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Freed Verse: Poetry and Transformation


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Kaveh Akbar has described one of his early adolescent encounters with poetry as profound and possibly fate-changing.

‘It was a total epiphany. Like, practically an angel playing its trumpet in my face. Just a miracle moment of clarity and perfect vision.’

How does poetry do this? How can poetry transform personal perspectives, or even lives? And how can non-traditional means of sharing poetry bring the form to new audiences?

Akbar is one of the brightest rising talents in American poetry. His work has appeared in the New Yorker and Best American Poetry and in two acclaimed collections, Calling a Wolf a Wolf and Portrait of the Alcoholic. For this event, hosted by Neil Morris, he’ll be joined by four accomplished, and very different, local poets – including Morris, Sista Zai Zanda, Abdul Hammoud and Hawiine – each with their own perspectives on teaching, performing and publishing poetry.

Join them for this unique event at the Wheeler Centre – part performance, part discussion – as they explore the spells poetry can cast.

Drinks available for purchase on the night.

Readings will be our bookseller at this event.


Neil Morris
Neil Morris

Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta yiyirr. A poet, musician, community based activist, broadcaster. Known notably for his music project DRMNGNOW and indefatigable advocacy work around First Nations, rights, culture and country. Morris has made a significant mark within the decolonial movement in so called... Read more

Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar’s poems appear recently in the New Yorker, Poetry, the New York Times, the Nation, and elsewhere. His first book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, was recently published by Alice James in the US and Penguin in the UK. He is also the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic. The recip... Read more

Sista Zai Zanda

Sista Zai Zanda (Sista Zai/Achihera) is an Afrofuturistic Storyteller. Sista Zai was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and raised in a large extended family. Achihera is Karanga and now lives as a Black African settler on Kulin Nations. Amongst career highlights, Achihera is a 2019 recipient of the Neilma Si... Read more

Abdul Hammoud

Abdul Hammoud is a spoken word artist based in Melbourne by way of Lebanon. He teaches writing classes and workshops for schools and organisations that are looking to explore new avenues of expression and identity. His art has taken him as close as New Zealand and as far as the United States, as wel... Read more

Hawiine Hawiine

Hawiine, known in equal fondness as Soreti Kadir, is a multidisciplinary artist. Most well known for her expression as a performance poet, writer, musician, organiser and speaker, her practice is always developing to better communicate her message. A lover of storytelling, Hawiine recently release... Read more


The Wheeler Centre

176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.