On Saturday evening I attended my very first spoken word poetry performance night. It was put on by a group called Dangerously Poetic who work with people in the Northern Rivers area in NSW (including Bryon Bay).
When I arrived I was hesitant, I’d never been to a spoken word event and all of my experiences with spoken word to date (namely stuff my dad had written and read to me) had been pretty dire. As the room filled with people I became more concerned as 80% were in the over 55 category and I thought they would all write stuff like my dad! It also meant there was no eye candy which was a shame.
The first part of the night was an a Capella performance by a local choir group called Awesome Voices and they WERE awesome. They were strong and confident and in tune and gorgeous and I loved them! The choir director was also a fabulous character with giant frizzy auburn hair and a kind of wild enthusiasm that could be scary to small children. He also directed a group called Men What Sing, which seemed to be well known in the area.
This was followed by readings from three professional poets; David P Reiter, Laura Jan Shore and Geoff Page.
David read from a book called ‘My Planets: a fictive memoir’. He read poems that were in prose, free style, poems that rhymed and poems that didn’t, he also had a category he called creative non-fiction and each was inspired by a different planet in our solar system. David spent the first two years of his life in an orphanage in the US before being adopted. He then met up with his biological parents in his 50s, about the time he wrote My Planets. David is the founder of an independent publishing firm called IP based in Brisbane. They specialise in publishing poetry and other non-mainstream stuff. His work was gorgeous, his presentation was engaging, I felt so privileged to be able to hear the author read his own work.
The next reader was Laura, she had also grown up in the US and read from her book ‘Water Over Stone’. Laura’s work was much more everyday than David’s, she read a poem about her love for a stone, about her love of cooking and while these seem so normal and so mundane I have never heard someone describe them so beautifully before. Laura lives in the local area and is one of the facilitators of the Dangerously Poetic groups – she runs the sessions and offers each person feedback on their work.
The last speaker was Geoff Page who read from his book ‘Coda for Shirley’ which was a novel in verse, specifically iambic pentameter. Geoff’s book was about a recently deceased elderly woman writing to her children to explain why she has given most of her assets to her grandchildren. It was beautiful, each verse constructed with such an easy flow and the tenderness he uses to give a voice to Shirley was truly touching. I was really impressed. Again Geoff was using all his beautiful word power to talk about mundane everyday things but it was a joy to listen to.
These three poets made me feel inspired! I felt like I wanted to be able to use my words as beautifully and simply as these three did. I resolved to find a writers group when I get back to Melbourne so I can get feedback and encouragement from other writers, but also to give me a deadline to force me to produce more work.
After these three poets had finished there was an amateur spoken word competition. People from the local area got up to share their work and Geoff and David adjudicated. The performances and poems in this section of the night were, well, mixed. Some of the poems I felt were excellent and others were unengaging but overall I was impressed with each poet’s ability to get up in front of the crowd and deliver their art.
To close the night Awesome Voices sang and again I was blown away by their work.
All in all it was a fantastic evening. I had some concerns going in that it would be dry, dull or simply unengaging but instead I left feeling enthused, inspired and energised by the art that these ordinary people are producing. Now I have to find myself a writers group to join so I can share in this amazing process!