Some people would say that poetry is a dead art. Reality says otherwise. It has been my experience that we are drowning in poetry, even if not all of it is top notch. Song lyrics, advertising jingles, nursery rhymes, poetry is everywhere.
There is a lively poetry circle developing in Hobart. Silver Words is a group that meets fortnightly at Frankie’s Empire cafe. It has been six months since the first public event. In that time Adonis Storr, MC, compere and proverbial oily rag organiser of Silver Words, has created a network of rappers and ranters, poets and spoken word artists. Singers without instruments.
I have been involved for many years with poetry form. Reading poems on Saturday afternoons in coffee shops in Woolloongabba, in various bars and hotels on dark rainy evenings, in abandoned factories or graffiti scrawled alleys. I was once asked “What did I want?” Being young and scruffy I replied with some sort of glib irony which meant very little. I have given this question much thought. Now that I am older, scruffier and grayer I have the answer for me. I want to meet people and have interesting conversations. Silver Words is one such avenue.
Since moving to Hobart a few years back I have made contacts, gone to various poetry events. Workshops, readings, and the like. I had fun, but felt the need for a more spontaneous poetry scene. With more young people, challenging my middle aged thoughts. For to me the gaol of argument, is not to win, but rather to learn and to challenge my thinking.
Uneasily I went to my first Silver Words event. One never knows how these things will go, they could be fun and full of energy, they could just as easily be dull, lifeless affairs. I was pleased to see that Silver Words is not a formated poetry slam. Personally I do not like poetry slams. To me reading in front of a crowd of strangers is victory enough. Silver Words is more a circle of friends who take turns reading not only their own poems, but poems of others. The first piece heard was someone reading “The Man From Snowy River.” As I live out of town I often car pool with some pals who live nearby, even though we knew no one we were made to feel welcome.
Spoken word is the ground of all art. Spoken word is a fragile and vulnerable, and at the same time, resilient and deathless, art form. We can see the form is growing and thriving on a global scale. This is, I believe, because of the ubiquitous nature of poetry. I would hazard to guess that the majority of people have written a poem or two in their life. To turn this internal, personal art form into performance requires a certain amount of nakedness. Musicians have their instruments to protect them, singers can use a microphone stand like a cricket player would use their bat, fending off the more hostile deliveries sent their way. At events like Silver Words there is nothing between the audience and maker than the incessant jostling of atoms.
Fluidity is the strength and weakness of the open mic format. Spoken word forces spontaneity, an exposing without any supports. The words are spoken and heard in the same moment and then gone, sallowed the infinite void. Too often we are merely entertained, passively feeding off the crumbs of others. Open mic allows for impromptu interactions. On more than one occasion I have seen people jot down words and images during a performance, jumping up to share a shiny new, soon to be forgotten, poem. Intimate venues like Silver Words allows artists to gain confidence. The open mic format is a democratic form, and anyone who wants can get up and speak. This may equally open a door to discovery, or a door to trite banality. But the journey would not be a journey without some bumps.
This is not to say that all performers are chaotic and improvised. Many performers have been tempered by slams. Some performers memorise their work, and with voice and motion bring words to life. As much an actor or dancer as a poet. While Silver Words is not a poetry slam, they did host the recent Hobart Heat of the National SLAM. One of the performers on that evening, Karina Castan, went on to represent Tasmania in the national slam finals held at the Sydney Opera House. Another member of the group, Young Dawkins, is MC for the BBC poetry slam at the Edinburgh Festival. Silver Words has also encouraged many emerging poets to take their first forays into spoken word.
Plans are afoot to broaden and extend this group. In the meantime come along and see, or even take part in, the 6th month anniversary event on November 22 at Frankie’s Empire, 129 Elizabeth St. The fun starts at 7:00. Visit and like the Silver Words Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/thesilverwords/photos_stream - for more information.