09 October 2008

Some Australian Poetry Slam History

Slam Poetry in Australia

I assembled this last year when I built the initial aussie poetry slam website: australianpoetryslam.org

May 2007 - This section is an attempt to document a history of Slam Poetry in Australia.

Whilst Poetry Slams have been happening, albeit in random and sporadic pockets across Australia for around a decade, over the last two years the notion of performance poetry has attracted the imagination of Australian audiences and media alike.

Poetry Slams have been hosted by the State Library of NSW, the Sydney Festival, the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Woodford Folk Festival, at Openmouth in Perth as well as on ABC radio. In the US Slams have had popular appeal for over 20 years. (Stateline 2007) (Albany 07)

Below are some recent Australian events…


Victorian poet, Marc Testart, won first national slam title. The Australian Poetry Slam grand final was held on 7th December… Slam heats were held in city centres and regional venues across Australia between June and November 2007. Two finalists from each slam heat traveled to compete in their state’s final, and the two top point scorers from each state final went to Sydney in December to battle it out for the national title at the State Library of NSW.

All contestants were given a mic, a live audience and just two minutes to impress the judges (selected at random at each heat) with their original spoken word, poetry, hip hop, monologues and stories…


The 2006 ‘State Of Origin’ Team Poetry Slam -Thursday 25th May, 2006 - To an appreciative full house at the Bangarra Theatre on Thursday, 25th May 2006, NSW team Housecat Havoc and QLD team The OuTsideRS gave it their all - and that all-important little bit more - in the Sydney Writers’ Festival / WWF State Of Origin Team Poetry Slam. And it was NSW who hoisted the Shield on their shoulders, parading it through their hometown streets, with a 10 point margin making the decision decisive!

We thrilled to the delights and challenges of 2-up, 3-up and 4-up poetry, laughed ’til our ears all but fell off as Tug Dumbly anti-serenaded the PM pre-match, and Dr Plumb serenaded us all at half-time. We gasped at the kinetic wonders of synarcade’s live visuals and video scoreboard, and made the rafters of the Bangarra Theatre ring with applause at a wonderful night of poetry in motion. The final score:NSW 110 points QLD 100 points

The day before, Bravo and Citizen took on Ghostboy and Spiritgirl in a live to air triple j poetry slam, and again the Housecats took the line honours, as triple j’s national audience SMS’ed their votes (and some strange poetry of their own) into the studios… Word Wrestling Federation


The State Library of NSW launched its inaugural competition – the Sydney Poetry Slam - in 2005 and was so successful it was expanded to include five venues from regional NSW in 2006 (NSW Poetry Slam 06). Slam heats were held in libraries and cultural spaces in Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Broken Hill, Newcastle, Wollongong, Sydney (Glebe and Newtown) and Parramatta.

Over 200 poetry enthusiasts and students attended workshops and participated in regional and metro poetry heats, and the NSW Slam Final in Sydney last year. At the Final the sell-out crowd was treated to over two hours of amazing entertainment, including a guest performance by Australia’s first poetry boy band, The Bracket Creeps. SLNSW teamed up with spoken-word artist Miles Merrill to co-organise, host and perform at both the Sydney and NSW Poetry Slams.


Radio National’s daily arts and music program, the Deep End selected nine finalists to perform in Australia’s first national poetry slam. On Wednesday November 24 the slam came to radio audiences across Australia, when one writer from each state and territory performed a two-minute poem live on the Deep End. You had one week to decide the winner by lodging an online vote for your favourite performance.

The winner was Mitchell Joe from the ACT.The finalists were:Murray Jennings (WA), Mitchell Joe (ACT), Jayne Fenton Keane (Qld), Benny Walter (Tas), Pru Gell (NT), James W Dennison (SA), Jay Hambly Jones (Vic), Jess Cook (NSW), Klare Lanson (Wildcard) … Find out more and listen to the poems here




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