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.

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.

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 & 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!

 

Spoken-word poetry in education: Best practice guide

I’ve been interested in using spoken-word poetry in high-schools since I was a student-teacher. There are so many benefits for students. The NSW syllabus has caught up somewhat by offering two ‘performance poets’, Kate Tempest and Luka Lesson, for HSC study to inspire students’ own writing. However, Australia is a long way behind the USA and UK, where youth spoken-word programs in education have been operating on a large scale for over a decade, and making a big impact on student learning outcomes.

I was curious to know what we can do at a school level to bring the benefits of spoken-word into our classrooms. I briefly reviewed the available research on spoken-word poetry in education, youth spoken-word programs, and poet-educators from the USA, UK and Australia.

The following advice appears frequently:

  • Teachers should participate on equal basis with students in writing activities:

“whenever I’ve been in a class where…the teacher has shared what they’ve written… something vulnerable or personal, the respect between teacher and students becomes so equal and solid. Vulnerability is a tool that is sometimes undervalued by teachers.” (Luka Lesson cited in Xerri 2016)

  • Collaborate with professional poets to benefit both students and teachers:

“Writers often address the very same aspects of writing on which teachers may be working, and yet the effects can be radically different… their very living relies on their craft, and this clearly makes some important connection with pupils.” (Owen and Munden)

  • Cultivate a writing community beyond the classroom and extend opportunities to publish and perform into that wider community:

“the objective… is to make young people realize that their voice is important and that it has as great a value as any president’s, prime minister’s or anybody… once they’ve grasped that, you find that even the most nervous children often will get up and perform.” (Chelley McLear cited in Xerri 2017)

  • When students encounter a poem, ask “What do you notice?” rather than “What is it about?”

“the teacher’s role is… to find entry points into poems that echo students’ personal stories.” (Jon Sands cited by Nozica)

  • Have students engage in a regular practice of writing before introducing techniques, and wherever possible, show them the techniques present in their own writing:

“The skills of comprehension and analysis of form and language choice will develop over time, through the process of repeated composition and through exposure to a variety of texts.” (Nozica)

Outdoor Reading-Storyfest Workshop (1).jpg
A teacher shares her poem with students at a writing workshop, Sydney 2018.

To sum up, there seems to be a lot of valuable teaching strategies here; but it might require a bit of a re-think of our usual practice. I know personally how difficult it is as a classroom teacher to invite vulnerability into our practice; when in the same role we are expected to convey authority and firm boundaries. It’s also difficult for many schools to invite professional poets in to work with students, due to tight budgets and schedules. However, I think there’s a shining opportunity to partner up with spoken-word and poetry groups in your community. Live poetry events bring together semi-professional and emerging poets, many of them young and interesting. What better way to  get your students inspired than by bringing them in touch with a real poetry scene?

 

You can read more on teaching spoken-word poetry at my page for teachers. I will also be presenting at the ETA conference soon. Please contact me if you’d like more resources.


References:

Nozica, Narcisa. “Spotlight on poetry.” Metaphor 2 (2017): 24-29.

Xerri, Daniel. “‘Poetry does really educate’: An interview with spoken word poet Luka Lesson.” English in Australia 51.1 (2016): 18-24.

Xerri, Daniel. “Inspiring young people to be creative: Northern Ireland’s poetry in motion for schools.” New Writing 14.1 (2017): 127-137.

SLAMCRAFT: Tell the truth

This post addresses an aspect of SlamCraft I noticed quite early on in my attempts at live poetry. I had become hooked on the instant positive feedback for my first few poems, and I now started to write specifically in anticipation of that live moment, the meeting of minds between poet and audience. I started to notice that some of my lines didn’t ‘feel right’. But despite having written and rehearsed carefully, I didn’t know the lines weren’t right until I spoke the poem to an audience.

That moment of realising something doesn’t feel right became one of my most reliable tools.

Words aren’t just words; they are actions. Some of my favourite poets acknowledge that words spoken publicly and witnessed by others have real power to effect change. Our words state our intentions and compel us to follow through.

Why else do we make our vows of marriage, national allegiance and public office out loud instead of writing them down?

It seems that the bonds of human connection and reciprocity treat the spoken word as inherently more trustworthy and binding than the written.

What I had noticed in those early poems was my physical responses telling me when something I had written was untrue. As soon as I hit upon the ‘right’ thing to say, it felt different – my body relaxed, my chin lifted, my voice opened up and projected out. In fact, it was physically easier to read something aloud once I had found the right words.

There’s nothing unusual in this. The physiological responses we have to truth-telling and lying are well-known. If asked to deliberately tell a falsehood, most people will notice that their breathing and heart rate increase, they start to fidget, and find it harder to speak or maintain eye contact. The body processes lies in a completely different way than it does the truth.

But telling the ‘truth’ really isn’t easy. Most poets either slave toward this goal or suspend the idea of ‘truth’ entirely, accepting that all we can hope for is a fractured, subjective approximation. Shane Koyczan gives the highest possible praise in his endorsement of Luka Lesson’s ‘The Future Ancients’: “Luka Lesson is the kind of poet other poets want to be. Other poets want to be honest.”

I would suggest that spoken-word has a different relationship to truth-telling than other forms of poetry. By sharing our work with a live audience, we become attuned to the resonance in our own bodies, as well as the responses of others, which will indicate whether the poem is hitting its mark on a deep level. We know that we can’t cover up for bad poetry with good performance. I’ve always argued that performing poetry is definitely NOT acting; being such a poor actor is probably what allowed me to enter into poetry in the first place. But UK poet Joelle Taylor said it best on her recent Australian tour:

Performance is not acting. It is remembering why you wrote it.

This also means that our fear of speaking in front of others can be turned to our benefit. Instead of asking, “what will they think of me?” we can ask, “how do I feel saying this out loud?” Do you feel the special kind of butterflies-in-the-tummy we all get from sharing something deeply personal, real or true? Or are they the kind of sticky-squirmy moths that suggest this isn’t really what you wanted to say after all?

It’s interesting that what feels right to say often takes us far beyond the notion of ‘truth’ and ‘honesty’. As soon as we speak publicly, we find ourselves inhabiting a complex socio-political landscape, in which our positions of relative power and marginalisation strongly play into the perceived validity of our utterances. We should always recognise our privilege in that space. As an example, I’ve seen young men speak at poetry open mics about difficult break-ups; but instead of being honest about their feelings, they are honest about how much they despise their ex-partner, using the stage to attack her personal habits or appearance. Such rants bear traces of misogyny they probably weren’t aware of until they aired it in a public space in front of women, and often they are gently re-directed by the experience.

When we become aware of our responses in front of others, we can use them to direct us toward more significant and generous forms of truth-telling. For me, this has meant moving away from the kind of honesty you’d find in a teenager’s diary, and into the honesty of universal experiences that are not always acknowledged. My poems addressing women’s empowerment and mental health feel so much stronger for being shaped among a community of listeners, who are also the bearers of the same story, spoken or unspoken. On the other hand, I have written poems that I wouldn’t choose to perform because they don’t enact the kind of truth I want to put out into the world. While they may be true for me, I also want the poems for performance to have purpose; just like making a vow.

There’s the truth you want to tell, and the truth that wants to be told. Can you tell the difference?

Read or listen to my poem about truth-telling here.

Like it? Read more in the SlamCraft series or buy the book


Exercises

3 pens on a composition book

Leslie Richards, 3 pens on a composition book.

Telling the truth in your writing is a deeply personal and individual journey, so I’m not going to be too prescriptive here. You will find your own signals to guide you in your process. You might like to try these reflective questions as a starting point:

  1. When you have a complete draft, find someone you trust and ask them to be a listener. They don’t have to give feedback, just receive your words. Read slowly and pay attention to the sensations in your body. Where did it feel right? Where did it feel ‘sticky’ or awkward? Did you notice different feelings to when you wrote it? Did your voice seem to flow more easily around certain ideas? Did your intention become clearer?
  2. Consider the purpose of your piece. Are you writing it to remember, to inspire, to heal, to investigate, to confront, to articulate, to dream? Be careful of subconsciously seeking approval – it’s addictive, but unfulfilling for both poet and audience.
  3. How do you hope the audience will react? Do you want them to join you in a journey, remember their own joys or pain, feel motivated or moved? Have you allowed them to feel these things through your words? Is there room for others in your piece?
  4. Consider others who have a similar experience to the one you’re expressing in the piece. Do you feel your voice opening up in their presence? If not, what’s the sticking point?
  5. If your piece mentions other people, whether as individuals or types, consider how you would feel about them hearing it. It’s probably ok to criticise the wealthy and powerful in the tradition of ‘speaking truth to power’, but it might not be ok to criticise your parents or your ex-lover. If you’re talking about anyone you’re not – like other genders and gender identities, races, cultures, sexualities, ages, and abilities – ask yourself why you feel the need to speak on their behalf. Can you turn that story around and show what it reveals about you?
  6. Have you been as honest as you can about the difficulties and limitations of trying to write this idea? How can you invite us further into the process?
  7. When you share your work at live events, develop a habit of reflective practice. If you can jot down what worked and what didn’t within a couple of days of your performance, you will already be improving for next time.

All of these questions are best considered once you have re-written and thought carefully about what you are writing. They shouldn’t be applied to a first draft. No matter what answers you get, you should never take it as a sign to abandon a piece or stop writing. Instead, use your learning to guide a change of direction or try out new ways of expressing the idea. The best pieces have many layers of thinking and re-thinking behind them, so this process is all part of becoming a better poet – and possibly, a better person.

Like it? Read more in the SlamCraft series or buy the book

*Featured image: Xpicta_aNight by SeRGioSVoX licensed CC BY 2.0

Live poetry and spoken-word

For anyone who’s writing, wants to write, or just wants to soak up some poetry, I can’t encourage you enough to get out and see one of your local poetry events. Click the titles for more info on each event. This list was compiled in September 2018 and updated August 2019. While information was current to the best of my knowledge, please check details with organisers / venues before you go.

REGULAR NIGHTS

NSW Northern Rivers and Gold Coast

Follow North Coast Poetry and Spoken Word for updates.

POETS OUT LOUD!! Murwillumbah’s new open mic, with feature poets and the occasional slam. Run by Sarah Temporal. Third Thursday of the month at Bacaro Cafe in M-Arts Precinct, 6:30-9pm, $10 donation.

Alternator Poetry: Last Thursday of the month at Dust Temple, Currumbin QLD. Fifth Thursdays are slams, others open mic. One of my faves.

Lismore Live Poets: Second Wednesday of the month at the Rous Hotel, Lismore. A long-standing event of 27 years run by master poet David Hallett.

Writers at the Rails: First Sunday of the season (spring, summer, autumn, winter) from 2pm at the Rails hotel, Byron Bay. Plus a gala event during Byron Writers Festival. Open mic and slam.

Nimbin Poets: First Thursdays at 7pm, Nimbin Bowlo. Check FB for venue confirmation. Open mic. Run by the beautiful crew who independently bring us the Performance Poetry World Cup.

Poly Poetry: Second Thursdays, 7pm start, $10 with food specials. Themed open mic. Marie Anita’s Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe, Mermaid Beach, QLD.

Unplugged: New weekly night of poetry, comedy and music. Wednesdays at 6pm, 7-21/23 Tasman Way, Byron Bay.

Temple of Words: Open mic. 3rd Fridays, Corner Palms, 1/16 Brigantine St, Byron Bay. $10.

Mullum’s poetry night: 4th friday of the month, 6pm to 8.30 pm, Studio F, 28 mill street Mullumbimby. $10.

Word Play: First Wednesday of every month, 7pm, ‘Dusty Attic Music Lounge’ 149 Woodlark St, Lismore. Free.

Pluckers and poets: 2nd Sunday of every month, 4pm, Dunoon Sports Club. Music/poetry open mic. Free.

Empire Poets Society: Pop-up event Empire cafe, Mullumbimby. $5.

Dangerously Poetic: Pop-up events around Northern Rivers.

Brisbane

Ruckus Slam: Brisbane’s infamous open mic SLAM! Your original work – poem, song, rant, lyrics. Also runs a youth slam and cabaret slam.

Poetry Showetry: new night in West End

Kurilpa Poets: last Sunday of every month; at the Old Croquet Club on the corner of Musgrave Park, 91 Cordelia Street, West End. Also holds the Kurilpa Cup.

Sunshine Coast

Poet’s Corner: second Saturdays 2pm at Riba Kai Cafe, 1/14 Newspaper Pl, Maroochydore.

Sunshine Coast Spoken Word: Third Saturday 2pm at Homegrown cafe, Palmwoods. Hosted by Robyn Archbold (Archie). Open mic +feature poets, $10 entry.

The Bunker Spoken Word: quarterly open mic event and workshop series developing local talent and showcasing national and international poets and storytellers.

Sydney

Poetica: a night for wordsmithing. We want to hear your words. 3 minutes /open mic. Monthly. Bondi Bowling Club.

Sappho Poetry: second Tuesday of every month (except January), 7pm. 3-4 poets + limited open mic. Sappho bookshop, Glebe.

Caravan Slam: Caravan Slam is a loose collection of poets whose joy is to bring performance poetry to the world. We perform all over Sydney.

Bankstown Poetry Slam: the largest regular poetry slam in the country. We host monthly slams at the Bankstown Arts Centre. BPS on last Tuesday of the month, plus Flip the Script youth open mic/workshop last Monday of month.

Live poets at Don Bank: Live Poets meets on the 4th Wednesday of every month from February to November (inclusive). We feature special guests in poetry and unplugged music. We also welcome in our open section anyone who wants to recite, sing, tell a story, or play an instrument.

West Side Poetry Slam: Open mic night, 3rd Wednesday of every month, 91B Grose St North Parramatta

The Sydney Poetry Lounge is a poetry open-mic at The Friend in Hand, Glebe. First Tuesday of every month.

Spoken at Lentils: open mic night open to newbies and old timers alike. time limit is eight minutes. Lentil as Anything, Newtown

Word-In-Hand: Sydney’s premier and most diverse performance and storytelling gig, held on the first Tuesday of every second month at the Red Rattler in Marrickville. Re-launching in Feb 2019.

Poets @ Petersham Bowlo: monthly open mic soiree (3rd Thurs each month, from 6.30pm)

Loose Leaf literature: Lazybones Lounge, Marrickville. Tickets are $10 on the door or available online via Eventbrite. Good food and drinks available all night.

Poetry Sydney held by Brett Whiteley Studio: regular poetry readings, now held on the first Sunday of the month from March to November. Admission is free.

Narellan Poetry Slam: new event at Harry Hartog booksellers. Third Tuesday of the month, 6:30 for 7pm. Admission $5.

Sydney surrounds

Enough Said Poetry Slam: Poetry, poets, people who love poetry and poets, in Wollongong. Last Thursday of every month.

Girls on Key is a gig series featuring female and non-binary poets raising funds for a variety of charities. We have chapters in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Castlemaine and Port Kembla.

Central Coast and Newcastle

Poetry at Pub 3rd & 5th Mondays of the Month at the Wickham Park Hotel, corner of Maitland Road and Albert St, Wickham, commencing at 7.30pm.

Word Hurl Antislam  a no rules, spoken word, open mic, poetry night. 1st Tuesday of the month at the Clarendon, Newcastle.

Heart Open A bi-monthly celebration of creativity, featuring women and non-binary artists of all kinds.

Outspoken bi-monthly event featuring feminist women in conversation

The Press Book House hosts occasional poetry readings

Cuplet A monthly night of top class touring and local poets at The Beaumont, Hamilton

Canberra

That Poetry Thing at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop every Monday, 7-9pm

BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! at Smiths Alternative, the 3RD WEDNESDAY of every month. Sign-up 7:30pm, SLAMMING starts at 8pm; it is all over by 11pm.

Canberra Slamboree: Slam last Friday of the month at Gang Gang Cafe.

Melbourne

See Melbourne Spoken Word, the online portal to all of the upcoming events in the live spoken word and poetry scene, as well as videos, interviews, reviews and opinions.

Adelaide / SA

Sticks and Stones: open mic, 2nd Sunday of each month at The Libertine by Louis. Hosted by Alison Paradoxx

Spoken Word at Captain Rehab: Spoken Word at Captain Rehab happens on the 1st Friday of every month at the wonderful Mixed Creative in Port Adelaide. $2 entry.

Spoken ‘n’ Slurred: open mic by Paroxysm Press, last Sunday of the month, Brick City Bar, Adelaide.

Perth / WA

Spoken Word Perth: open mic event every other Wednesday. Check page for venue and times.

Perth Slam: Last Saturday monthly, Bar 459 Rosemount Hotel, North Perth.

Dirty Mouth: Live music, high-caliber spoken word and anything-goes-open-mic. Check page for venue and times.

Perth Poetry Club: a spoken word show every week in central Perth. The Moon Cafe, William St, Cnr Newcastle Street, Northbridge.

Voicebox Fremantle: a monthly poetry event featuring three invited guests and 10 x five minute open-mic slot. Last Monday of the month, check page for venue.

Northern Territory

The Dirty Word: a poetic community in Alice Springs. There’s TDW every month, TDW presents series and the Red Dirt Poetry Festival! Last Tuesday of (almost) every month usually at Totem Theatre.

Wild Words Darwin: Last Sunday of every month at the Darwin Railway Club in Parap from 3pm to 5pm. Entry is $5, but FREE for performers.

COMPETITIONS

Australian Poetry Slam: Live poetry competition where the audience is the judge. With a nationwide round of 50 heats, the best slammers will compete to win the Australian Poetry Slam National Final at Sydney Opera House. See page for regional and city heats.

Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup: Australia’s largest cash prize for performance poetry with over $5000 in prizes. The annual NPPWC is held on the first weekend of September and is sponsored by the community of Nimbin. Thanks to all the volunteer support the event is growing in size and reputation each season. After the Saturday heats and Sunday semi-finals, 8 finalists perform at the Nimbin Town Hall for the Grand Final Prize on Sunday night.

The Bunker Spoken Word competition: Annual competition based on Sunshine Coast as part of Horizon Festival. Includes workshop opportunities, competitive heats and guest performances all leading up to The Bunker Grand Final.

Poetry Slam at Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival: Prepare 3 poems of 3 minutes (maximum) for 3 possible rounds. Run by Elizabeth Routledge, renowned poet, playwright, actor and local legend.

Melbourne Spoken Word Prize: annual prize awarded for exceptional and innovative performance in the field of spoken word by an artist practising in Melbourne or Victoria.

XYZ Prize for innovation in spoken word: Australia’s only national arts award that recognises the growing field of spoken word and is named after the former 2010 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, Emily XYZ.

FESTIVALS

Storyfest: A 5-day festival of spoken-word and performing writers, including workshops and international guests. Around October annually, The Rocks, Sydney.

Unspoken Words: September, Red Rattler, Sydney.

Queensland Poetry Festival: An annual event which brings poets from throughout Australia and overseas together for a three day festival in Brisbane. August.

Spoken Word at National Folk Festival: A program of poets, comedians, performers, talks, books, including the Poets’ Breakfast. Easter long weekend, Canberra.

Word at Woodford Folk Festival: A program of slam, bush and performance poetry, debates, storytelling, comedy and the tongue twister that is the strange beast: Word. One week over New Year, Woodford QLD.

Melbourne Spoken Word Festival launched July 2019 with more than 60 events over 18 days.

Red Dirt Poetry Festival in Alice Springs

 

 

SLAMCRAFT: Memorization

When people ask me, “How should I memorize my poems?” there are a few tips I have to offer.

  1. Write a memorable poem. Not all poetry is ideal for live reading. The good news is, if it works for performance, it will probably work for your memory too. Before you finalize your lines, experiment with your voice and gestures. If the words flow better in a different order, then let them flow.
  2. Get up. The body is a learning tool. In order to get the poem stuck in your brain, you are going to learn it with your whole body. So pick a private space and get up, move around, sway or stomp or wildly gesture your way through the words until they come to life.
  3. Use rhyme and rhythm. The musicality of poetry in its more traditional forms makes it easier to memorize. Who remembers rote learning “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” or something like it? You couldn’t do that with modern free verse. Rhyme will cue your brain to remember the next line; and rhythm will help you settle into the flow. Remember, rhymes don’t have to follow a strict scheme.
  4. Be authentic with your voice. You may feel that slam poetry or spoken-word has a certain style to live up to; that you need to be bold, loud, or have lots of street cred to pull it off. That’s bollocks. Your voice will sound and feel real when it is your own; in fact, it’ll be harder to memorize your work if you don’t listen to it.
  5. Re-write, re-write and re-write. If you’re feeling inspired and the poetry ‘just comes’ to you, then you’re lucky. But most work that feels worthwhile to me takes a lot of writing. The process of writing makes certain choices clear: it has to be this word not that word; it is this thought that follows upon that one. And that also makes the poem live in my memory; because the choices make sense.
  6. Rehearse. I’ve been lucky as spoken-word poet because I got my training as a musician. This taught me not only about rhythm and lyricism, but also the discipline required to get work ready for performance. A good rule of thumb is three-in-a-row. First break the piece down into short chunks, and rehearse each chunk until you can do it flawlessly three times over. Then do the same for a whole piece. Leave enough time to rehearse every day for a week before a performance, and you’ll be set.

I like the old phrase for memorization, “learning by heart”. There is a process of letting the work settle into the heart. It can be hard work, but at the end of the day it should still feel like your poem; a direct connection to the heart. Learning your own poems shouldn’t feel like a chore or a brain-teaser. If it does, use this as a chance to check in and ask, “Do I want to say this differently?”

There’s more fascinating discussion to be explored on memorization, poetic techniques, and the way our brains process and retain information. I happen to subscribe to a not-very-popular view of education, that rote-learning of poetry or patterns can have benefits for the student. There’s even evidence to suggest that it might help us become more creative: check out a brief read on the art of memorization by orators in medieval culture. As Alan Jacobs summarises, “Today people will tell you that memorization is the enemy of creativity; these medieval thinkers understood that precisely the opposite is true: the more you have memorized the greater will be your powers of invention.”

Like it? Read more in the SlamCraft series or buy the book

 

*Feature image: Illustration from Edwin D. Babbitt’s The Principles of Light and Color (1878) — public domain. Source

Celebrating Storyfest: a 3-day festival of spoken-word

You have to celebrate the victories, right? Well, I spent a couple of months earlier this year sending out various applications to poetry events and publications. Of course this meant getting very cosy and familiar with the “thanks for your interest, but…” emails which then flooded back. I’ve always been told this is just part of the writer’s life, so, no biggie.

BUT…

Today I opened another response expecting it to be the same old story, and found these unexpected and exciting words… “We would be very happy to include your event in our program this year…”  Woohoo!

So I’m thrilled to announce that I will be presenting at Storyfest in Sydney this year.

On their website, Storyfest is described as:

“… a 3 day spoken word festival packed full of live literary mayhem

in the form of spoken-word, poetry, stories, lyrics and monologues.”

This is a massively exciting opportunity for me. Storyfest represents the ever-growing and strengthening community of spoken-word artists and audiences in Australia, and embodies the same goals I am passionate about. It provides a platform for people to come together in order to perform, share and learn about spoken word. It includes workshops, panel discussions, performances, and culminates in the unforgettable Australian Poetry Slam.

When I began performing in Sydney some 16 years ago, the spoken-word community was a small and largely ‘underground’ scene, very much sitting on the sidelines of other arts and cultural events. Now that I live, teach and perform in regional NSW, it’s an honour to be able to return to this same city,  and contribute to the thriving spoken-word industry that we dreamed of then.

Keep an eye out for details if you’re in Sydney, October 12th-14th, for some kickass spoken-word magic coming your way. Follow Storyfest on Facebook for details, and while you’re at it, why not follow me for more on slam poetry, performance, and workshops.

SarahTemporal-StoriesintheClub2018
Sarah Temporal at Stories in the Club, Mullumbimby, 2018. Photo credit Mala.

 

*Featured image NSW Poetry Slam Final at the State Library – Miles Merrill by Soon

 

 

SLAMCRAFT: Take in the view

In the Slamcraft series, I’m passing on some of what I’ve learned about Slam poetry (or any poetry which is performed live). Today I’m inviting you to consider the form that we’ve chosen to work in, and try to figure out where it is positioned in relation to other literary forms and movements. In straightforward terms: stick your head out of the box; have a look at what’s around you; take in the view.

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Little boxes‘ by Roland Skof-Peschetz licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Since the 1950s, innovative poetic practices have flourished. In his introduction to The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, Paul Hoover discusses the various avant-garde movements which have aimed to renew poetry through strategies which are initially shocking, but eventually replace mainstream approaches and become ‘normal’. Apprehending this pattern in the influence of the Beat poets, the New York School, Black Mountain poets and aleatory poetics, Hoover reasons that the recent “performance poetry and language poetry will influence mainstream practice in the coming decades”. [1]

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, another innovative practice has emerged in the form of spoken-word poetry. Spoken-word is a double agent, which simultaneously presents itself as an avant-garde movement and a nostalgic reclamation of ancient oral traditions. On the one hand, it presents a challenge to the academy: it exists outside the limitations of traditional print media, sidesteps editorial selection and evaluation processes, shoots straight for popularity and sometimes exceeds the reach of its print counterparts through new publishing avenues (Abe Nouk’s performance on The Australian Poetry Slam channel has over 33K views – what publisher wouldn’t be pleased with so many ‘reads’?). On the other hand, the materials of spoken-word poetry are as old as the hills, such that anyone and everyone can ostensibly engage with it. Some poets make explicit this project of reviving orality as a form of self-expression that they think modern society sorely needs, taking on the role of bardic storyteller, epic poet (as in Kate Tempest), or Carribean-influenced ‘toaster‘.

With its demotic culture appealing to mass audiences, spoken-word poetry has either been ignored or heavily criticised by academics. Consequently, we have a developing or partial academic vocabulary at best, with which to discuss it. One of my aims as an honours student in 2006, and as an emerging poet now, is to develop a more complete poetics of spoken-word. I am interested in the conditions, techniques and poetic devices of spoken-word poetry, which I often find to be intriguingly different from the page-oriented approaches which have dominated scholarship. We cannot come to an understanding of the significance of spoken-word poetry, in relation to contemporary movements, without the critical tools to apprehend it.

To return to Hoover, I do not believe that spoken-word, if it is a new and innovative form of poetry, poses any threat of eventually replacing ‘mainstream’ approaches. However, I do think it has the potential to enter and enhance the existing schools of poetics, which are already so varied in Australia. Spoken-word deserves a legitimate place alongside other contemporary movements, if not merely for its popularity, then for its fascinating combination of the ancient with the avant-garde.

Sign up to read more on the poetics of spoken-word and slam poetry techniques.

See more in the SlamCraft series on writing poetry for performance. 

 

[1] Paul Hoover, introduction to Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994, pxxv.

Title image: “microphone” by TOM81115 is licensed under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Text added.