Twelve of Aotearoa’s most exciting young poets, who competed in the Rising Voices Youth Poetry Slam in the last three years, perform a mix of their best work in the Rising Voices Summer Series over two nights.
Renee Liang talked to poet Rewa Worley.
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The Rising Voices Youth Poetry Slam has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2011. A slam is a poetic tournament - an exciting event where spoken word artists duel with words – but Rising Voices takes this one step further, nurturing young voices through a programme of mentoring and writing before they take the stage. The result is a performance night which is unique for the insight and affirmation it gives into the minds of NZ youth. Now the organisers have taken the concept further by giving Rising Voices alumni the chance to perform a longer program of work (15 minutes instead of the 3 minutes typically allowed for a slam poem) and to incorporate music, dance and movement.
Rewa tells us more about his poetry and the summer series.
What was your first experience with poetry?
It’s hard to say, I think my aunty had some books by Khalil Gibran round her house, other than that I wrote my first poem about a girl when I was like 11 at intermediate, her teacher found it and made me read it out in front of her whole class, which was massively embarrassing and kinda put me off poetry for the next 10 years till Rising Voices.
Poetry, spoken word - is there a difference?
Yes. Spoken word is live. Does that make it better than written poetry? No.
What made you sign up for Rising Voices?
I had just competed in the University of Auckland slam and got some encouragement from one of the judges, someone passed me a flyer and I thought “yeah maybe, I’ll try this” and then it was history....
What was the experience like, and what were the highlights?
At first it was kind of nerve racking turning up in a room full of people you don’t know but as soon as Grace Taylor and Jai MacDonald (organisers) opened up they really made you feel you were in a safe place and that you could share what you had written, which for some people can be really personal and a really massive barrier.
Though the workshops leading up to the slam was probably the best part, some of the exercises we did alone and in groups really stretched us as participants to expand our skills and be confident in ourselves as poets and performers. But straight up, the best part of Rising Voices has been the community. I’ve met some really close friends and mentors through the journey, ones that stuck around even after the slam was finished.
Tell us how you write - what are your inspirations, how do you start?
I’m lazy to be honest, I write sporadically, inspiration comes at random hours of the day/night, most times night.
Most of my topics revolve around family, culture and the events of my life but sometimes my poetry is straight fiction. It usually takes a while to write a piece, I collect ideas till a later date where it all comes out on the paper over a couple days. It’s pretty strange coz I start with the middle of the poem, write the beginning, then finish with the end, this usually takes the longest.
Does poetry have to be truthful?
Everything you write has a part of you in it, the question is how much you let the audience know it.
Have you always enjoyed performing?
Sort of and not really, I like that people like my poetry, I don’t like practicing it.
Tell us about your pieces for the summer series.
My pieces for the summer series are a selection of some of my performance pieces, they tell the story of my life from the start till now. I’m still working on part of it but it’s the first time I’ve put some of my works together to let the audience see the deeper side to my poetry, to connect the dots and get a window into what is like to be me for a few minutes.
Is it nervewracking to do a longer work? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Haha it’s nerve racking now that you’re asking... I think the hardest thing is transitioning between individual poems, trying to hold the audience, to make them relate, make them listen.
What are you working on next?
After the summer series I’ll be heading off to perform at the Adelaide fringe festival but when I get back me and the rest of the Waxed Poetic Revival will be planning our next set of shows aimed at sometime in early April.