2,500 years ago Slam Poetry was born: Previewing Poetic License by Outer Urban Projects.


You don’t need to run a study to realise that the vast majority of poetry readings and book launches occur within a few kms of our major urban centres. There are, of course, exceptions – I remember years ago being invited to a poetry magazine launch and reading at Rooty Hill RSL club and I’m aware of a poetry and writing group that meets at Auburn library – but overall poetry doesn’t have a high-profile in the outer suburbs.

It was refreshing, therefore, to come across Melbourne based Outer Urban Projects (http://outerurbanprojects.org/) and their current project Poetic License. Outer Urban Projects have a simple mission statement:

To provide long-term high calibre artistic activity, employment, social engagement, mentoring and educative opportunities for young people in the ever-expanding neglected outer urban northern belt of Melbourne.

and to drill down a little more:

Outer Urban Projects is a bold not for profit performing arts organisation that collaborates with young people and their communities in Melbourne’s culturally diverse, artistically starved, ‘hardcore’ outer northern suburbs. We specialises in producing and presenting high calibre arts projects that seamlessly combine street, cultural, contemporary and classical forms. We are driven by the vibrant cultural mix and stories of the outer northern suburbs and the racial, social and class inequities that challenge our young people.

An illustration of this commitment can be found in their current project, Poetic License, which lands for one night only next Wednesday 22 April at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre in Preston. Described as a project which brings together “young rappers, poets, singers, beatboxers and musicians to riff on a classic Greek masterpiece”  it is inspired by Aristophanes’ Ancient Greek comic masterpiece ‘The Frogs’. As their publicity describes it  “A god descends to the underworld to resurrect a dead poet back to life to save the city from war and ruin. In 2015 the need has again arisen”

Directed and Produced by  Irine Vela Poetic License includes an impressive ensemble of writers and performers to combine the new and the old in a salon style underworld to wrangle the timeless question – can the spoken word really move and inspire. Can it change anything? Poetic License is underscored by harpist Genevieve Fry, a 13 year old poet Dante Sofra must hold his own with wordsmiths and performers spanning six decades, including  veteran performance poet Komninos Zervos, singer, writer, weaver and orator Grace Vanilau, Speed rapper and Beat Box champion Kevin Nugara (aka Rapid Spitfire), alternative Jazz vocalist and neo-beat poet Ileini Kabalan, Alabama raised inspirational speaker Ebony MonCrief, a poet performer of freefalling and confronting emotion, Koraly Dimitriadis  and the understated but infectious, indefatigable hip hop artist Mahmoud Samoun (aka Babz). Support Acts include Gospel and Hip Hop trio Divine Favour blending Maori and Pacific Islander  influences with sisters Fokaoho and Tangata Paea Tupou with Cousin Ruci Ucu Kaisila and The Outer Urban Projects string quartet led by Natasha Hanna and sought after MC, Beatbox rap artist Yung Philly.

It is a shame I will be stuck in Sydney on Wednesday night. If you are attending Poetic License Rochford Street Review would be interested in your view of the production.

– Mark Roberts


Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine. He also has a number of manuscripts looking for a publisher.

Date: 22 April, 2015
Time: 7.00pm
Location: Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre, Cnr Bell St & St Georges Rd, Preston
Cost: Full $23, Concession $16, Family of 4: $72, Group 6+: $15, Group 10+: $12, Under two Free (must be seated on a ticket holders lap) Transaction fees may apply
TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW AT http://darebinarts.com.au


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A Voice Caged in Paper: Les Wicks reviews ‘Private Conversations Vol 2’ by Cameron Hindrum

Private Conversations Vol 2 by Cameron Hindrum. Walleah Press, 2012.

private conversations

Cameron Hindrum is a familiar figure amongst the slam community, a big presence both on the stage and physically. He has comparatively recently ventured into the world of words on paper with his novel the Blue Cathedral published in 2011.

I always expect a lot from Walleah Press, a bright light in what can be a narrow, dark poetry tunnel. They publish mostly, but not exclusively, Tasmanian work. As usual the production and design of Private Conversations are first rate. It is a 32 page chapbook with space to spare, I did wonder, however, why they went with the two-volume chap book model.

There is so much to like about this book. Hindrum’s is an openhearted voice capable of the belly laugh, freely given love and shared poignancy. If Australian poetry needs a medical plan to treat its chronic disease, this inclusive veracity will clearly be a core part of the treatment regime. Language is appropriately simple and clear.

Poems like “Zen Suite” gleam:

a footstep
is a map
of all things

“Driving East” finishes:

All things drift towards the water:
By the water, find the beach.
It’s of no importance that
The horizon’s always out of reach.

“Good Manners” is a delightful study of a visiting Japanese woman. Hindrum deftly works with the dissonance between the expected, clichéd mannerism of a different culture, her politeness, to the piercing on Koyuki’s throat (which also works as a marvellous metaphor for her limitations in English). Towards the end there’s a brilliant play on both her tackling of Western language/mores and a jibe at Japanese whaling:

At dinner I watch her harpoon
a California Roll with
an expertly-handled chopstick

so much achieved in so few words, so unforced.

Consistently over decades I have seen adept page poets murder their work on stage through arrogance,laziness, sheer incompatibility or incapacity. Conversely, many of the leading performance poets fail to make the transition to the printed page. They are not mutually exclusive mediums, but each requires a certain critical mindset to be applied. Many poets who straddle both mediums will say that certain pieces can be performed regularly but will not appear in any book. Other works would almost never be read out loud. From a slam poet like Hindrum the challenge really was to look again at all his work and make sure they function on the printed page. “On explaining the facts of life to a six-year-old” and “On finding 20,000-year-old footprints near Lake Mungo, NSW” are examples of work that generously reward both the reader and the audience equally. But this doesn’t apply to all pieces with a little lazy language detracting from otherwise engaging narratives. “Love poem for Jack and Sylvia” was a joy to read but the constant repetition of the word old, while I saw it working phonically, just served as a dragging chain on paper for me.

Having said this I return to my core point that this is a book well worth reading and possibly more importantly a book that makes one hungry for Hindrum’s next.

– Les Wicks


Les Wicks has toured widely and seen publication across 16 countries in 9 languages. His 10th book of poetry is Barking Wings (PressPress, 2012 http://www.presspress.com.au/Wicks.html). This year he will be performing at the world’s biggest poetry festival in Medellin. http://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm

Private Conversations Vol 2 is available from Walleah Press http://www.walleahpress.com.au/recent.html or http://walleahpress.com.au/garradunga/?tcp_product=private-conversations-volume-2-cameron-hindrum