Multilingual poets seek to revive spoken-word poetry


Spoken-word poetry maybe a dying art but an unlikely ensemble in Sydney is trying to change that. Around 20 Australians from different cultural backgrounds have performed for World Poetry Day. And organisers say the multilingual slam is easier to understand than some might think.

Poetry might be an age old art form but it is still alive and well today.  

Once a month, Krupa Mehta leaves behind her day job as a junior emergency doctor and becomes a spoken-word poet.

"The job's really hard and stressful so I balance it out with all these creative pursuits like poetry and art, and all these other things that I'm involved in," said Krupa.

She's one of 20 people who took part in a multilingual poetry slam to mark World Poetry Day at Customs House in Sydney.

The event featured 15 different languages, but organiser Miles Merrill from Word Travels said the poems easily translate.

"All the gestures that they were using, and the eye contact that they have with the audience so it's as much theatrical as it is literary," said Miles.
He says poets are able to express themselves more authentically by using their native tongue and says poetry is deeply-rooted in different cultures.

Wiradjuri poet, Lorna Munro, addressed Indigenous justice issues in her poetry. She says speaking in Wiradjuri is key to her work.

"Aboriginal languages and the diverse Aboriginal languages in this country are very poetic. A lot of Aborginal words, sayings and meanings are actually very complex," said Lorna.

Lorna and others like Zohab Zee Khan are working with schools across the country to try and get more young people into poetry. They believe schools are failing to teach poetry properly.

"When they [students] come into the room for the first time and they haven't heard of spoken-word poetry they'll come in dragging their feet thinking this is another thing we have to do," said Zohab.

"[Then] within about two minutes when I present it to them, when I perform my poetry, they change their perspectives, their eyes light up and they're like: 'poetry can be pretty cool'."

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