Poetry Slam! by Kian West


Saturday night, August 23rd will see the Royal Exchange (34 Bolton St.) redound with spoken word poetry as it hosts the Newcastle heat of the Australian Poetry Slam. The competition is open to anyone and will see twenty contestants engage in two minute monologues to an adoring crowd. Within the audience will be five randomly selected judges (traditionally by freddo frogs being flung into the throng). They will give each performer a score out of then. The victor and the runner up of the night wins cash prizes of two hundred and one hundred dollars and the ovation/jealousy of their peers, not to mention a chance to compete in the state finals in Sydney.slam_grey Slam poetry is not the same as those tired old poems we were made to analyse in high school English. You will not be asked to outline the string of metaphors or use of alliteration at the end of a performance. Instead, slam poetry is spoken from memory and relies just as much on the sound and rhythm of words as the meaning of those words. Edgy and current, slam poems often tackle a range of issues such as race, gender, politics, death and sex. But there is a lighter side as well, previous slam finalist Alex Martin stormed his way to the state finals in 2012 with his poem ‘Privacy Man Livedeth.’ In this piece Martin sent the audience into resounding laughter with lines like,


‘The good thing about being Privacy Man,

Is that I can read in peace, naked.

I can write in war naked.

I can be Privacy Woman, in my privacy, With my parts, oh, so very private …’


What makes slam poetry sharper than poems written in books is the stakes of competition and the pressure of the strict two minute time limit. The poem must appeal to the audience.

Slam poetry began in a little town in the United States called Chicago in 1989. Sick of going to poetry readings where poets mumbled their verses while nobody listened, Marc Smith began a poetry night where people were expected to perform their pieces and the best performer won a prize. Soon poets started to actually memorise their pieces to improve their performances and poetry slamming was born.

The movement migrated from Chicago to Australia with Miles Merrill, now Creative Director of Word Travels. Word Travels is a not-for-profit literary, literacy and arts organisation that runs poetry workshops for the public as well as school groups.  By far their largest undertaking is the Australian Poetry Slam. This national competition started in Sydney in 2004 and now has heats taking place in regional areas right across the country.

Last year the slam culminated with the Word Travels Festival in Sydney which included three days of street performances, workshops for competition finalists and the national slam final.

Performing at the final, Newcastle’s own Jesse John Brand won the entire competition with his poem ‘Joshua.’ As slam champion Brand has since toured internationally performing in China and Indonesia. He has also published his first poetry collection Cranes Falling in Unison in May. Brand is the second Novocastrian to take out the title. In 2009 Sarah Taylor went from retired librarian to poetry superstar with her off kilter rant about sex aids and the taboo of later life love making.

You can see Brand in performance when he hosts the Australian Poetry Slam’s Newcastle heat. Sign ups to perform start at 6:30pm, so get there early if you want to enter. The night will kick off at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5.

For more information go to: http://australianpoetryslam.com

or contact slam coordinator David Graham: david.graham88@hotmail.com

The Word Hurler above a sea of fog by Kian West


1798555_10152046245119613_2059095778_nCaspar David Friedrich’s painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818), depicts a young man at the pinnacle of a mountain staring out at a landscape of crags surrounded by mist. His back is turned to the viewer and we are unsure whether his gaze is one of awe, horror or triumph over the huge expanse of nature.I feel just about the same peering into 2014 and what it could mean for Word Hurl. References Romanticism aside, it should be pretty freakin’ awesome! Of course, there’s the continuation of the Anti-Slam, a no rules open-mic spoken word and poetry night, but there’s also the next evolution of the Word Hurl Newsletter: The Word Hurl Times Magazine. Word Hurl Anti-Slam restarts on February 6th at The Terrace Bar at the sexy later time of 7pm. So you should get on down there after some kind of lovely dinner and spark your mind into a frenzy with a desert of spoken word poetry mischief and malarkey. This year’s themes will revolve around the mythological and our first is the Ouroboros. An Ouroboros is a snake that is devouring itself by chewing on its tail. Allusions to eternity and never-ending cycles spring to mind, right? So it did for a myriad of ancient cultures. The Ouroboros appears in the Ancient Egyptian book of the dead, Norse mythology and also in South American folk lore. In various ways the self-cannibalising serpent represents the beginning and the end of time, a start and finish that creates a sort of ‘forever-present.’ But what does this mean for Word Hurl? Well, that’s up to you. Like everything at Word Hurl Anti-Slam, the themes are non-compulsory. You could come and do a piece on the eternity of existence as symbolized by the Ouroboros or you could come, sit down and enjoy an open-mic spoken word night. Conversely, you could not come and never know what happened at that exact point in the forever-present at The Terrace Bar between a group of people who hardly know each other. It’s up to you, but as a doctor I recommend you come, oh yes, please do. Since the beginning of last year, Word Hurl Anti-Slam has been documented and promoted by the Word Hurl Anti-Slam Newsletter. From modest beginnings this monthly emailed .pdf has come to comprise around twenty-five pages of creative endeavors from a wide array of people living in the Hunter and beyond. We’ve had articles, artworks, short stories, ranting columns, event promotions and, of course, poetry. With a growing team of people volunteering their time, 2014 will see the Newsletter become the Word Hurl Times Magazine. An immodest project with the aim of building a literary and arts journal based in Newcastle that follows the ‘ideals’ of an anti-slam. These include an inclusive editorial policy, i.e. any contribution of any kind is welcome, an interest in supporting anything creative and an engagement with people actively promoting the arts. You can find the Word Hurl Times Magazine and past issues of the Newsletter on the Word Hurl Facebook Group page or you can email wordhurl.antislam@hotmail.com to subscribe to future editions. If you would like to contribute anything to the magazine then send it to that address too! Then stand precariously at the top of a mountain, stare out at the unfolding vista of promontories and yawp.

Word Hurl - November Newsletter by Kian West


Do you Like Poetry? Do you Like performance art?

Do you Like Booze?

Hopefully you answered Yes to at least one of these, in any case you should probably check out the Word-Hurl Newsletter we have attached at the bottom of this article and check out some of the highly creative pieces from some pretty amazing people.

Word Hurl Anti-Slam... doesn’t know

At Word Hurl Anti-Slam we don't have all the answers. Actually, we don't have any of the answers. I don't even think we have any questions either. Just a whole heap of no rules open mic spoken word and poetry.

This is the last Word Hurl Anti-Slam of the year! It's gonna be a famous romp of ignorance and stumped faces. So come, oh yes, please do.Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 4.40.28 pm

Thursday 5th of December 6pm signup 6:30 start

The Terrace Bar 529 Hunter St Newcastle





Jesse Brand - Australian Poetry Slam Champion by Kian West


(title) Australian Poetry Slam 2013 Champion, Jesse Brand. From October 11th-13th, the nation’s finest spoken word poets in the Word Travels Festival overran Sydney Harbour. Poets performed in hotel rooms, tunnels near Circular Quay, The Rocks, and The Opera House. The main event: the finals of the Australian Poetry Slam saw two Newcastle representatives Gillian Swain and Jesse Brand battle it out against a variety of performers. Jesse proceeded to the national final and then in a blaze of glory took out the entire competition scoring a chance of a lifetime - a spoken word tour of Asia.

I caught up with Jesse for a night of drunken shenanigans and an interview. Just kidding. We did this through email.

Hey Jesse, for those of us not at the Australian Poetry Slam festival, what happened that fateful weekend?

On Friday night I competed in State, I was picked out of the hat last and performed a poem about my brother. When the scores were tallied it turned out I’d tied with a poet named Zhohab Khan and so we flipped a coin where I started the tiebreaker with a poem called ‘Dear Mrs Miller’. I ended up winning by one tenth of a point, which meant I could go to nationals at the Sydney Opera House that Sunday with Thomas Hill, an awesome poet that placed first in state. At nationals I met a lot of amazing poets who all had a lot to say about the poetry scenes in their own hometowns. That morning I had a huge anxiety attack and almost couldn’t leave the house. But talking to my sister, Naomi, and a supportive member of Word Travels called Lorin, I managed to force myself to go. I did ‘Dear Mrs Miller’ first and progressed to the final round (with the rest of the top 5), and then I did the poem about my brother, ‘Joshua’, and I told myself no matter what happens I’ll be happy as long as I say this poem. ‘Joshua’ scored the only 10s I’d seen in the competition. After announcing a highly commended for Abe Nouk, and second place award for Martin Ingle, Miles Merrill, founder of Word Travels, announced that I was the 2013 Australian National Slam champion. I managed to assemble what parts of my mind weren’t completely blown away by this point for my encore performance, ‘Oblivion’, which I’d first placed in Newcastle with. When I first performed ‘Oblivion’ at regionals, I’d forgotten half the poem and jumped around lines, occasionally staring in terror at the audience and luckily everybody had thought that I was pausing for dramatic effect, so it felt good to tie off the entire competition with ‘Oblivion’.

That’s intense! What a lifetime experience. So that means you’re gonna be taking a tour of Asia, do you know exactly what that will entail?

Well, I’ll be working on hour-long sets for The Bookworm International Literary Festival in Beijing, Chengdu, and Suzhou, and again performing in the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival in Bali. So it will probably involve a lot of poorly recited Mandarin for “please I go to worm festival you make book taxi happen a thousand thanks” and a lot of very confused and annoyed Chinese people.

Had you done much performance poetry before you entered the slam in Newcastle?

I’d never performed poetry in my life. I’d read a poem to my friend before we went, but it wasn’t exactly a ‘performance’. I’d done a lot of musical performances and a tiny bit of drama, but that’s about it.

So what’s your connection with Novacastria? 

When I was born in Monavale Hospital on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, my parents were like, “nah, man, not ghetto enough. Where be the thugs at?” and took my sister and I to Lake Macquarie, where my brother was born a few years later. I’d lived in the Newcastle area up until I did my HSC and got into UNSW in Sydney, so I moved back. I still visit a lot because my parents still live there.

What do you think is the main difference between spoken word poetry and poetry that gets put into books?

The same thing that’s different between a novel and a film – you experience them differently. Performance poetry allows you to experiment in different ways. Instead of Ergodic typography, I do things like vocal effects. The rhythm, flow and musicality (sforzando, silenzio, crescendo, accelerando) of the piece are also more apparent than the rhythm and metre in most written poetry.

The Australian Poetry Slam is an annual competition. To find out more visit their website: http://australianpoetryslam.com/

If you’re interested in spoken word events in Newcastle check out Word Hurl Anti-Slam on Facebook or contact wordhurl.antislam@hotmail.com

Written by David Graham