Melbourne Spoken Word is “a website and arts organisation with the goal of supporting spoken word and poetic performers and events around Melbourne, Australia, especially the live spoken word and poetry scene.”
Benjamin Solah has poured immense energy into this project over the past three years, aiming to collect together all the many and varied goings-on in this city in performance poetry and spoken word, as well as lift the visibility of our local wordsmiths. Melbourne has had a vibrant scene of performance storytelling for decades, yet to some degree the scene remains on the same level of amplification, just under the reach of the radar. Many, many small open mic nights and regular poetry nights, slams and gatherings (check the listings at this link). Recently, and encouragingly, many more extensions of the traditional poetry nights to include storytellers from all walks of life, all cultures, all forms.
I would still like to see more poets reading and recording in their own languages, more publications willing to represent the many different cultures that increasingly make up this city, and this country. I would still like to see more experimentation within and between poets, musicians, producers, and more inclusion among all of the many forms of the spoken word and storytelling – from hip hop to ensemble (spoken word is more than monologue). I would still like to see more artists here take the plunge and release more experimental, collaborative work out into the wider world. It confuses me when I see the quality of albums coming out of Canada, and the quality of many performers on Australian stages, and the accessibility today to recording technology, and yet the essential lack of albums to review in these pages.*
*...and here’s where I say, that, despite my own words, there are new local album reviews coming this week, and a completely Australia-focused La Danza Poetica podcast coming this weekend, which is exciting!
The way to achieve more visibility and more documentation must be through more adventurous and creative collaboration, both in the areas of live performance collaborations and recorded, published media. The way must also be through the willingness of people like Benjamin to pour their heart and soul into something risky, like starting a new audio journal.
Audacious is nicely named because here in Australia the notion of spoken word recordings as salable products still seems to be somewhat pie-in-the-sky. And in Australia, to start a new regular journal (whether print or audio) is an audacious move. Audacious now joins Going Down Swingingas the only publications to be regularly compiling new local spoken word. If Audacious is, as it seems to be, about chronicling the current live scene in this city as much as the recording poets, then it is a fantastic compliment to the more production-focused international collections of GDS. A very valuable publication for especially younger poets.
Like any compilation, it’s a subjective thing, as to which tracks grab you. For me, it’s the poets that use the fourth dimension of atmosphere to tell their stories. By that I don’t mean actual beats or music or sound effects – a thin backing track of beats can actually suck the life from a story – I mean rather that a storyteller can use their own voice, breath, or the pauses between, to build an atmosphere of rhythm or melody. And then the most subtle of musical atmospheres can be most powerful. Essentially I think that it is when the storyteller is focused on telling the story, rather than giving a performance, that we cannot do anything but listen. Kylie Supski’s For “Them” “There“ and Jacky T’s Landmark stand out for this reason. Fury’s measured delivery is very satisfying storytelling, as is Amanda Anastasi’s.
This is a collection made up of both live and produced pieces, so variance in audio quality is to be expected, and is mostly controlled well. At one point, during Amanda Anastasi’s poem The Initiation, some over-zealous noise reduction and gating is at first distracting, then unexpectedly produces a nice effect of a passing ‘ghost-tram’ ... There’s magic in the imprecise, and it doesn’t have to be perfect – the point is that now this moment in place and time is out there, and deserves all our support.