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Think you know poetry? Well, forget the purple prose of the Romantic poets, the vexed verse of the Nonsense poets and the bush ballads of Colonial times. Modern performance poets at this year's Australian Poetry Slam Brisbane heats and final will be shaking, stirring and layering the language to deliver to lively audiences the verbal equivalent of a cocktail shooter.
Former Chicago construction worker, Marc Smith, is generally credited as the founder of poetry slam. The poetry nights he created encouraged performances rather than formal readings. He described his vision this way, "We need people to talk poetry to each other. That's how we communicate our values, our hearts, the things that we've learned that make us who we are". This vision has since taken off around the globe.
Poetry Slam sees contestants whispering, chanting, rapping and sometimes ranting. These word weavers place their inner thoughts and beings in the spotlight, so it's definitely not for the faint of heart.
2011 Australian Poetry Slam winner Luka Lesson. Image from australianpoetryslam.com
If you think you've got what it takes the rules are pretty simple and straightforward. Any kind of poetry is allowed – comic, verse, hip-hop, you name it. You'll have just two minutes and your own wild and witty wordcraft to impress five judges, who are chosen at random from the audience. No props or musical instruments are allowed. It'll be just you wielding your words, your voice and a microphone.
Brisbane Heat Details
Brisbane # 1 When: Thursday 6 July 2012. Sign up from 6pm. Slam from 6.30pm Where: The Edge Auditorium, State Library of Queensland, South Bank.
Logan When: Saturday 11 August . Workshop facilitated by Nick Grivas from 10am to 12 noon. Sign up from 12.30pm. Slam from 1pm. Where: Logan Central Library, 26 Wilbur Street, Logan Central Workshop Bookings Phone (07) 3412 4100
Brisbane # 2 When: Friday 17 August 6.30pm Where: State Library of Queensland, South Bank
Moreton Bay When: Tuesday 28 August. Workshop facilitated by Nick Grivas from 4pm to 6pm. Sign up from 6.30pm. Slam from 7pm. Where: North Lakes Library, 5 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. Workshop Bookings: Phone (07) 3480 9900
State Finals When: 7 September 2012 Where: State Library of Queensland, South Bank
As far as judging is concerned economy is key. Points are deducted for exceeding the time limit. It seems appropriate given the (verbal) gymnastic nature of poetry slam that each judge will allocate a score out of ten, with the highest and lowest being discarded, and only the middle three scores counting. It's just like at the Olympics.