And it begins.
Today the battle for the semi finals began with the first round of bouts, the action is on and the energy in town is palpable.
We began our day early and headed into town for our first event. An open mic on the theme of “Home” …I didn’t realise it was an open mic, and I didn’t realise it had a theme haha
I did, however, step up and do a piece. I decided, in my last minute flurry, to do a piece from my book, Morning Ache from Sex and God. It’s a really vulnerable piece and not what I would expect to use as a piece to “introduce” myself to a scene, but it was well received. The theme of Home was taken very literally by some and less so by others. The piece I chose talks about waking up aroused with a deep longing for intimacy. Specifically intimacy with a woman, the distance I felt from that part of myself at the time, almost as If I were lost or had lost a part of myself in many years of denying those feelings. It ends with the words “Welcome Home” symbolizing by returning to that very real and very comforting place in my self of my true sexuality.
The piece was written a few years ago and was the beginning of a huge and gentle journey back into my queer self.
The whole Slama team stepped up and shared pieces and the room was true to my feelings yesterday, receptive, open and super supportive
After the open mic (which was at 10 am!) we headed off to the Orientation hall where ALL the teams and coaches have to go and be introduced to the process. Wow. I can not begin to describe how it feels to be in a room of at least 350 poets and enthusiasts ALL there to celebrate and share poetry together. People who otherwise would have nothing in common, no reason to talk, to hug, to high five and engage; people who lay all differences down together for a moment to revel in this common ground.
The orientation stayed true to this spirit, making a point of naming that everyone was safe and welcome here, regardless of identity.
Traditionally they begin the orientation every year with a single poem from someone in the room. This year, the director approached us, the first ever Australian team to enter, and asked if one of us would like to be that poet. Ben (our coach) had the tough choice of picking who should share, and he picked well. John Englezos got up and in front of this pumped room of people, strangers, shared his piece “We are not your competition”.
The sentiment of this piece being very much the core of what I feel spoken word is about; that we are here to rise together, we are not competition, we are audience, we are community, we are all worthy of stepping up and doing this.
He was received with an overwhelming response and for me, it felt like a perfect way to introduce America to what Melbourne offers as a community of poets.
After this was an opening ceremony, which honestly I expected a much larger attendance at. The indigenous woman running it (who’s name I, unfortunately, didn’t catch) did a beautiful job of reminding us of where we were and of the custodians and traditions of the stolen land we are currently on. She did all this whilst letting us know we are welcome here, that we are all healing and rising together.
The bouts began at 7 pm. Two rounds of bouts with gigs spread across the city in various venues.
We went to one in a cafe and WOW. What a gorgeous crew. The teams battling were Battle Born Slam, WeSpoke Slam, Sad Diego PoetrySLAM and Puro Slam.
The audience participation was immense and the level of spoken word was incredible. A highlight piece for me was the final piece of the night where a guy got up and did a humorous yet erotic piece dedicated to his husband.
The second bout we attended (which was back to back to this one and at a different venue) was recommended to us by one of the teams we had just seen. It featured last years winning team plus a lot of other well-reputed artists. Dada Slam, SlamCharlotte Poetry Slam, Da Poetry Lounge (who John and I had previously seen in LA last week), and Slammageddon.
Again the quality of the spoken word was very high, points were almost consistently above 9.0 (with the occasional high 8’s) and the vibe was loud and engaged. Unfortunately by this time I had begun to develop a mild migraine so I stuffed earplugs in and did my best to be as present as I could to what I was watching.
At the end of the gig we all jumped in an Uber home and at midnight began rehearsing our own pieces for tomorrow night. It’s not 1:30 am and I am off for an early night to bed (no kidding, I’ve not been asleep before 3:30 am since we got to Denver and been up at 10 am every day… and I thought it was mums chance to catch up on some sleep at last haha).
Well, I’m off to bed. Remember to keep an eye out on my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/fleassymalay/) or follow my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FleassyM/) for regular updates over this coming week. I’ll see you tomorrow when you can find out how our first bout went…OR you can watch us live! Work out your time zone based on this helpful image and watch via a facebook live stream over on the Slamalamadingdong page.