Tag Archives: poetry slam

A few days with Salt on the Tongue pt 2

Sunday…

Well the flow of words was again, relentless.

The morning session Kumarangk: Hear the Children Crying was incredibly moving. The session featured readings by Ali Cobby-Eckerman & Lionel Fogarty alongside five new indigenous voices and local elders Aunty Eileen McHughes and Aunty Phyllis Williams. The poems merged to form a dramatic narrative that portrayed both the historical and contemporary ambiences of Hindmarsh Island and the local Yaraldi clan of the Ngarrindjeri. When Lionel Fogarty chimed in, echoing the line ‘but I’m black’, during a poem read by one of the new voices, you couldn’t help but feel a tingling in the base of your brain and an ache in the gut.

I then took myself down to set up for the publisher’s market. This was again an idea, full of promise, which didn’t quite deliver. There were several publisher’s there displaying some mighty fine product – these included Small Change Press, Ginninderra, Dangerously Poetic, Ilura Press, Wakefield Press, Red Room Company, Australian Poetry Centre & Giramondo as well as some individual authors – but the programming (authors reading from new collections), dominated the focus leaving little time for people to browse the ample supply of poetry. I stuck around for the first two hours before heading off to the mighty Friendly Street Poets session.

Friendly Street Poets are proudly the longest running reading in the southern hemisphere. In talking to people over the years I have heard stories of up to 100 people reading in the open mic session at their monthly gathering in Adelaide, so I went anticipating something special… and they delivered. The energy was high and the atmosphere crackling… almost 40 people took to the mic in a quick fire two hours, showcasing everything from japanese forms to ballads; sonnets to high energy spoken word. And the session was MC’ed superbly by a gentleman known as Avalanche… his saxophone jam with Benjamin IQ Saunders to close the show reminded me of the free-wheeling jazz poets of the 50’s and 60’s. It was spontaneous, loose and from the gut. I can’t wait to get back to Adelaide to feature at Friendly Street in November.

Next was a session featuring Glenn Colquhoun, Jennifer Mills, Julie Beveridge and Brook Emery. Jennifer Mills from Alice Springs opened the session, reading predominantly from her PressPress chapbook, Treading Earth. During the weekend, Jennifer has put together an amazing little project called the ‘Sound Atlas’ which takes the listener on an audio walking tour of Goolwa and features new poems by arianna pozzuoli, sandra thibodeaux, emilie zoey baker, barbara galloway, ezra bicks, sarah day, jennifer mills, julie beveridge, ali cobby eckermann, tamryn bennett, jill jones, andrea gawthorne, jillian pattinson, esther ottoway, and stephen edgar. This is a great way to experience the town and the poetry of many of the festival guests.

Glenn Colquhoun was next on the bill and I have to say he blew me away… the highlight, a haka, written in the english language. Glenn warned us that he was quite shy and retiring, so when he ripped through the haka, hands flailing and tongue wagging, it certainly fired the audience up! Glenn is definitely a poet well worth investigating… you can read a selection of his poetry here.

Julie Beveridge was next, reading predominantly from her collection Home is Where the Heartache is, a series of poems themed around the idea of ‘domestic menace’. These poems take us straight to the point of crisis and don’t necessarily deliver us a conclusion. Instead they leave us with the character/s, right in the thick of moment. Her poem, Playing the Market, about a woman in Ipswich who killed her husband and skinned him, is a great example of her word-power and incisively black humour. Julie’s book is available here.

And finally Brook Emery read from his recent collections, Misplaced Heart and Uncommon Light. His work is unsentimental and insightful. His measured, rhythmic reading a perfect close to what was an amazing session.

My head needed a little breathing space, but I was soon back in the Regional Art Gallery to hear Grant Caldwell. Grant is one of those poets who never disappoints. His almost deadpan performance style gives the necessary room for his razor-wit to work its charm. Reading predominantly from his forthcoming collection, it left me anticiparting its mid-year release through 5 Islands Press.

And then there was the Slam. I went expecting high energy and I got high energy. Emilie Zoe Baker MC’ed the event urging us to clap like Les Murray just poked you on Facebook, and Arianna Pozzuoli opened proceedings as the sacrificial poet. While the event was more of a showcase (there was none of the traditional scoring), you could sense each poet wanted to lift the bar when they hit the stage, to take the crown of ‘The Greatest Poet In All The Land’ – oh yes, this was chanted loudly throughout the night!

Highlights included James Griffin’s performance of his stunning (sub)urban ballad ‘Suburbs of the Heart’, Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold’s shirt ripping antics (he managed to pop a button into Arianna Pozzuoli’s wine glass), IQ’s freestyling response to the other poets, riffing off each poem that had gone before him and PiO’s number crunching experimentalism that eventually won him the title. The beauty of this Slam was never once did it become stylistically narrow and the words were always at the forefront… a cracking way to finish the the second day at Salt on the Tongue before heading off to the local RSL for $3.00 Coopers stubbies and the chance to let the torrent of words start to sink in…

The final day offered up many fine readings and before I got on the bus to head back to Adelaide I caught feature sets from Jeri Kroll, Jordie Albiston (her latest collection The Sonnet According To M is wonderfully musical as was her reading), Patricia Sykes, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Emily Zoe Baker, Jennifer Mills, Sandy Caldow, Bel Schenk, Julie Beveridge & Chloe Wilson. So as you can well imagine, my head was full to overflowing with the imagery, words, voices and rhythms of the weekend.

It was a great weekend and I am very pleased to have been a part of it all. There are things I would have like to have seen happen, first and foremost, a greater engagement with the local community as there was a distinct lack of locals in attendance. In fact, on the Saturday morning we got talking with a local walking her dog and she asked why there were so many people in town… I strongly believe that if APC is committed to taking the festival to a regional town every two years (and believe me, I am right behind this as an idea), there needs to be alot more work done in the lead up to ensure the local community is engaged and has a strong presence at the event, otherwise, one could argue that it makes greater sense to host the event in the capital cities for ease of access.

There are a few photos that I want to upload, so I will try and get myself organised to post them tomorrow…

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Speak Out: Poetry and the Spoken Word (part 2) an interview with Tim Sinclair

A couple of weeks ago, this Lost Shark asked the question:

So why is it that few poems published in literary journals would find an audience in the world of, performance-driven spoken word? In turn, why is it that the majority of pieces performed on open-mic/Slam stages would be ignored by established literary journals?

Is there a line that separates spoken word from poetry?

Hinemoana Baker’s response fascinated and enlightened, so let’s see what Tim Sinclair has got to say on the matter.

 

tim-sinclair1


Green Eggs and Ham, Motherf**ker

As kids, before teachers started trying to teach us poetry they entrhalled us with Dr Seuss. Performance poetry? Page poetry? We didn’t know, we didn’t care. It sank straight in, and connected with our brains’ natural poetry receptors. Jump a few years forward, and you’ve suddenly got teachers teaching us poetry. It sucked. Sucked the life out of us. Drained the magic off the page.

I generalise, but my introduction to Capital ‘P’ page poetry was as a dull, ossified, arcane branch of literary AllBran – high in the daily allowance of moral fibre and guaranteed to well and truly give you the shits. Like a lot of my contemporaries (and like the people ten years either side of me, I’ve come to realise), I retreated to rock and hip hop, where the end rhymes satisfied my starving poetry receptors, and the need to find something cooler than school was satisfied. The transition from Dr Seuss to Dr Dre was made, and from that gateway drug it was a short and slippery slide into performance poetry.

It’s the cool factor that’s driven the wedge through Poetry, and both sides have exploited it to further their cause. But I’m not looking at the dividing line here, I’m exploring the contiuum. I’ve always been interested in the big grey area in the middle of things. Grey is where the colour happens.

I ‘came of age’ in the Adelaide poetry scene in the ‘90s, and I’m glad that’s where it happened. The scene was diverse (still is, by all accounts), and one of the absolute strengths of a place the size of Adelaide is the fact that there’s just no room for cliques. Or more realistically, there’s just no room for those cliques to be exclusive. To be part of a scene in a small town is to be constantly rubbing shoulders with the other cliques, and rubbing up close is where cross-pollination occurs.

At the time, I was still working out where all the bits fit, but even I could see that there was something different about the girl with a scream and a saxophone, and the guy who seeemed to feel that making eye contact with the audience would cheapen the poetry he was mumbling. The quiet ones annoyed me, when I could hear that their words were good. I couldn’t work out why they wouldn’t say them like they were important. The loud ones annoyed me too, when I could hear their words but really wished I couldn’t…

Presentation may in fact be the single most important signifier of genre, as shallow and simplistic as that sounds. Here is my cover, say the poets. Judge me. We all do it. We all know it’s done. The smart people exploit it. I know it’s kinda po-mo and relativist of me, but I think that this is what it all comes down to. Performance poetry is in the eye/ear/face of the beholder, and page poetry sits quietly, waiting to discover you.

But the stuff in the middle is the elusive gold, and the stuff in the middle is what bothers people. It’s the reason for all this ‘Page Vs Stage’ carry on. I like to use the lyrics/poetry parallel. I love what you can do with song lyrics. I love that Kurt Cobain can scream, and that scream is not inarticulate – saying more than half a book of poetry. It ain’t poetry though. And set all the poetry you like to music, it’s still poetry set to music. But there are those people in the middle. Laurie Anderson, perhaps. Nick Cave, perhaps. Leonard Cohen, perhaps. It’s all going to depend on your point of view, of course, and that’s about as close as I’m going to get towards a definitive answer here. People do ‘cross over’, and as long as they’re smart about rebranding themselves, the audience can take it. Audience likes to know what it’s getting, that’s all. Audience is simple like that. I ought to know – most of the time, I’m in it.

And as for those people who have to have borders, who have to shove the poets into one of two boxes? I do not like them, Sam-I-Am…

WHO AM TIM?

Tim was…
born in 1972.

Tim has…
lived most of his life in the Adelaide Hills, Australia watching semi-rural give way to suburban in a sad and inevitable way. 

also lived in Japan, Scotland, Malaysia, and the USA. And the Blue Mountains of NSW, and now Sydney. 

gone to school, gone to uni, got himself some pieces of paper. Answered phones, built sets, sold things, read words, written words, cut down (feral) trees, pumped petrol, planted trees, painted roofs and taught ESL in order to pay the rent.

friends who have put his words on CD, made his words into arty films, put his words on stage, put his words online.

strangers who have published his words, broadcast his words, listened to his words in cafes and pubs. Given him money to write more of them.

Tim is…
not sure that he agrees with Fernando Pessoa when he writes “Every spoken word double-crosses us”. But knows where he’s coming from, some days.

 

Find out more:

www.timsinclair.org
http://poetryandpoeticscentre.com/index.php/Interview_with_Tim_Sinclair

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