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The National Poetry Slam 2009 – guest reviewed by Mark William Jackson

Of course, another reason you should subscribe to Overland is that Overland is much more than a literary magazine, it is a community. In September this year, Overland opened the blog up for Overland Overloaded, a new partnership between the Overload Poetry Festival and Overland. A talented and dedicated team of bloggers reviewed poetry events for the duration of the two week festival, and several of the bloggers involved in the project continue to write for this blog now. It’s in this spirit of inclusiveness and community that Sydney poet Mark William Jackson contributes his guest review of the 2009 National Poetry Slam Final at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday evening, his first review ever, he tells me:

On Thursday night, the Sydney Opera House was under attack. No bombs fell, no shots were fired, the warzone was filled with powerful words ricocheting through the studio hall as some of the best slam poets from around the country took to the stage to battle it out for the title of Australian Poetry Slam Winner 2009.

The ground rumbled as organiser Miles Merrill took to the stage and told us about dreams, ‘I’m talking about dreams’ he baritoned into the microphone and the crowd was captured. Miles ran through the rules with ABC Radio 702 announcer Simon Marnie. 2 minutes each, go beyond the bell and lose a point every 30 seconds, judges selected at random, decimal points encouraged to avoid a slam off. 5 red hats were thrown out into the audience to select the judges.

First on stage of the finalists was Meena Shmaly from Queensland. Meena ran through a soft rap on how he prays through poem, how the ink flows straight from his blood. In the unfortunate first spot his 2 minutes only received sixes from the judges.

Valerie Tinmouth from Tasmania strode upon the stage, an elegant senior lady she ran through rhyming couplets about an affair she’d had with an exciting younger man of 48 years old. However, the young feller admitted to be ‘emotionally unavailable’. The audience laughed through Valerie’s time and the judges awarded her with sevens and eights.

Byron Bard (Sam Knee) from Western Australia was even funnier as he put on a voice over style to tell us about his failed attempts of revenge on an ex-lover by having sex with the lover’s mother, burning a car which returned high insurance payout, or hiding out in the lover’s roof for three months only to be told the lover moved with no forwarding address. Extremely funny, the first nine of the night was awarded along with eights.

Mark Lloyd (Western Australia) rapped about a homeless beggar he’d met on the street, Cy Starkman (Northern Territory) improvised an advertisment for Central Australia. Tasmanian poetry stalwart Tim Thorne took to the Opera House stage thirty five years after taking the stage with Judith Wright to present his classic formed ‘Tale of Two Ministers’ recounting the demise of John Della-Bosca. Campbell McInnes travelled from South Australia to watch the Danny Green fight. ‘This Is Not A Love Poem’ ran through cliches from millions of previous love poems. Indigo Eli (South Australia) scored mostly nines by describing the difference between he and she, ‘she has eyes like doomed puppies’ was one of many standout lines in this piece.

Sarah Taylor drove down from Newcastle to deliver her vagina monologues. Sarah ran through how people stereotyped old people as needing to sit in bingo halls and wait for the end. Delivered in a cooler than Miles Davis style empassioned rhyming rant, four judges gave nines, one judge an eight.

Adam Hadley (ACT) ran through an animated apology to Francene. Darkwing Dubs (Scott Snedden) from Queensland confessed that he was not afraid to die but worried as to how his last day would be spent. Greg North (NSW) exposed the awful truth about tofu. Will Small (ACT), at 19 the youngest of the finalists delivered a rap about his ‘Street Corner Mistress’ which scored him three nines, an eight and a seven.

Ezra Bix (Victoria) started in the role of a news reader, reminding all Australians that in order for the country to survive we need to spend money and make babies ‘spend and bend’. Ezra’s piece turned to an educational piece for cimate change skeptics. This appealed to the judges who threw up nines and eights.

Last of the finalists, Anthea Eaton from Victoria taught us that in a previous job she sold viagra, and how using the same marketing techniques we might be able to rebrand peace.

As the finalists regained their breaths and Simon Marnie calculated the scores 2008 Slam Winner Omar Musa took to the stage to remind us why he was found to be the best in 2008. ‘Tomorrow is not your friend’ delivered the warning to all in attendance to seize the day.

The results calculations awarded runner up and $500 to Ezra Bix form his climate change lesson. 2009 Winner went to Sarah Taylor for telling us not to treat her as an old lady. Congratulations should go to Miles Merrill for putting together a mind blowing night which screamed to anyone who might have thought that poetry was stale and out of touch, that this was far from actuality.

The night was recorded by ABC Sydney Radio 702 on the AM and was aired on Friday evening at 7:00. Anyone who tuned in, either via radio or internet, would have felt the passion that these poets managed to deliver through their local heats and state finals in their quest be the best of 2009.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian author and slam poet of Afro- Caribbean descent. Her short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the 2015 ABIA Award for Best Literary Fiction and the 2015 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her memoir, The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World, and her first children’s book, The Patchwork Bike, will be published by Hachette in late 2016.

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