Slam Critic Slammed

Poetry’s fortunes in the wider world can seem grim at times but for lovers of poetry - its writers and readers - the form is more often than not little less than an obsession. As such, the poetry community can be deeply divided.

Last month, local slam poet Emilie Zoey Baker came into the Wheeler Centre to deliver an impassioned defence of slam poetry. She began by defining slam poetry: “Slam, if you’re not sure, is a short form usually only a few minutes long. It’s a good-natured poetry battle where poets perform their work individually or in teams … It works on the idea that poetry is for the people, that you don’t need a degree or a doctorate to judge poetry. It’s about what you like, what you feel, what inspires you to whoop and cheer.”

In June, Emilie was the subject of a feature published in The Age on how slam poetry might make for good television. The piece provoked Christopher Bantick to pen an op-ed in The Australian in reply, suggesting that slam poetry was a low form of poetry.

As a testament to the levels of passion in the poetry community, Emilie’s Lunchbox/Soapbox video has triggered more comments (14 at the time of writing) than videos we would consider far more controversial. Yesterday, a blog post by Australian poet Alan Wearne published by Wheeler Centre resident organisation SPUNC takes up the cudgels again. Alan is publisher at a new poetry imprint, Grand Parade Poets, whose first publication features the poetry of Benjamin Frater and Pete Spence.

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