Poets Out Loud was founded on the belief that poetry is for everyone. Why do you think poetry can have such a significant impact on individuals?
Poetry is such a wonderful medium for people of all ages to make their mark creatively. I think because open mic nights are such a safe, encouraging environment where you can get up on the spur of the moment, people who have never seen themselves as poets can suddenly feel the impact their words can have on others.
I’ve seen so many people open up to this experience. One first-time slam poet, aged 17, said “It’s really powerful and I’d encourage anyone to do it. All the nerves go away as soon as you’re up there. Just feeling other people connect with the poem was so special.”
Some of the young poets who have come through our program returned for their second or third year; one 18 year old is aiming to publish their first collection, and one 16 year old First Nations poet shares their poems online to advocate for better representation.
Can you share some of projects you conduct for the local community in the Northern Rivers?
Poets Out Loud projects aim to connect regional writers and audience with excellence in spoken-word from our region, from Australia, and beyond. We provide a platform for writers to share their work no matter what stage they are at in their writing journey.
In our recent Community Voices series, Poets Out Loud presented a special workshop and performance series to support recovery and healing, featuring poets from WA and QLD as performers and workshop facilitators.
Earlier in 2022, Poets Out Loud teamed up with The Bunker to host UK poet Joelle Taylor, a TS Eliot prize-winner, in her 2022 tour of Australia. Joelle led a workshop for 10 regional queer-identifying poets, and featured alongside these poets at our online performance.
Tell us about the youth program, which received funding through Create NSW’s Arts and Cultural Funding Program (ACFP).
Poets Out Loud Youth Program has run annually since 2020. It’s a project which empowers regional youth through slam poetry. Professional performance poets deliver workshops for young people aged 12-18 across the Northern Rivers, in preparation for a live performance to showcase their work. In 2022, the selected finalists of the Poets Out Loud Youth Slam were showcased as part of Byron Writers Festival to an enthusiastic audience of 200 people.
I received ACFP funding for Phase 1 of the 2022 Poets Out Loud Youth Program, enabling my team to deliver 15 free workshops to local schools and community. We were able to reach young people in rural and disadvantaged areas who may not otherwise have opportunities to work with professional writers. Altogether, 535 young people participated, creating their own Team Slam poem about something important to them, and performing it for their peers.
Wow, it sounds fantastic! What outcomes of the program surprised you most?
One of the most surprising and positive outcomes of the program for me was how many more opportunities for young people were initiated by word-of-mouth. A number of community festivals and organisations contacted me requesting our young poets to perform at their events. This meant that all the important topics our poets were writing about, like anxiety, climate change, and identity, were shared with wider audiences. The young poets also had a taste of building their own creative careers as they were paid for their work.
What do you consider the biggest strength of the arts community in your region?
I believe the biggest strength of our Northern Rivers arts community is our connectedness. From major literary festivals to grassroots poetry readings, there’s a sense that we all depend on each other. If one flourishes, all can flourish. I particularly saw this connectedness in our fundraiser performance HOLD in the aftermath of the 2022 floods.
Learn more about Poets Out Loud
https://www.nsw.gov.au/departments-and-agencies/create-nsw/news/stories/poets-out-loud-interview Empowering young poets in the Northern Rivers