‘An admin password to my soul’: Cassie Ross

I could go on at length about how beautiful and embracing this community is but there’s too much to say.

Cassie Ross has been wowing the Enough Said crowd with her sharp words for over a year now. Fresh off the heels of winning our May slam, Cassie shares her thoughts about poetry, gender and self-expression.

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

Bill Moran was travelling through in 2016 and Alan Wearne, then teaching at UOW, sent an email to poetry students, yelling at us to go. Bill’s performance blew my 18-year-old mind and made performance poetry feel like magic. Like someone had an admin password to my soul and was taking my single-program work computer and getting it to run creepy video games and play pirated indie horror films – making me feel things I didn’t know I could feel.

What was your first experience sharing your poetry in front of a live audience? How did it go? How did you feel?

I am a shy and anxious person (especially around all of the cool poets I wanted to impress), so it took me almost two years to get over myself and perform a dumb boy-poem about tequila. It got some laughs, but it was honestly pretty hollow. I was ignoring gender problems through bad life choices (tequila) and thought the masculine humour in the self-destructive avoidance was the thing worth exploring.

Half a year after that I performed another one about not-talking-to-people-about-your-problems and it still left me feeling hollow. [DIG POET, DIG!]

It wasn’t until a cute gig at Emily Crocker’s place featuring Arielle Cottingham (who is amazing) that I got up the courage to share something actually vulnerable. Sharing that definitely felt good, it felt honest, and let me grow into that hollowness, or something. I don’t know. It felt good!

Which poets that you’ve heard at Enough Said (features or regular slammers) have had the biggest influence on your work? Why?

Not to make it seem cliquey, because it’s not, but… Emily Crocker for sure, but also Zoe Ridgway and Elliot Cameron.  I learnt a lot from Zoe’s use of images and scene and it’s a style that really resonates with me. Especially as a way of representing memories and what they mean to me. Which I have found to be a two-edged sword because if you decide events happened one way for the reasons of some narrative you’ve accepted, or with the poem’s particular aesthetics in mind, it’s very difficult to confront alternate ways of viewing the same situation. That memory picks up a lot of emotional power and that can be dangerous if it contains defensive stereotyping. It’s something I’m trying to do less of – or at least to do it with more self-awareness.  “Yes I am simplifying the situation, but this is the best I can do right now”.

Emily (in addition to being a great friend) has helped through some excellent workshops and generally just holding me to a really high standard. She uses images in a way where all the peripheral meanings stack up on each other to punch you from your blindspots and that’s something I really love.

Elliot has been really supportive and encouraging but also got really mad at me for my self-deprecation and told me to stop, so I did, and my poetry (and feelings around it) have improved a lot as a result.

I could go on at length about how beautiful and embracing this community is but there’s too much to say.

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Cassie en route to winning Enough Said at Society City last month.

Outside of spoken word, what other creative mediums do you use to express yourself?

I wanted to write novels as a little kid and still kind of do and I’m really into print poetry as well. Maybe this makes me a little insufferable, but I’m a big fan of groupchats and messaging services. They work like conversations – maybe like letter writing. It gives me a way to write down my thoughts on something, like a song or poem or experience, then not just seal that in a book or Word doc I barely ever look at. Putting these opinions to other people gets feedback like “No Cassie, we shouldn’t ban all comedy” in a way that isolated thinking just can’t do and it’s fun. Blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter and Instagram and Reddit (the worst website) all feel like you’re just talking to yourself or at random strangers – and what’s the point? A) You’re not connecting and B) You have no reason to process a disagreement. You’re signalling self, not trying to make yourself grow. I just need to remember that everyone is very busy all of the time and probably can’t reply to my self-indulgent onions. Reading is fast, writing a reply is very slow.

It’s something I love about slam poetry – the audience gives you real time feedback on how your lines and thoughts are working – “No Cassie, please stop using slime as an image”. They’ll be cricket noise and I’ll be [sad] but then I’ll think and talk about it and get better. Anywhere I can get honest compassionate feedback from people I can or do know – that’s where I want to be.

It’s always the stuff I’m really embarrassed about that teaches me something about myself and lets me move on in my writing.

What does spoken word do for you that these mediums don’t/do differently?

As a poet performing it, it’s the feedback, I think. And I like poetry that’s written to be heard, obviously.

As a listener, it’s that admin password to parts of your brain, the blindspot gut-punches, but also it’s the community of it, and the way it helps you grow as a person.

What is one thing you wish every poet understood?

Me!

But honestly, I’ll steal from Elliot: Self-deprecation doesn’t make you humble and is kinda toxic. How does a new poet feel seeing someone they look up to trashing their own work? Admit that you’re not happy with it or that you’re proud of it. It’s about being honest AND responsible with the emotional investment other people have in your work, because it will be appreciated if you keep working at it. And like, if you preemptively hate your work, why would you take the feedback on board?

Something I wish I knew earlier is that writing about avoiding your problems (tequila poems), rather than looking at the problem directly, will get you nowhere. It’s always the stuff I’m really embarrassed about that teaches me something about myself and lets me move on in my writing. But also Enough Said is a space where you can be that sort of vulnerable. Anyway, your mileage may vary, so probably not ‘every poet’ and definitely not every situation.

What are you reading (or watching/listening to) at the moment?

I’m studying honours at the moment so I’m mostly reading academic articles about aza-sugars and synthesis stuff.

In my own time … this is embarrassing but I’m really into Deleuze and Guattari, which is pretty much just waffley self-help with a different kind of stigma attached. But it’s been very helpful in providing an understanding of how various spaces code your sense of self, and then how to get the most agency out of those dynamics. I think this is because I am a queer poet and a country girl from Glen Innes, and going home is always a huge values shift. Alan Wearne once accused my poems as working as satire (where I was trying to be sincere) because the Australiana was too over the top. There were kangaroos and alcohol and utes and southern cross tattoos or whatever, but back in Glen, all of that stuff is taken seriously and matter-of-factly – it’s not an affectation in-that-context. Because who holds the power over that social mixture? A lot of the time it’s the big guys with the Southern Cross tats and hectically tricked out utes. Not an emotionally sensitive trans girl who caint-even-drive. You can go in with a moral superiority, and represent genuine people with satire, but at the end of the day … how is that going to help change these places to be less toxic? And is it your responsibility to write about it if you can’t live in that space honestly? Satire helped rip out the value I had put into those symbols, but that was only when I could be squishy in Wollongong and those values no longer worked. I still have no idea what to do about this, but I’m living that question. Mocking poor people probably ain’t it though. Anyway, Deluze and Guattari help here. I’m reading for this problem and I could go on for pages.

And I’m listening to Katie Dey’s new album Solipsisters because she makes me feel like I’m dissolving into the internet – like a sad neon seltzer.  

If your poetry was a character in a popular sitcom, who would it be? Why?

I think with all the boy-poems I wrote, they were trying to be Super Hans, coming across as Jeremy but really they were actually just Mark.

Do you have a ‘sneak preview’ line from your upcoming set you’d be willing to share?

*very hard done by voice*
“my boyfriend won’t come give me a hug”

Where should everyone be on the last Thursday of every month?

Enough! Said! Poetry! Slam!!!

Cassie is performing as support feature for KIRLI SAUNDERS at Enough Said Poetry Slam on Thursday, June 27th at Society City. Full event details here.

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Gosford to the Gong: Rachael Williams

It’s nice to feel things – to relate to someone’s life and emotions. To connect, to share, to laugh, to cry, to praise, to be vulnerable in a safe space.

Central Coast poet RACHAEL WILLIAMS wowed the Enough Said audience with her powerful words at our April slam. She returns this month as support feature – check out our interview with Rachael below (WARNING: Avengers spoilers ahead!).

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

Poet goddess Lorin Elizabeth workshopped with The Street Poets on the Central Coast early last year. What a time! She plugged the heck out of Enough Said and invited us all to the Gong anytime to share our poems.

What was your first experience sharing your poetry in front of a live audience? How did it go? How did you feel?

I was 16 and it was a classic feminist-rage chant/poem at SpeakUP on the Central Coast. I think it was okay. My heart was racing and my legs were proper shaking. I honestly blacked out and I don’t really remember it.

What’s the most cherished memory you’ve had while at a poetry slam?

Anytime Andrew Cox performs ‘Mother Tongue’. [Enough Said agrees! Check it out here folks.]

At the moment my poetry is all juicy and dripping and sweaty. Sensual imagery just feels like Summer to me.

Other than the judges and scoring, what is it about poetry slams that makes people come back?

People come back to slams because it’s real people telling real stories. Slam poetry is a validating platform that hears and represents all. People find comfort in the sacredness of the form. It’s nice to feel things – to relate to someone’s life and emotions. To connect, to share, to laugh, to cry, to praise, to be vulnerable in a safe space. It’s nice to sit in a room with strangers and be human.

Which poets have had the biggest influence on your own work?

Button Poetry on YouTube changed my life. Hands down: Olivia Gatwood, Edwin Bodney, Donte Collins, Sarah Kay, Kevin Kantor, Denice Frohman, Doc Luben, Olivia Wolfe, Andrew Cox. 100 more.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading the tragic Uni essays that I need to edit and submit like, yesterday.

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Rachael bringing her fire to the Enough Said mic for the first time in June 2018.

If your poetry could be described as a season, which season would it be? Why?

Summer. At the moment my poetry is all juicy and dripping and sweaty. Sensual imagery just feels like Summer to me.

If the Avengers decided to hold a poetry slam, which Avenger would win? Why?

Tom Holland (Peter Parker) would win because he would make everyone cry hella rivers over Tony Stark. Spoiler, whoops lol.

Do you have a ‘sneak preview’ line from your upcoming set you’d be willing to share?

“14 years old. Amongst the whisperings of the mean girls, Leviticus hums in the back of Religion class. Offers me biblical remedy like crushed grapes in the palm of his hand…”

Where should everyone be on the last Thursday of every month?

With a bottle of wine at Enough Said, obviously.

Catch Rachael performing as support feature for EMILY CROCKER at Enough Said Poetry Slam on Thursday, May 30th at Society City. Full event details here.

Samalinda slammin’ to ya

I have firsthand experience of the empowering nature of spoken word poetry. I have watched it change lives. 

It didn’t take long for spoken word poet and English teacher SAMALINDA SCHRODER to break from the shadow of being “Jules’ Mum”, winning Enough Said’s March slam. Samalinda returns this month, donning all her Beyoncé single-name energy.

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

Jules told me.

What was your first experience sharing your poetry in front of a live audience? How did it go?

Jules was Support Feature at Narellan Poetry Slam so I went along and gave it a shot. I came third. It was a heat for the [Australian Poetry Slam] Western Sydney Final which meant I got to go along and perform two poems there. I won! So then I got to go to the NSW Final, which was a total blast. 

What’s the origin story behind your stage name: Samalinda?

It’s my actual name! My mum made it up the day I was born. I’ve always felt that it meant I was destined for greatness, but the reality has mostly been a lifetime of explaining my name!

As a teacher, how do you view the role of spoken word poetry for youth?

I have firsthand experience of the empowering nature of spoken word poetry. I have watched it change lives. 

If you could have three spoken word artists included in the school curriculum, who would you choose and why?

I already teach Omar Musa, Neil Hilborn and, my personal favourite, Guante. He’s my favourite because every year I take an all-boys at risk year 10 class and every year I turn poetry haters into actual poets with Guante’s help.

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Samalinda pictured with her “much more poetically gifted son” (her words, not ours) Jules Centauri. Enough Said loves both Samalinda and Jules equally.

What are you reading at the moment?

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin on my bedside, Educated by Tara Westover in the car, and [March Enough Said feature] Tug Dumbly’s poetry when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil.

If your poetry was a flavour of chip, which flavour would it be and why?

Salt and vinegar – it bites, but you want it.

Do you have a ‘sneak preview’ line from your upcoming set you’d be willing to share?

“…I am mirror, mosaic, masterpiece…”

Where should everyone be on the last Thursday of every month?

ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM, of course.

 

Catch Samalinda performing as support feature for wāni at Society City on Thursday, April 25. Head to our Facebook page here for all the details!

Enough Said Poetry Slam is supported by Culture Bank Wollongong, Red Room Poetry and “Samalinda’s son” Jules Centauri. We acknowledge our events take place on the land of the Wodi Wodi people of the Dhawaral nation and pay our respects.

Nathan at High Tide

… it’s the people involved and it creates an atmosphere of just knowing that where you are is a safe place to express what you’re feeling … it’s like a big family for me.

NATHAN SHEPHARD won Enough Said back in March but was unable to return as support feature for our April slam. Luckily for us, he was back last month with another winning poem! Check out our interview with Nathan ahead of his set at our November slam.



How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

I found out about Enough Said through a friend that was going to uni, she was studying creative writing and she was like “Hey, come along to this workshop.” And that was when I was 17, so 3 years ago now. I sat in the workshop and I was like “Oh my god, this is actually a thing!” … at that point I was just writing poetry in my bedroom a lot and then that inspired me to actually start coming to slams. But I didn’t perform until I was 18, so I waited a year and I was that awkward kid in the corner just watching from afar. But it was amazing to be there.

How did that first experience of performing compare to your expectations?

When I actually performed it was a lot less daunting than I thought it would have been. I got up on stage and I felt really comfortable, and it’s because everyone is so open and it’s a vulnerable place. I had it in my mind that everyone’s probably nervous, everyone’s having a certain level of vulnerability, and when I got up there and started speaking it was like a light bulb turned on. It was an amazing feeling.

Do you remember what the poem you performed that night was about?

The poem that I performed was about the connection that I’ve had with my body and with the way that it’s changed over time with my transition. And it’s also about the idea being prideful about who I am, being transgender.

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Nathan was the highest-scoring poet at our March slam this year.

How do you feel you’ve grown as a writer since that first performance to now?

I feel like I’ve been able to dig a lot deeper with personal stuff, starting from just vague metaphors about my body and how I felt to actually finding more concise imagery about how I feel about myself and the world.

Where do you normally draw your inspiration from?

I find my inspiration by going to poetry slams, and just hearing the different ways that people share their stories. It might even be a different way of performing or using different tones and different speeds. And then when I actually go to perform it’s like I’ve had all these inspirations that I’ve experienced and then I feel like I can convey what I’m saying in a more powerful way.

Are there particular poets who inspire you?

The first slam poet I ever found was Buddy Wakefield … I can’t remember the first poem I ever read by him or watched on YouTube but I was in tears, and that was when I was 17 and I was like “I can do this.” And then Arielle Cottingham has been a huge inspiration for me, just the way that she tells her stories is so honest, it’s like a fire. And recently seeing Jules Centauri at the last Enough Said slam, the way that he spoke about his mental health and wove that into his everyday experiences … I really valued that and I appreciate the way that he can just be so honest about mental health. I think it’s something that’s frequent in poetry slams, but also there’s a level of rawness that he really brought that I hadn’t heard before.

Every poetry slam that I’ve been to, the voices that are there echo the needs of the community … I think that’s what an echo chamber would mean to me.

What do you think it is about poetry slams that facilitates that rawness?

I feel like it’s the people involved and it creates an atmosphere of just knowing that where you are is a safe place to express what you’re feeling … I feel like there’s a limited amount of censoring that you need to do at a slam because you know that we’re just all exploring each other’s ideas and each other’s stories, and it’s like a big family for me. Even just going to a slam and seeing people that I haven’t met before, you know that you’re there for the same reason, you’re there to share and to be vulnerable.

Do you feel like poetry slams can sometimes be a bit of an echo chamber?

Every poetry slam that I’ve been to, the voices that are there echo the needs of the community, the needs socially and emotionally and even politically, and I think people that feel like their stories need to be heard because it has value. And I think that’s what an echo chamber would mean to me. Just a room or a space that’s throwing out ideas that are important.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished reading The Celestine Prophecy [by James Redfield]. It’s a fictional story, but it’s about this manuscript and it’s in nine parts throughout the story, and it’s different necessary ways that humans have evolved over time and how we share energy and how we communicate. It’s super interesting, and it talks about different ways of living in the future and more sustainable living in congruence with nature. I’m really interested in mixing permaculture with community spaces, so for me that was exciting.

And the other thing I’m reading is Art As Medicine by Shaun McNiff, who’s been an art therapist for about 20 years. He talks about using performance as a healing mechanism, and he’ll often run retreats or community events and someone will create a painting or an artwork of any kind and then they’ll do a short five minute performance of what they’ve made. So it turns a 2D thing to a live interpretation of what someone’s experiencing. I like that, it kind of adds more depth to what someone’s trying to express or what someone’s been through. Maybe they’ll feel more heard or more seen.

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Nathan performing at the launch of Enough Said’s 2017 Anthology Zine.

What is an image or metaphor that you always come back to with your writing?

It’s frequent in my writing that I use the ocean as a metaphor, like the tides and the way the water moves. I often think of that in the way my emotions interact with my body. Even just the image of the tide changing, going in and out, low tide and high tide … that often comes up when I’m writing. I think for me water is also really special. When I’m swimming I feel like I’m flying. You feel weightless.

If you couldn’t use water as an image or metaphor in your poetry, what do you think you’d turn to?

I’d probably fall back to using nature as a metaphor. I have a poem called ‘Amber’, which is my birth name, and it’s a metaphor because amber is tree sap and I’ve changed like a tree would over time. So I kind of reference nature a lot.

Do you have a sneak peek for your set coming up this week?

I have one that I’m workshopping, it’s not completed in its line entirety, but—a rebellious fire has always burned in the belly of creativity. It’s kind of going back to my younger self and how I was always being creative but in my own way, and I think that’s shut down a lot sometimes in the school system, sometimes by families. So it’s getting back to that child-self and being really creatively rebellious.

What is your favourite way to spend the last Thursday night of the month?

Going to Enough Said, of course. It was so good going to the last month’s, because I hadn’t been in eight months, so it was like “Yes! Slamily!”


Nathan will perform as support feature at Enough Said’s collaboration event with Wollongong Writers Festival on November 22nd. Find all the exciting details here!

Dante’s Divine Poetry

DANTE FLOREZ, much like his namesake, has grown into quite the poet. Unlike his namesake however, he’s also become a regular attendee at Enough Said Poetry Slam, where he’ll perform as support feature this month. The Enough Said team sat down with Dante to chat about his emerging poetry legacy.


How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

Through [ES organiser] Elliot. I didn’t actually know much about poetry slams. I usually mention this open day that I went to at high school that [ES organiser] Bella was at. She mentioned a poetry slam but I didn’t get her name let alone the actual slam name. So when I came to that workshop in the Museum of Contemporary Art with Phil [Wilcox], Elliot and Lizzie [Kelly], they pointed out there were actually slams that were running quite frequently all around the place. So that’s how I came to Enough Said. I think it’s my most frequent one, and it might be cheeky to say but it’d be my favourite.

Out of the feature artists you’ve seen, which ones have you enjoyed so much that you travelled to other gigs to see them again?

Bill [Moran] was amazing, I went to see Bill several times. I like seeing Phil perform. I like chasing a lot of the features around, to be honest. I want to see more of Emily [Crocker]’s gigs, I want to see more of Elliot’s gigs, I liked seeing Jesse [Oliver] go around and do his hosting and perform around as well.

I didn’t expect to encounter such a really supportive community, and it feels very comfortable. It feels very homely … it’s just easy to connect with people, it’s fun to connect with people, and it’s all this mutual thing that builds up together.

Outside of featured poets, just in terms of contestants that have entered slams; what has been the most memorable poem you’ve heard this year?

I have to say Marie McMillan. Her poem sort of showed me that there was a lot more to poetry than just the words itself. There’s a significant amount that you can achieve through performance. Although it is called performance poetry, it didn’t click for me until she really put them hand-in-hand that way.

Comparing your expectations of poetry slams from your first introduction to now, what has been the most surprising thing you’ve found?

Something I wasn’t expecting to find was how accessible it is. I suppose the first poetry I really saw before I started seeing all of this live was on YouTube, seeing Shane Koyczan and Harry Baker, and they perform at a level that felt very unattainable. And then seeing people perform locally that are quite comparable to those sort of levels, and actually being able to meet with them as people and see that it’s actually possible. You sort of see it as a distant thing, it doesn’t feel like you know the way to get there, it doesn’t feel like it’s exactly a level you know how to reach because you don’t know what the foundations are. But being able to speak to artists on my level, way above my level as well, it puts it a bit more in perspective. It makes me feel like “Ok, I can actually do this. Maybe not as well, but maybe in time if I practice and I keep writing and I keep getting better, then maybe.”

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Dante wowing the Enough Said crowd for the first time back in March.

What are your three biggest artistic goals?

One of the bigger things I’m working on is this series of novels that I’m trying to write, which is science fiction mainly. I had that idea when I was 11 and I’ve been bulking it up and trying to put it down pen-to-paper … I feel personally that the idea that I have could be comparable to bigger names and very well selling things. The difficulty for me is: am I competent enough to take that idea and translate it so that people will see it in the same way that I see it? I don’t know. I’d like to get to that stage. I’ve definitely come to this idea that in order for me to do that I need to be a lot more experienced, and I don’t know if I can achieve that either today or in 10 years or in 20 years, but I would like to work towards that. I just think it’s a really imaginative and at times philosophical idea that people could share. It’s definitely something I would have enjoyed at the time when I was a kid … so I want to get that one out there into the world.

Secondly, as a poet, I feel that I have a lot of room to grow. There’s things all the time that I learn listening to other people, speaking to other people, watching other people perform … I’d say there’s only three poems that I feel are finished, and I think what that means to say “finished” is to have the idea behind it fully represented within it. I’d say that there’s a lot of poems I have that I might have felt that I got all my emotions out there on paper, but I don’t feel like it’s translated to any receiver of that poem in the same way that I’ve felt it. And I think I have a lot of room to accomplish that distance between trying to take that feeling that I’m feeling and give it to somebody else, even for a moment.

The third one is I’d like to meet a lot of people. That’s one of the things I enjoy the most about the events, it’s not just the performers but even the audience at times or the organisers—it’s such a good community. I wouldn’t say I came looking for it. When I went to that workshop I just sort of thought to myself “Ok , I want to get better. I’d like to see how I can improve.” But I didn’t expect to encounter such a really supportive community, and it feels very comfortable. It feels very homely. And I’d just sort of like to expand that. That’s probably one of the things I didn’t expect, for there to be so many amazing personalities that it’s just easy to connect with people, it’s fun to connect with people, and it’s all this mutual thing that builds up together.

… whether or not you’re great at articulating things, sometimes even the best poet in the world could still appreciate other people’s poetry because it’s just a different perspective.

In your experience, what do you think is the biggest factor in effectively translating the idea of a poem to its audience?

Two things: I’d say performance and description. In terms of description sometimes it’s easier to say general things, which are useful. But, an allegory I heard recently from the poet Guante was “Don’t talk about the war, talk about walking into your brother’s empty bedroom.” That sort of thing, the detail about an event, the more specific it can be, the closer people understand it. And I think that’s a difficult thing because when you speak about an idea, you can’t always give a person that idea. But if you describe a situation or make an experience in their own eyes, you allow them to develop their own idea about it. I think for me sometimes I definitely need to specify what I’m feeling instead of just saying what I’m feeling … because it’s hard to look at something at face-value sometimes. There’s amazing metaphors you hear all over the place that really join those ideas together by comparing it to something you wouldn’t exactly realise by instinct but it just makes so much more sense that way. So that’s definitely something that I feel can improve it.

And then also the performance aspect of it. Seeing Marie, seeing Jesse, seeing Scott-Patrick Mitchell—they’re definitely very dynamic performers. So I feel there’s a certain physicality about expressing the emotion as well, and in that nature there’s other more accomplished and more experienced poets as well who have a very precise use for their voice and sort of share those emotions in particular ways, that I feel like I don’t really have down yet. I feel like sometimes I need to work on my pacing, I need to work on my volume, my pitch, all of those sort of things that allow not just the words to speak for itself as it would in written word, but in spoken word to have that element of performance that only really you can give it.

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Dante was runner-up behind Zoe Ridgway [pictured right] at Enough Said’s Australian Poetry Slam heat last month.

Why do you think people who aren’t poets attend poetry slams and open mic events?

Even if you don’t like writing poetry, I definitely think there’s something there to appreciate. There’s common thoughts and feelings that we all have … at no matter what level we are. I’d say first is the ability to hear a different perspective on something that you feel. If you hear a poem about depression, it’s not a poem about depression, it’s that poet’s interpretation of depression. And hearing that compared to somebody else’s and then to somebody else’s and then comparing that to your own, you sort of uncover these little phrases, the articulations that describe your moment in particular, some that help you more broadly understand it. And that’s useful for everybody, whether or not you’re great at articulating things, sometimes even the best poet in the world could still appreciate other people’s poetry because it’s just a different perspective. … It’s not always about thoughts and feelings and dark stuff. There’s heaps of funny poems out there that are just entertaining to listen to and I think everybody sort of gets a kick out of how you can bend language to mean different things, so there’s so much there to explore. Poetry can sort of take language very seriously but it also can sort of twist it as well to uncover more meaning … so everyone can get an experience out of that.

If you were stuck on a deserted island and could have three poets perform to you for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Are they allowed to continue making work? They’re bored out of their minds enough that they want to spend the rest of their life on a deserted island making poetry for me, that’s a nice thought … He first came to mind so I’ll say it: Phil, because I feel like he can be a blend of funny and serious but also I feel like he could just make clever stuff out of nothing and just entertain, not only himself, but everyone else for a while.

I’d be happy to actually see Zoe [Ridgway], because I feel like Zoe’s also got an interesting perspective and it could raise a lot of things. And she’s growing quite quickly and I feel like that would continue to develop, despite the lack of prompts she’s got a talent that I think doesn’t seem to show any signs of stagnating for a long time.

And the third one … I’d probably go, for the same reason as Phil, because I’m entertained by his little poetic bends of language, I’d probably chose Harry Baker. I feel like the difficult thing is when do we run out of material? And then what poets can be resourceful to make something out of continual things? I know that I would run out of things to say eventually, so I would never choose myself … There’s topics that we love and then there’s people who make something out of nothing, and I think because there would be nothing there that’s happening I’d want to choose resourceful poets that bring prompts out of little things.

What is your favourite way to spend the last Thursday of every month?

I like to try to come to Enough Said, it’s something I’d be happy to go to more … I like the community there, it’s something I look forward to.


See Dante perform live at PROJECT CONTEMPORARY ARTSPACE on Thursday, October 25th at Enough Said’s Halloween Slam feat. Laurie May!

 

 

Poetry off the Page

After months of Facebook invites, Sydney-based poet PAGE SINCLAIR finally made it down to Wollongong for Enough Said’s June slam. She hasn’t missed one since, going on to win our August slam. We had a chat with Page ahead of her support feature slot at Enough Said’s Australian Poetry Slam Heat this month.

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

I first found out about it when I met [ES organiser] Elliot, when I decided I had to be his friend because he knew Arielle [Cottingham] and I really wanted to know Arielle. And he mentioned that he went and helped out at a poetry slam in Wollongong.

What was your experience like at your first slam?

First slam that I attended was at a really swanky bar in Covent Garden … and I felt very out of place and very inarticulate. The first slam I ever participated in must have been Bankstown Poetry Slam. I was pretty terrified. It took me a while to feel like I was meant to be there. It still takes me a while sometimes. I get up there and I’m on the wrong side of the microphone.

Why do you still choose to perform despite that feeling?

The people that I know are on the other side of that microphone, faces that I know. I think feeling that the room is with you—that makes a big difference. I’ve not really been to a slam where I’ve felt that the room has been against me. I think the assumption that a lot of people make, especially a lot of people who have anxiety, you assume that people are judging you and waiting for you to fall over. And the opposite is often true. So I think reminding yourself that people are waiting and wanting you to do well, and wanting you to be the best “you” that you can be up there. I think what keeps me doing it is the fact that it gives me a space to believe in my own vulnerability, to make it real so that it’s not just a myth that I tell myself. It’s something real and it’s something tangible that I can make out of my words that somebody else can then touch. And that solidifies the experience as something that has happened. That vulnerability “happened”, it’s not just something that I tell myself at night. It’s a thing.

I think that’s when I notice maybe slam does have particular tools and particular shapes and textures, but maybe also that is because slam is a moving, living, breathing form.

Where do you do most of your writing?

Public transport! I write a lot on trains—on the way down to Enough Said, for instance. I used to always type up my poems, and now I don’t, I write them by hand in notebooks because that feels not only like I’m being more engaged with the “physicalisation” of the words, but also because it makes me think slower. And if I type, I can type as fast as I can think almost, and that’s too many words, and too many things. And to make something that’s cohesive and crystallises and lands with people, sometimes I need to slow everything down.

What is your favourite part of the creative process? What do you most look forward to?

I think I most look forward to two things. I most look forward to the poem giving itself a title. That’s really exciting. That’s like getting a new pet and then spending enough time with it to know what you’re going to name it. But also finding out why I wrote that poem. Often I don’t necessarily know why I write a particular thing until I get to the very end and then it finishes or it comes to its own cyclical moment and then I realise why that had to happen or why I needed to say and make those words.

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That feeling when someone says they haven’t been to Enough Said before.

You were recently in America. How was your experience in the slam scene over there?

The slam scene in different parts of America is so different. So I was lucky enough to go to a few different scenes and get to know the cities through the poets that wrote about them, which I think gave me more intense insights than if I’d had to come to those conclusions on my own … and [it was] really surprising where the most intense poetry was happening was places like Texas. I think I was surprised by the intensity of the voices that were coming out of places where you might not assume that would happen.

It has a different expectation, that was the big thing that I realised. In Australia … you go to a slam, and everybody is there saying “Well done for doing the thing! Good work for getting up! We believe in you!” and that’s really wonderful and so reinforcing and validating. But I think the thing about the American scene was that you would get up on stage and the audience is like “Ok poet: bring it! Bring it to the stage. We want to see it.” … and it’s this weird short circuit of that anxiety, but it’s because they didn’t treat you gently. And that was really surprising for me, and I found that in the most vibrant scenes the reason why so many strong voices were coming out of those scenes was because they approached each other with a growth mindset. Even me who they didn’t really know.

There’s a debate around whether “slam poetry” is a genre of poetry or simply any poetry read at a poetry slam. From your experience both here in Australia and in America, how would you respond to that?

For me, I think that any poet that reads in a slam is by definition a “slam poet”. I think “slam” is a collection of “slam-isms” that have become recognisable, just like with any social group … I think “slam poets” build and borrow and share and join in this vocabulary. Because when you use a word or phrase or a particular rhythm that’s recognisable within the slam and spoken word community … I think it makes you feel part of the group. But I also don’t believe that’s the only thing that slam poetry is. I think slam poetry is whatever people bring to the slam, but it also becomes very community based. So I can understand how both these ideas can exist. I think any poet who performs in a slam is a “slam poet”, but I think the idea that there are certain scenes and certain communities—whether it be in a whole country or just in a particular performance space—that there are things that become shared in that vocabulary.  And so the vocabulary of slam does have a collection of things that are recognisable as “slam” … I don’t notice that slam has a particular vocabulary until I go reading poets who aren’t spoken word poets, and I read them on the page and I think “Oh, this feels different. This was created from a different space and made from a different kind of word.” And I think that’s when I notice maybe slam does have particular tools and particular shapes and textures, but maybe also that is because slam is a moving, living, breathing form.

It’s a dynamic combination of words and rhythm and music … It’s people deciding to listen to each other and people deciding to be the realest human they can be in the same room, at the same time.

How would you compare your experience at Enough Said to other poetry slams?

Enough Said I enjoy a lot because the community is supportive but the community is also very dynamic, the community is very present. And it means that you’re hearing things from people that are not only raw, but people are very committed to the art of unfolding themselves in front of people, people are very committed to the art of being present and listening … I’ve always thought Enough Said created a really professional space but also a really irreverent space, and to have both of them at the same time is really special. I always feel very held at Enough Said … I think it’s very unique.

Enough Said has such a different, wide-ranging blend of voices that I don’t think you really hear in a lot of slam communities. I think slams tend to be a bubble, and I think Enough Said is a bubble that invites other bubbles until you have a whole foamy bubble of poetry! But … as a space Enough Said is so ready for new people to come in but it’s so ready to bring people up who’ve been there and who’ve worked and who’ve taken layers off themselves to stand up straighter. I think it’s that mix of grass roots but also the bright lights. It’s very wholesome, but it invites me to be a fuller version of the performer that I can be.

What other art forms or mediums most closely give you the things you find at poetry slams?

Live music, definitely. Live music is the closest in the way the space constructs itself … I like poetry slams because they have that concert sort of performance and musicality to them. So I’d say live music … I don’t think there’s anything else that would really come close to the presence that you get … I feel sometimes like poets could just mosh and just crowd surf.  I would love to see a poet just throw themselves into the front row—I mean, crash helmets maybe should be supplied.

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Page bringing the Italian hand memes at her first Enough Said Poetry Slam in June.

If your poetry was a film, what film would it be?

I think there are two sides to this question. I think there’s the film that I wish my poetry were, and the film my poetry actually is. I think if I wanted my poetry to be a particular film it would probably be something sweeping and epic … such as Lord of the Rings or Willow. Something that has a plotline that everybody buys into and is willing to commit to the point of insanity, to the point of walking up to a volcano! But I think my poetry is not that, and that’s ok. I think the realisation that my poetry is something far more like an awkward romantic comedy.

What are the three most memorable spoken word nights that you’ve attended?

You mean apart from the time I won Enough Said? It was pretty memorable! I had the best hugs. That was a night of such high quality hugs, like silk-velvet hugs

I think another really memorable night was the first time I went to Write About Now in Houston, because I was sort of taken in. I was very star-struck by the space … by walking into that space and that microphone that I’d seen at YouTube and spent hours of my life watching. And I got there and I just choked a bit, and I was really taken in by the people there. So I think that was really memorable because it was amazing and sparks were flying … but it was also so grounding and so gentle. In the way that maybe your grandmother can hug you a bit too aggressively but you know that she’d never actually crush your organs—that kind of way.

And I think the first time I performed at Bankstown Poetry Slam, I’m pretty sure that would have been my first slam. That was unexpected because that was the first time that I saw people hear me. I think you physically in real time see your words land … and that was terrifying, but also it was this weird feeling that someone was building a high-rise underneath me and I was just moving and moving and not really understanding why. That was really, really interesting, so that was memorable too.

What is your favourite way to spend the last Thursday of every month?

I heard that there was this thing in Wollongong. I heard it’s where all of the cool people go. It’s called Enough Said, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it? It’s a dynamic combination of words and rhythm and music and usually irritatingly talented young people. It’s people deciding to listen to each other and people deciding to be the realest human they can be in the same room, at the same time.

You can catch Page performing at THE MUSIC LOUNGE alongside feature poet HAWRAA KASH at Enough Said on September 27th. Click here for full details!

Japan and Back Again: A Poet’s Tale by Zoe Ridgway

I knew it was something I really wanted to do …  it was just really great energy, everyone was really celebratory … and I was just a little first-year writer being like “Oh, I want to do that one day.”

ZOE RIDGWAY was missing at our June slam while she was busy reading haiku at a Tokyo open mic night. She returned for our 6th birthday slam in winning fashion! We sat down with Zoe ahead of her support feature set at our August slam.

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

It would have been way back. I went to a random one like two years ago, and I always liked writing so I thought I’d just go and check it out. I didn’t slam the first time … But I only started really going regularly the start of this year, and I think that was just because I’ve been living in Wollongong and hearing about it, and I do writing so it just kind of came to my ears.

What was your experience like going to your first slam?

Pretty nerve-racking, even though I wasn’t performing, because I knew it was something I really wanted to do. And it was also really inspiring …  it was just really great energy, everyone was really celebratory. And the poets were a really high standard, and I was just a little first-year writer being like “Oh, I want to do that one day, but I’m too shy.” Yeah, it was really fun.

What about the first time you signed up to perform?

That was even more nerve-racking, because I had my friends egging me on and I was like “Fine, I’ll do it.” I was incredibly nervous. I still get nervous to this day, but probably I’m just more used to it now than anything. There’s a real—I guess any slammer can relate—there is a real sense of relief once you’re done performing of “Yeah, I’ve got that thing off my chest so I can sit down and enjoy the night.”

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For your pleasure, we dug up this photo of Zoe from our April 2015 slam. You’re welcome.

You were recently in Japan and attended an open mic night there. How did that experience compare to what you’ve seen at Enough Said?

Very fascinating, because it’s really different in that you’ve got different languages operating, and they cater to that. The one I went to was called Drunk Poets See God in a little hipster suburb called Shimokitazawa. And they have a lot of English expats there; the demographic is very much men who moved from somewhere Western and they’re living there in their 40s and 50s and do poetry, and it’s really wholesome. But they also have a lot of people get up who are locals who are from Japan and they sometimes do bilingual readings, which is really, really cool. And it was really different in the sense that they use a lot of music as well, I think that was just like the bar’s shtick, but they had drums and a weird little ukulele in the background for someone to just pick up and play with a poet and you’re able to invite people on stage. There was a really cool moment where I was performing, and there was a guy before who said “I play piano. I want to play for someone if anyone asks.” So I’m like “Alright!” and got him up and we just had a little jam together. It was really fun.

What do you most look forward to when attending a poetry slam or open mic event?

I just look forward to hearing other people’s words, because I feel like that’s what inspires me the most, when I hear other people do what I do but from a different point of view. And that’s always super refreshing because it’s outside of your own brain and something that you couldn’t get otherwise. So I think poetry slams in general are a really great space to just hear other voices.

… the bread is the skeleton, the foundation, the skeletal structure of the poem. It’s a little sour, it can be a little bitter sometimes.

What is an underrated word that you think deserves to appear at poetry slams more often?

What’s the name of the thing that cleans ice rinks? Zamboni? You know that big machine that kind of makes the ice real even? It’s like a thing someone drives. I don’t know—it just sounds cool, and it could be really hilarious and fun.

Can you write a metaphor now as a sample for how you would use that?

I could use it as a verb, for instance “After the shots of vodka zambonied my brain and I forgot everything.”

What would you consider to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

For me specifically, I write sporadically, like I usually try and pen stuff down every day but usually only one of those five days will be something I actually work with afterwards. But I think the waiting period where you kind of have the seeds of self-doubt fester a little bit … you’re not really having writer’s block because you’re writing but you’re not really engaging what you’re writing with. And you’re like “Come on! Where is that good idea?” and it’s usually like in a really random lucid moment, but I think that in between space is really hard. I think that’s what I struggle with the most.

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Zoe absolutely nailing the victory hug with Emily Crocker.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’d reading a book called Sophie’s World [by Jostein Gaarder]. It’s a book about philosophy but kind of written as a narrative, and basically it’s a combination of a story of this girl opening letters from a philosopher and he’s giving her a philosophy course. So it starts all the way from Socrates all the way up to Freud, and it’s a really nice combo of simplified information about philosophy and a story arc, which is really interesting. And it gets super metafictional, and it’s fun!

If you had to cook a dish to represent your poetry, what three ingredients would you definitely use?

Cinnamon—these are not going to go well together, it’s going to be a really shit tasting dish! Maybe like … passionfruit, and just sourdough bread. I’m just saying food I like, but you know—extrapolate what you want from that.

What would each one of those represent?

The cinnamon is the spices, but not “spicy”. The passionfruit is … the passion. And the bread is the skeleton, the foundation, the skeletal structure of the poem. It’s a little sour, it can be a little bitter sometimes.

What’s your favourite way to spend the last Thursday of every month?

Oh, I have to say Enough Said. Just randomly, it came to mind. It’s actually my favourite night of the month, so I’ll even go as far as to say that!

You can catch Zoe performing as support feature for US poet BILL MORAN at ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM on AUGUST 30th. Click here for full details!

Amy the Weet-Bix poet

It helps me put other people’s side of things into perspective to write about it, to sort of think about where they could be coming from.

AMY LOUISE knew after witnessing her first ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM that she had to sign up next month. She did, and took out the top prize at our June slam! Amy returns this month to feature at our 6th birthday slam.

How did you first hear about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

It was probably like two months ago now. I work at Chamber, and I was put on for the poetry slam night, and after that night I was like “Yeah, I’ve got to do this next month.” I came into work the next day and said to my boss “Can I not work the next month please?” … He’s really happy that I ended up doing it.

How familiar were you with the spoken word or slam poetry scene before coming to Enough Said?

I did do a couple of creative writing classes in uni. I was doing music and I just picked up some creative writing classes as an elective. I did mostly poetry, but a mix of poetry and prose.

What sort of topics did you explore with your writing?

Mostly, I guess, looking to the lives of people around me who struggle in different ways. The thought processes and emotions that go into a lot of their decision-making, regardless of whether or not I agree with that decision-making. It helps me put other people’s side of things into perspective to write about it, to sort of think about where they could be coming from.

What was the experience like reading for the first time at a poetry slam?

I was a bit drunk! I wasn’t sloshed, I was a tiny bit tipsy, but I was anxious to the point where as soon as everything started I started seeing double … I couldn’t focus, even my vision. And I got up there and I was just so relieved that I’d rehearsed it over and over again, because I could barely read my phone. My best friend Jen was sitting in the audience and that saved me, just seeing her sitting right there on the floor, just having that support there.

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Amy swears she was only a tiny bit tipsy …

Why do you think people enjoy most about coming to a poetry slam?

I think part of it is the relatability of it. Because no matter what the detail, there’s always some part that you can take and make some sort of reflection of yourself. Because people love talking about themselves, and even if they’re just watching they see that other people are basically speaking for at least similar experiences to them. It’s a sense of just being around people who understand.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I’m reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, because I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird … I don’t know how many times since high school. It’s mine and my mum’s—it’s “our book”—and she’s been telling me for years, ever since Go Set a Watchman was released to read it and I had just never gotten around to it. I’ve been through a rut recently where I haven’t been reading at all, but I’m finally starting to pick that up again.

… other forms of poetry themselves can be quite strict, and very formulaic … you don’t have to have that beat. You make that beat.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My aunt asked a similar question to this the other day, and I literally had to flat out tell her “You can’t ask me these things, I’m so indecisive.” Either a really good mushroom risotto, or just Weet-Bix and milk, little bit of sugar. I’ve been eating Weet-Bix and milk since I was on solid food.

Do you think you’d be ok with that being lunch and dinner as well?

I’ve done it before! When you get into those really low points when you can’t be bothered making anything but cereal—it’s Weet-Bix for me.

A poetry slam is being held in a TV series and all the characters are competing. Which TV series would you like to see this in?

GLOW—“Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”—it’s a TV show based on the actual TV show from the 80s, which was the first all-women’s wrestling show ever. And I guess I’m just imaging all thirty of them having a poetry slam about their alter egos, getting up in character.

And who wins that slam?

Definitely a woman who’s alter ego is “Machu Picchu”. I’m not sure why, it just seems right.

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That feeling when you’ve successfully slammed your first poem!

What does spoken word poetry express to you that forms of writing don’t?

I guess the freedom of it. Like other forms of poetry themselves can be quite strict, and very formulaic. The same goes for music in a way. I sent my poem to one or two of my friends before I got up, and I had to say to them “You’ve got to remember this is going to be spoken, so the way that it reads might not quite work.” And I think that’s because you can sort of pace yourself however you like with it … you don’t have to have that beat. You make that beat. You don’t have to have that set meter.

And have you found that has helped you with song writing as well?

Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely helped with my lyric writing.

Which season of the year do you consider as having the most poetic potential?

Autumn. Definitely, Autumn. I feel like that’s the most basic response, but I guess even just in Australia—obviously not as much as the sort of dramatic Autumn that you see in movies and stuff—it’s sort of that you’re just done with Summer, you’re just done having your little break, you’re just done with your holidays and that holiday season all the way from Christmas to Australia Day. And that’s the point where everybody sort of takes their New Year’s resolutions and just goes “Yep, I’m going to start making my changes now.” And it’s the point where, by the end of Autumn you can tell whether or not those changes you’re trying to make are going to be permanent. And I guess it’s also a point where, because people are trying to make these changes, by the end of Autumn you can kind of tell whether or not people are going to move on with the next chapter of their lives or stay.

Can we get a sneak preview of the set you’re doing this month?

I’ve got a sort of rough idea. So, with the whole idea that this month is Enough Said’s birthday, I was thinking … my birthday’s coming up next month and I think I’ve been having a lot of existential crises over turning 21 this year, and I think a good way to wrap my head around those would be to put them into a poem. And then I think maybe one for my mum as well, she’s down in the country—the closest place you’d hear of is Wagga—raising three kids on her own. Like I said, I write to sort of see things from other people’s perspectives and I think I’d like to do one for her and the situation she’s in at the moment.

You can catch AMY LOUISE performing at ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM‘s 6th birthday slam at Wollongong’s Town Hall Chamber on July 26th alongside reigning Australian Poetry Slam Champion—Adult, JESSE OLIVERClick here for details!

Slam poet to the Max!

I guess all creative outlets seem to tie in together if you look for it.

MAX RENE featured at ENOUGH SAID POETY SLAM for the first time in August last year, opening for US poet Sierra DeMulder. Now, after winning Enough Said’s May slam, they return with new material.

How did you first find out about Enough Said Poetry Slam?

I think it was a friend of mine at TAFE who mentioned it to me … that was last year. I’ve pretty much been coming ever since.

What was your experience like at your first slam?

I’m fairly certain I went alone the first time, and I don’t remember talking to anyone that much. But it wasn’t uncomfortable. It was a really lovely community and I really loved hearing the poetry, and I didn’t feel isolated even though I was just there by myself.

Were you aware of the spoken word scene before you came to Enough Said?

Yes, I was. I’d seen some on YouTube and followed a few channels that were dedicated to that, like Button Poetry. And some YouTubers I watched did it – someone called ClickForTaz, that’s her handle; someone called Savannah Brown. I think those were the main two … but a bunch of other people as well.

Since you’ve been coming to Enough Said, which of the feature poets has resonated the most with you?

I really love Lizzie [Kelly]’s work … The first time I got to feature there was Sierra DeMulder, and I got to talk to her afterwards which was really lovely. I hadn’t actually heard her work before then, but that was really good. Talking to her was lovely, she’s so nice.

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Throwback to Max’s support feature set at Enough Said in August 2017.

How has your process changed since last time you performed as support feature?

I think I’m a bit more prepared this month. I’ve got more of a set idea on which poems I want to read, and because it’s been longer I have more poems that I feel are really polished and that I’m really proud of. So I think it’s mostly just a matter of trying to memorise as much as I can, because I prefer not looking at my book.

Can you tell us a bit about the poem you did at last month’s slam?

So I actually started that after coming to the [Enough Said May] workshop here and with the practice of getting three random words and writing a poem … so I actually started that one to get into it, but I ended up really liking what I was coming up with. So … I filled a page, and then I went on to the next page and chose three other words, and then I went on to the other page and chose three other words. And then I edited it and was really happy with what I’d come up with.

I suppose that’s kind of what poetry can be for me sometimes … I always feel better after having done it and I’ve created something from it.

Can we get a sneak peak of one of the poems you’ll be performing during your set this month?

“I’ll fold up nicely and not take up too much space in his single bed or camera bag.”

Which poets really inspire you or are a big influence on your style and approach?

Some of the poets I mentioned that I listened to on YouTube. Savannah Brown … I think the first time I ever heard a slam poem was written by her. She’s only released a couple on her YouTube account, but I really was inspired by that style of writing. It’s a bit cheesy but I like trying to find inspiration in almost everything that I hear from other artists. I’d really like to be able to branch out in the style that I write in – because I know that I write in a particular style – and I’d like to work on trying some different ones that other people write in.

Which other art forms inspire you?

Definitely music … one of my favourite singers – her name’s Hayley Kiyoko – she directs her own music videos, and I absolutely am always so inspired by her music and her music videos … I feel like it’s a different kind of poetry. I guess all creative outlets seem to tie in together if you look for it.

If your poetry was a household appliance what would it be?

I feel like it would be an alarm clock. For me at least it’s kind of always there, you need it most days. And some days, in the morning when you have to get up early and your alarm’s buzzing at you, you hate it and you just want it to stop. But you get up, and you feel better for having gotten up out of bed. And I suppose that’s kind of what poetry can be for me sometimes … like I don’t necessarily want to sit there and force myself into a creative mindset were I’m purposely articulating all my feelings, but I always feel better after having done it and I’ve created something from it.

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The poetry-as-an-alarm-clock analogy is one of the greatest things we’ve ever heard.

What are you reading at the moment?

So I’m actually just about to finish The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, that’s the book I’m reading at the moment. The next one is a series called Skulduggery Pleasant, there’s a new book out that I’ve already gone and bought and it’s waiting on my bedside table at the top of the little pile that’s accumulated there. I read a lot. I’ve got this huge bookcase that I love, it’s got all my favourite books on it, and then I have this little corner of my room that’s just three deep of books that I’ve bought in the past that I haven’t gotten around to reading. But I’m still buying new books and I have new books on my list that have come out that I want to read.

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could have three books (or series) with you to read for the rest of your life, what would theybe?

Nevernight, that’s a trilogy and the third book hasn’t come out yet but when it does you can ship it to my island! [It’s by] Jay Kristoff, he’s an Australian author. I’ll probably say Skulduggery Pleasant because it’s always a good laugh. And it’s probably a bit cliché, but Divergent, because I really love fantasy novels and when I first read that it meant a lot to me at the time.

What’s your favourite way to spend the last Thursday of every month?

Where else but Enough Said?

You can catch MAX RENE performing at ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM at Wollongong’s Town Hall Chamber on June 28th. Click here for event details.

Matthew, from Milton Keynes to the Gong

… in Australia everyone seems a bit more open and friendly, laid back … I’ve met some really good people in Wollongong through gigs.

MATTHEW LACK attended his first ever poetry slam at Enough Said last month, performing three poems in under three minutes to take out the top prize. He returns this month as a support feature artist, and gave us some insight into where he’s from.

Who or what introduced you to Enough Said Poetry Slam?

It was a girl called Lily, she goes to the University of Wollongong … She sent me the Facebook invite and said “If you like poetry you should go to this.” So, I did! She couldn’t actually be there last time but she said she’s coming next time. Just randomly on a night out I think I was talking about it … sometimes when I’m out I do some little bits.

How long have you been doing spoken word or slam poetry?

Only in the last two or three years. I’ve always been involved in—well I love music, and I guess it’s an extension of that for me. The way I do it’s kind of rhythmically, even though there is no beat, I kind of do it to a beat. So I guess I’ve only been doing that for a few years but I’ve always loved music and lyrics and stuff like that. So I guess the Poet Tree Alliance, I started going to their gigs … and the more I heard it and the more I saw it in a live setting … it connected more and I thought it was something I can do.

Tell us about the Poet Tree Alliance and what they do.

It’s just a good group of friends, really nice people. Most of them either play in bands or do spoken word, but some of them are just artists. They sometimes have live painting and stuff during gigs, like someone will be painting a canvas on stage. Just a group of friends in Milton Keynes in England, also they do some stuff in London. I performed a little thing on stage with them once in London, but aside from that I’m more of an observer and a friend of them … just good, good people … they have a voice and they want to say what they want to say.

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Matthew going in deep during one of his three poems. (Who knows which one?)

How long have you been in Australia?

About four months now … I got here on the 1st of January, so yeah, in theory I’m here until the end of December. Twelve month working visa, I’m working up in Sydney at the moment, sort of casual stuff. I’m not really sure what my plan is, so just seeing how it goes.

How are you liking it so far?

Yeah, it’s good! The weather is amazing, even though I’ve been sunburn about ten times already. But aside from that I really enjoy it.  Everyone seems a bit more laid back, a bit more friendly, a bit more confident about who they are. I think in England sometimes … it’s hard to get to know people, they’re not very out there with their feelings and stuff. Just the psyche I guess, in Australia everyone seems a bit more open and friendly, laid back … I’ve met some really good people in Wollongong through gigs.

Have you seen that difference between Australia and the UK in the arts scene as well?

Maybe where I’m from I’m a bit jaded because there’s not too much of a culture and arts scene going on. There’s a couple of venues which are good, but it just doesn’t feel as much like a community as it does over here. Every time I go to a gig it’s a mate’s band or a mate of a mate’s band and they all know each other and they all sort of chop and change … I think it feels like more of a community.

… there could be 100 people sat in the same room listening to the same poem and taking different meanings from it … just try and understand what other people are going through. Try and relate.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I guess probably just at home … if I’m just on a train or something maybe, if I’ve got time to spare. Just whenever I get inspired by it. Sometimes I’ll write a little thing down when it comes to me … and then I’ll take that back later and try to work it into something. Just maybe like a sentence or an idea or something. I guess I kind of like to do it sort of solitary, late at night usually as well. My brain seems to come alive later at night. I seem to spend the whole day digesting everything and building up ideas that by the end of the day I have a lot to think about and try to get off my chest.

What are you listening to at the moment?

There’s a guy from England called Ocean Wisdom. He’s like rap, hip hop sort of, but he’s insanely quick and good. He’s just released an album this year. I listen to a band called Boards of Canada as well, they’re like electronic music. They’re one of my favourite artists, I listen to them all the time. They’re sort of like ambient stuff but with a hip hop beat, but there’s not really any lyrics … I tend to like stuff with really heavy lyrical content or just the ambient stuff.

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The unmistakable side-profile of a winner.

Tell us about the poems you performed at Enough Said in April. You did three poems back-to-back?

The first one is more about telling yourself … if you make the same mistakes over and over again, if you stop then you might feel better, and thinking about the type of people you hang out with and … self-care and respecting yourself as well. I suppose trying to look after yourself. But you probably will make the same mistakes again—well I find I do! So it’s like a constant reminder.

Then the other one is about reality and how we perceive it is very subjective and how it’s different for everyone. Like, there could be 100 people sat in the same room listening to the same poem and taking different meanings from it. If you’re in a happy mood you might get something from it that if you were depressed you wouldn’t get that time, and so it’s about realising however you feel you can’t just put that on others and you’ve got to let them … just try and understand what other people are going through. Try and relate.

And the last one is about how it’s kind of really hard to be creative sometimes, having to really push myself to actually do things and how that’s kind of stupid because I really like doing it, and it feels like I shouldn’t have to force myself to do it because I like it.

Tell us a bit about your set coming up this month.

I have a couple ones that I’ve written that I like, new ones that I’ll do … the nearer it gets the more my brain might tell me that you should write something. I work quite well under pressure in a way, so I think knowing that it’s coming up will inspire me to create stuff, which I’m looking forward to … having something like a goal helps. I’ll probably do one that I did before just exactly the same because it’s my favourite one—the subjective nature of reality, I really like that one so I’m just probably going to do that one again for people that didn’t come last time. And the other one I’ll do an extended version, but I’ve got a few more and I do want to write more. It was inspiring listening to other people and hearing their styles, it was so varied, so I might try and vary my style a bit. But there’ll definitely be new stuff.

Have you got plans to go to some other poetry slams and open mic events?

Yeah, it would be cool! I guess the more I do the more I feel I can do, so I guess this is just sort of the beginning in a way. Because I had a good experience and the people were good it’s kind of inspiring for the future. Obviously the initial fear of the unknown, whether you’ll get along with it or whether people will vibe what you’re saying … so in the future I guess I’d be more open to it. Recently I’ve just told myself to just try and do more things creatively and try and go to more gigs and get involved with more things. Yeah, I’m definitely up for that.

You can catch MATTHEW LACK opening for US feature poet MOODY BLACK at ENOUGH SAID at Wollongong’s Town Hall Chamber on May 31st. Click here for event details.