Over the past few months, we’ve been helping the Tuggeranong Arts Centre put together SNACK: a free school holidays program for aspiring poetry slammers between the ages of 14-18 years. We hit up two great slammers we know – Livvi Hatfield and Sayan De – to run the week of workshops, from April 14-17th, 11am-2pm from Monday to Thursday.
Between them, the two have so much experience running slam workshops that the whole week of workshops is guaranteed to be basically a giant slam party where you can push yourself, find your voice, support your co-slammers, eat free food, and write and perform your own slam on a stage. Before things kick off next week, though, we had a Q&A session with two of them, where we chatted about their favourite slams, what they’re most afraid of on stage, and how they learnt to slam.
What are you most afraid of when you hit the slam stage, and how do you overcome it?
Livvi: When I step up to perform, I’m often afraid of the audience – afraid that they won’t like what I have to say, that they’ll judge me, or that they’ll scare me into forgetting a line or messing up. But as soon as I start speaking, the fear leaves and it’s all just adrenaline and excitement. There’s something really amazing and addictive about performing for a live audience. So as long as I can muster up the courage to spit out my first word, I know I’ll be fine.
What’s the most affecting slam you’ve ever seen/heard?
Sayan: I want to say Julian Curry at Def Poetry, which I’m linking here, but I feel like it’s tremendously inappropriate for the content but it’s also exceptional. It’s called ‘Niggers, Niggas & Niggaz’ and it’s one of the most incredible uses of words to make a statement that needed to be said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD-UpHlB9no. It legitimately gave me chills and you can’t help but feel the passion in his words.
Failing that, there’s an equally fantastic poem by Luka Lesson, who’s an Australian poet of Greek heritage. It’s clever, beautiful and passionate and probably encapsulates extremely well what the aim, the endpoint I suppose, of slam poetry can be: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P2mm8Ox9Ng
Where and how did you learn to slam?
Livvi: I first encountered slams when I was in college; our chaplain organised a slam for the students and encouraged me to enter. He was my first example of a slam poet and he kinda took me under his wing and taught me a lot. I’ve also watched countless slam videos online and just tried to check out as many different poets as I can. But you can only learn so much from other people; I think at the end of the day, everyone has their own style and a unique voice, which is only discovered by getting up and giving it a go. So I’d say I’m still learning to slam, every time I go to write a new piece or step up to a mic.
How does the process of writing a slam work for you: is there pen and paper, are you driving somewhere and it comes to you, or do you sit down with a laptop?
Sayan: I always try to write on paper, but I’ve got ideas from dreams and woken up and put it in my phone, or just on a bus going somewhere. Paper’s always more comfortable but it’s more a matter of whenever the words come best, I’ll use whatever’s there.
There are still four places left in next week’s poetry slam workshops. If you’d like to take up one of these positions, check out the Tuggeranong Arts Centre page for details about how to book.