A Recipe For A Killer Night: Reviewing Word Travels’ Multilingual Poetry Slam

By Zara Khan and Jordan Daly

Photos by Ansel Wakamatsu

 

 

Sauce:

  • Performances by four local poets: Onur Karaozbek, (UNSW’s very own!) Albert Lin, Fayroze Lutta and Hasitha Adhikariarachchi.
  • Three words to set the scene: politics, culture and identity.
  • Three minutes for each performance.
  • A language other than English (featured languages included Mandarin, Turkish, German, Sinhalese, Arabic and French). Some poems had translation notes provided by Word Travels in the program, rather than subtitles.
  • Scores from 1-10, with the winner going on to the NSW Poetry Slam Final.
  • Miles Merrill and Sunil Badami to emcee.
  • Additional performances by established and talented poets: Zohab Khan, MC Dobby, Bhuphen Thakker and Haider Catan.


Garnish:

  • Mimosa Duo, a guitar and violin-playing band with the talent and style to rival Andrew Bird.
  • Sponsorship by Arts NSW, the City of Sydney and a couple of NGOs, including The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and The Red Room Company.
  • Merchandise sales (merch isn’t available online, but Word Travels do accept donations).


Rice:

  • 7:30pm, Tuesday 21 March at the Long Room, Customs House, Circular Quay (previously hosted at Walsh Bay theatres).


Method:

  1. Fry up two cups of Public Enemy’s political grit. Mix in Gil-Scott Heron’s innovation and the sensuality of a ronggeng.
  2. Stir sauce thoroughly, with many hands.
  3. Sprinkle in emcees and other performances by professional poets, spoken word artists and rappers.
  4. Twist up the formatting by having five randomly-selected audience members read poems submitted by asylum seekers.
  5. Add zest by having an Archibald finalist sketch each performer on his whiteboard.
  6. Spoon it out on a bed of seasoned rice.
  7. Mix the garnish throughout the evening, particularly pre-performance and during intermission.
  8. Justify the sponsorship with feedback forms (to be filled out promptly during the intermission) and merchandise sales (so Word Travels can survive Scott Morrison’s cuts).
  9. Serve it up on a politically charged, stormy night, coinciding with World Poetry Day, Harmony Day and the Liberal Party’s “discussion” on section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.


Notes:

  • Customs House was a lovely setting, and the lighting was well done and complemented the performances. The performances themselves were most enjoyable and definitely worth checking out next year.
  • Similar events: the Sydney Writers’ Festival (22–28 May) and the Walk for Respect (Lakemba, 7 April).

But like any metaphorical recipe, you have to try it in person to really judge it.

See you next year during the Living in Harmony Festival!

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