 30 seconds over. I did not expect to win, or even get close. So how did I manage to nail it on the night?

I’m more than willing to concede that luck probably played a part. But what I think really did the trick was the process of the competition itself: with a heat, a semi-final and then the grand final, I got to perform the piece three times in two days, in the same space. And for me that was the real key to honing the performance. Living and breathing it with a real audience did more for my delivery than any amount of rehearsing at home could have. By the time I took the stage on the Sunday night, I was so sensitive to the feel of its timing that I even knew how much to compensate when I had to stop and clear my throat a few times. (I’d been cheering on my fellow poets all weekend and nearly paid for it by losing voice!)

You can watch the performance in all its scratchy-voiced glory below, but I’d really like to hear from you now. How do you time your poems? Is it a matter of luck or perseverance when you get it right? Please leave me a comment or get in touch.

Like what you’re reading? See more in the SlamCraft series here or buy the book.

Sarah Temporal performing ‘Rapunzel’ at 2018 Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup.

SLAMCRAFT: Timing part 1

Here in the northern rivers, we’re in the middle of slam season – when a bunch of big competitions roll through town, and many poets try their luck for the chance to win big prizes.

One of the challenges for anyone who’s new to slam poetry is timing. Most slams will have a strict time limit of 2 or 3 minutes per piece, with contestants losing points for any time surpassing that limit. But some competitions make it harder still: the Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup gives poets 8 minutes but deducts points for going over OR under time. In the finals, where poets sometimes gain equally high scores for craft and performance, a few seconds timing could make all the difference.

Some writers may wonder what all the fuss is about – why worry about a time limit at all? Doesn’t it restrict creative expression?

In this post I’ll explain why timing matters, and how it can enhance, rather than detract from, your creative process. In part 2, I’ll look at how to hone your timing.

stopwatch-Moonez
stopwatch by Moonez CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Firstly, why time your poetry performance? Well, if you’re entering a slam, that’s simple: good timing wins the prize. It’s very hard to come out on top if you’re losing points. In any competition there needs to be some constants so that the work can be judged on an equal basis. It’s no use pitting a 10 minute poem against a 10 second one. Instead you have the same frame of opportunity to show what you can do.

But it’s not just about competition, it’s also about generosity. New readers who don’t have a sense of how long their poem takes to read aloud have also missed a chance to truly gift the audience their words, because listening requires focus and attention that most people can’t sustain over long periods of time. Instead of demanding or expecting that people listen to page after page, why not select the best words, the most precious poem, and give it to them with all your energy? Keeping your performance under 2-3 minutes, even at an open mic, usually ensures your listeners won’t wander off.

Timing is also an aspect of craft, and like any craft, it can be mastered and used to great effect. Sure, it’s by no means the most important thing, and the scoring in slams reflects that: timing only counts for a small part of your final score.   The craft of timing is not just apparent in the total time of your poem however, it is also at work in your delivery. Pacing, pauses and flow are all part of perfect timing. When you craft your poem to an exact time limit, and unintended benefit may be that you perfect your delivery in the process.

14-Sarah 13
Sarah Temporal at Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup 2018. Photo credit Marie Cameron.

But the fact remains that some people feel indignant about the very idea of timing a poem. Surely a poem is as long as it needs to be – why impose limits on someone’s creativity? I believe one of the reasons behind this reaction is that it shatters a long-held illusion about poets: that we are romantic misunderstood geniuses, and that our words spill forth unbidden from some kind of divine inspiration. Okay, that might seem to hold up the first time you hear a great poem – but if the poet comes back and does the same thing the next night, in exactly the same way, with exactly the same timing? Then you realise you’re watching a carefully crafted, rehearsed performance, and a little bit of the magic slips away. Being able to replicate a reading means it cannot have been spontaneous or ‘natural’. But crafting something that seems effortless is part of the hard work for any artist, in any creative medium. Good timing for poets, just like musicians, actors and comedians, does not mean we become robots who recite without feeling. It’s about having the sensitivity and control to respond to our audiences and create a genuine connection in that moment.

And let’s face it, slam poetry is not the first form of poetry to impose an apparently arbitrary restriction on the way we shape our words. Print journals have traditionally limited poems to a length that fits conveniently on a page: usually 40 to 50 lines. You still find this restriction in place even in online publishing, where there is theoretically no limit on space; is it just there because people are used to reading works of a certain length? (By the way, this is one of the publishing barriers that slam poets face, since a 2 minute poem will be longer than 40 lines). The 2-minute limit is just another way of saying you can ‘publish’ your work on stage if it fits this one criteria – making it much more inclusive than almost any other avenue to get your work heard.

issa haiku
Kobayashi Issa, from ‘The Soul in Words’

Apart from length, poets have often chosen to work within the limitations of various forms because it improves their craft. Following the strict parameters of rhyme, number of lines or syllables in sonnets or haikus may feel restrictive at first, but after a while you become aware of how every tiny decision impacts your piece. For this reason, even arbitrary limits can improve your writing process. I recently wrote a piece where almost every word had to start with the same letter, and it led me to create word combinations and descriptions I would never have come to otherwise.

I’ll soon have the chance to explore and challenge my own feelings about time limits, when I sit on the panel of judges at this year’s Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup (as is tradition for the winner of the previous year). With poets working to its famous (or infamous) 8 minute limit, I will be interested to see how timing impacts on the performances of some of the country’s finest spoken-word artists. No doubt there will be some difficult decisions!

Next week, I’ll share the secrets of perfect poetry timing, using the poetry of Kate Tempest as an example. In the meantime, I’d love any performance poets out there to weigh in!

Click here to read Timing: Part 2

What do you think about timing? Share your comments below. You can also read more in the SlamCraft series here or buy the book.

31-Gail M Clarke with Peoples Choice Award winner Zac Simmons and 2018 cup winner Sarah Temporal
Left to right: People’s Choice winner Zac Simmons, Organiser Gail M. Clarke, and winner Sarah Temporal at 2018 Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup. Photo credit Marie T Cameron.

On my way to the state finals…

This year has been full of good news, but I’ve been a little selfish – or lazy – in keeping it all to myself. There was the birth of my gorgeous, healthy baby girl in April; and the success of the poetry events I started running in February. More on these later – I promise to keep you updated – or at least better informed than you were!

The latest good news is that I’m on my way to the NSW STATE FINALS of the Australian Poetry Slam! On the weekend I slammed with 16 super-talented poets in Byron Bay, at an event that’s become a yearly must-see for me in the Byron Writers Festival program. I won the slam with my piece “My Vagina is Fucking Huge” – yes it’s true, pregnancy and birth give you lots of new ideas to write about!

Sarah &amp; Sahar - Byron APS heat winners
Sarah Temporal (1st) and Sahar Salahshori (2nd), winners of Australian Poetry Slam 2019 Byron heat.

This poem was my first attempt at writing a humorous piece of ‘doggerel’, and I was kind of surprised by how well it turned out. It’s not exactly a factual account of my birth experience, but it is an honest response to the ridiculous pressures placed on women to be perfect calm birthers, to never talk about their private bits, and to value tiny vaginas while blokes brag about their enormous dongs. I’ll have the video to share with you soon.

But enough about me (and my massive vagina…) The slam was heaps of fun! It was wonderful also to see my husband nearly scrape into the top two with his piece ‘I’m that white guy’. Others explored a wide range of experiences in their moving pieces. The judges, chosen at random from the audience, were very moderate and fair, reflecting the high standard of entries in their scores.

My personal highlight was performing for one of my poetic mentors Tug Dumbly – Australia’s unofficial poet laureate of satirical and humorous verse. Tug’s open mic night ‘Bardflys’ lit the spark of spoken-word for me in the early 2000s. It was extra special to have him in the audience, and to be able to make him laugh – a gift he’s given freely to thousands of delighted listeners through his poetry over the years.

The first and second place winners of this heat now get to compete in the State final at Customs House in Sydney, on October 18. So we’re going to pack our bags and do our first airline travel as a family to enjoy a weekend of words. Part of my prize is a ticket to the 5-day spoken-word festival, Story-fest, which culminates in the National final of the Australian Poetry Slam. I also get to share the trip with my poetry comrade Sahar Salahshori, the second place winner of the Byron heat. Like me, Sahar forged her poetic identity in the spoken-word scene of Sydney and then made a seachange to the northern rivers, so it’s something of a return to familiar turf for both of us.

If you’re in Sydney at this time, look out for me and say hi! It’s going to be a blast poetting it up with some of Australia’s best. Wish me luck!

 

SUPER SLAM – Info for poets

So you’re thinking of entering the SUPER SLAM? Fantastic! We can’t wait to hear your words. Here’s what you need to know.

The basics:

  • All styles of poetry and spoken-word are welcome. However, you should consider how you will engage the audience with your performance.
  • Time limit strictly 2 minutes, with points lost for going over time. Time starts from your first word – no extra for introductions. You will hear a warning bell with at 1:50 and 2 bells when time is up.
  • The poem you enter must be entirely your own work.
  • You don’t need to memorise your poem, but it really helps.
  • All ages, all topics, all levels of experience welcome.

Conditions of entry:

  • Please arrive at the venue by 3:30pm to register.
  • One entry per person, available with ‘Slam Poet entry’ ticket in your name only.
  • In the case that there is a draw, the 2 winners may be asked to repeat their performance for a “slam off”.
  • Video and photos of your performance may be published by Poets Out Loud and our business partners. This is for the purpose of promoting our writing community and the opportunities we offer.
  • The judges decision is final.
  • The prize package is not redeemable for cash. Feature poet and video production opportunities are contingent on your availability and willingness to collaborate with Poets Out Loud and our partners.

Contact the organisers:

For more info contact us through our Facebook page, Poets Out Loud Murwillumbah. Or contact Sarah on 0428 256 531 or poet@sarahtemporal.com

More:

What if ‘Slam Poet entry’ tickets are sold out?

There are a limited number of places in the slam, so get in quick. A waiting list ticket, if available, unfortunately does not guarantee you a place in the Slam. But don’t worry –  please bring your poem along to another Poets Out Loud – every third Thursday of the month at Bacaro in M-Arts, Murwillumbah. We have open mic every month and a Slam every second month, plus amazing feature poets, dinner and drinks.

What if I want to withdraw my entry?

Contact Sarah on 0428 256 531 as soon as possible so that another poet can take your place. You can claim a refund on your ticket up to 7 days before the event.

I’m under 18 – can I enter the slam?

Yes, you can. At the venue only over 18s are to approach the bar.

I don’t know if my poem is a ‘slam poem’. Can you help?

The simple answer is, yes it is! Although Slam Poetry may have become associated with certain themes and styles of delivery that proved popular, there are no kinds of poetry off-limits at a slam. The audience responds better to authenticity than showmanship. Our advice is to be yourself, and try to share the feeling that drove you to write the poem in the first place.

How can I choose or improve my poem for the slam?

Time, edit, and rehearse your poem, preferably in front of others. Sorry, Poets Out Loud can’t help you choose which poem you should do. You may find useful resources on SlamCraft: Tips and techniques for spoken-word performance.

That’s a wrap: Poetry Tour 2018

I recently returned from my first ever poetry tour. Working as a poet in regional Australia is fantastic: I have a strong creative community and a great work-life balance, with all the benefits of a laid-back lifestyle. Unfortunately though, regional artists often need to engage with the cities to bring our creative work to a wider audience, and that’s what I decided to do at the end of this year.

The tour saw me doing a different gig every day in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong. I featured or facilitated at six poetry events, met the most inspiring people, and got to see how poetry communities are evolving in different cities. Interestingly, most of the poetry events had a fairly small attendance – around 30-40 people – but this number was comprised of such dedicated and engaged individuals that it was immensely valuable to connect with them. I really was surprised by the positive response to the tour. People were excited and interested even if they hadn’t heard of me, and they showed their support in many generous ways: offering accommodation or drinks, buying books, starting conversations.

Most of the poetry nights were arranged with a feature and open mic, so that I did a feature set of around 15-30 minutes at each. This is great for building up performance skills because I was able to try out different combinations of pieces. It was enormously rewarding to then hear poems from the attendees, some of whom were accomplished poets and others nervous newbies, all embraced in the welcoming community of spoken-word. This is something I love about live poetry, it always feels like an exchange between equals.

The hosts of these nights were a truly extraordinary bunch of women, all very professional and passionate about supporting poets. Many were happy to host me not just at their event but at their homes as well, giving me a bed for the night so I didn’t have to stay in hotels. Getting to know each other, trading stories and book recommendations, made it the very best kind of travel.

A few people have been curious about how to organise a tour like this, so I’ll aim to give you the run-down soon. It’s really not that hard, but it’s also not glamorous or financially rewarding. Fortunately I have a day job too, and the ‘reward’ I seek in creative work is the opportunity to do more poetry. Even if work doesn’t often translate to income, it’s always a privilege to be doing what I love.

A big shout out to everyone who supported the tour. Thank you for supporting an independent working poet. I can’t wait to see you all again soon!

 

*Photo credit: Top 3 images by Alpha Sierra studios, Newcastle.