Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Bottomless Bag of Metaphors: Benjamin Solah Reviews Tell it Like it Is

Melbourne writer and blogger Benjamin Solah encountered poetry slam superstars Ken Arkind, Jive Poetic and Shane Koyczan  at Overload Poetry Festival's Tell it Like it Is  last night and left bursting with inspiration. Solah shares his experience here at Slam Up Overloaded. If you enjoy his post, head over to his blog where it was first published. If you like what you see there, which you undoubtedly will, please donate to help crowd-fund Solah's writing. Here's Solah, on encountering slam royalty:

Perhaps it was the night, the vibe or the crowd that made me excited, but after tonight’s taste of North American slam superstars, I have a ripple of inspiration and a desire to write. That’s perhaps a pretty self-centred outcome from seeing others tear up the stage but Luka urged it himself and for a writer, this is a top endorsement.

The crowd was the first thing I noticed. Poetry gigs especially in Melbourne can be hard to fill up, especially with non-poets, and this year one of the drawbacks of the Overload Poetry festival has been the attendance. So, it was a real surprise to see the Footscray Community Arts Centre full, with people I didn’t know and an energetic crowd.

I really hope we can catch onto at least some of those people and perhaps see them at other events all year round. It’s encouraging for the future of Melbourne poetry and the kind of culture that Luka and the Centre of Poetics and Justice are breathing into the scene.

Tell It Like It Is, the slam at Footscray that Luka Lesson and Alia Gabres curate, pulled out the big guns on tonight, warming us with the finest of Melbourne’s spoken word artists including Luka and Alia themselves, Joel McKerrow and Mel Hughes. And after seeing the international guests, I could see the direction in style our local poets were coming from. There really is something different about ‘slam’ poetry and it’s not competition, it’s not because it’s like hip-hop either.

The three guests, Ken Arkind, Jive Poetic and Shane Koyczan are really nothing like I’ve seen before, especially in the level of talent. Impassioned, delicate, forceful, detailed and full of a bottomless bag of metaphors, they really put the performance element of performance poetry on display, that weave stories and paint pictures that do something in my chest cavity that they managed to describe in a million ways.

The best bet is to Google those names and check them out for yourselves, but seeing it live, feeling the electricity in the room is something else. They pulled a response from the crowd, a kind of interaction that begs you to try and pull that off yourself somewhere else. We were not just listening passively. We were responding.

I called them superstars at the start, but they’re not god-like people held up on a pedestal, bigger than us. They’re humble and just glad to be able to share their words with us.

And out of that, I hope I’m not the only poet that listened to that, felt something new and amazing send shivers up my spine and make me want to write, break some new rules, use their energy and write something that breaks new boundaries and at least tries to bring something of what we saw tonight into the tradition of Melbourne poetry.


  1. I so wanted to be at that slam! Awesome review Ben; hope to see how it has shaped your excellent poems the next time we compete in Muddy Rivers or some other venue :D

  2. Wish I'd been there as well. Saw Shane at MWF at the Malthouse a few years ago and his Visiting Hours cd is on repeat at mine constantly.

  3. Just an acknowledgment: the gig was a part of the Overload festival, but it was possible mainly thanks to a bunch of other people. Global Poetics Tour who organised Jive's and Ken's tour, and the Centre for Poetics and Justice, who curated the night, deserve the majority of the credit for putting on this amazing night. Overload was there to facilitate Shane's involvement and put it on the program. Goes to show how succesful things can be when we join forces.