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Slam poetry: A New Generation of Multicultural Poets Empowered Through the Spoken Word

Spoken word “slam poetry” — speaking, screaming and even singing poems, stories, lyrics and monologues — has exploded across Australia over the past decade.

Watch short video here.

Often tackling brave subject matter and spanning the political and personal, the modern art form with no defined style is inspired by hip-hop culture and was first developed by Marc Smith in Chicago in 1984 as a way to enliven performance poetry.

A microphone, live audience and two minutes to impress five judges chosen at random from the audience are the key ingredients.

After each performance the judges give scores from one to 10 and only the middle three numbers are counted.

Over a decade of Australian poetry slams

Now celebrating 12 years, the Australian Poetry Slam is one of the largest and most respected performing writers programs in the world.

Since launching in 2004, the Australian Poetry Slam National Finals have grown to inspire thousands of young poets to perform.

Poetry slams now occur regularly in every major city and have become a thriving outlet for expression across the country.

The 2016 Australia Poetry Slam city and regional heats began in June and will run until October before the final at the Sydney Opera House on October 16.

Upcoming Australian Poetry Slam finals:

  • WA State Final — Saturday August 27, Babushka Leederville
  • Qld State Final — Sunday August 28, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art
  • Vic State Final — Saturday September 2, Experimedia, State Library Victoria
  • ACT State Final — Friday September 9, Gorman Arts Centre
  • Newcastle Regional Final — Friday September 30, Newcastle Museum
  • SA State Final — Friday September 30, Goodwood Institute/Theatre

Showcasing some of Australia’s best slam poets

One young slam poet is Alice Eather, an Indigenous activist, primary school teacher and poet from Maningrida, Arnhem Land.

She is the first local trained Indigenous teacher in the remote community, teaching in a bilingual environment, reinforcing the importance of her students’ first language.

 Indigenous slam poet Alice Eather talks into a microphone with her hands clasped together in front of her.

Photo: Alice Eather is a young slam poet from Maningrida in Arnhem Land. (Supplied)

Her poems weave her insight into Aboriginal culture, political awareness and bilingual language into an expression of belonging.

Blending documentary, art and video poetry, the series paints a portrait of multicultural Australia from a generation that has rediscovered the power of the spoken word.

Slam poetry tackles the big issues

The poems selected in the series include challenging messages about racism, refugee and Indigenous rights, and environmental issues.

Together they reflect the rising multicultural voice of contemporary Australia.

Ms Eather grew up living between suburban Brisbane and Maningrida. Through this upbringing she has become an expert in speaking to both European heritage and Indigenous cultures.

“I love how poetry can bring people in together,” Ms Eather said.

“I can’t take my father’s side, but I can light a fire in the middle and bring everyone there.

“That fire in the middle is where I am and where I believe we can move forward, together, the black and the white … also passing that flame onto our future generation.”

She said she always tells her students:

             “Your words and your mouth are the most powerful things you have — so learn how to use them well”.

Slam poet Alice Eather in a primary school classroom, teaching a young indigenous boy how to hold a pen.

Photo: Ms Eather is a bilingual teacher and community leader in the remote NT community. (Supplied)

Poetry used to ‘bridge the racial divide’

Ms Eather’s poem in the series, YUYA KARRABURA (which translates to “Fire is Burning”) invites the audience to hear her struggle and listen to the pain she feels knowing Indigenous voices are often stifled or misunderstood.

Director of web series The Word, Darius Devas, said it was incredible seeing the diverse array of talented spoken word artists using their voices in powerful ways.

“I was particularly inspired by Alice and how she uses her poetry to not only bridge the racial divide, but as a positive tool for protesting,” Mr Devas said.

Other poets featured in the ABC Arts web series include: Able Nouk, a Sudanese refugee, once illiterate; Ee’da Brahmin, a Singaporean Muslim-born poet; Hugo Farrant, an English migrant informed by Australia’s colonial past; Luka Lesson, Greek-Australian poet and rapper; and Omar Musa, a firebrand poet of Malaysian-Australian heritage and Muslim upbringing.

Luke Lesson and Omar Musa are both past 2011 and 2008 Australian Poetry Slam champions.

Head of ABC Arts and The Word’s executive producer, Mandy Chang, is excited and proud to present the series. She said it revealed a surprising culture inspiring a diverse group of young Australians.

“The strength of the spoken word in this series is a fresh form of creative expression for six talented young poets,” Ms Chang said.

Slam poet Alice Eather sits in grassy bushland with an ABC cameraman and journalist.

 Photo: Ms Eather appears in ABC Arts six-part web series The Word: Rise of the Slam Poet. (Supplied)

Watch the six-part web series of The Word: Rise of the Slam Poet on the ABC iview Arts channel.

This article originally appears at:
Article taken from the following publication:
ABC News
Article submitted by:
ABC Arts

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