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!

 

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.