• Solli Raphael, 12, from Coffs Harbour, NSW, has become the youngest ever winner of the Australian Poetry Slam National Final. (Clare Hawley)
Solli Raphael's performance will blow you away.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

18 Oct 2017 - 10:21 AM  UPDATED 18 Oct 2017 - 10:21 AM

Solli Raphael has always loved writing but he'd never really done much poetry.

Five months ago he had a revelation: "I just liked rapping and I liked writing so I found if you mix them both together you get poetry," Solli tells SBS.

"So I'm pretty new to it."

This weekend the 12-year-old student from Coffs Harbour, NSW, delivered an original poem to 550 people at the Sydney Opera House and was named the youngest ever winner of the Australian Poetry Slam national final. 

"I never thought I’d win the National Final! I tried to write something that I thought would really speak to everyone, no matter their age or background, so I’m really glad that it resonated with everyone so well," he says.

Solli won by just 0.1 of a point in a tie-breaking slam-off over Perth's Jesse Oliver with his piece about standing up to create change, with a rousing call to arms tackling the flaws of current Australian government, from the education system, to refugees and homelessness.

Delivering his intricately-constructed poem to a thrilled audience that included his mother and great grandmother, he closed his poem by urging everyone to “speak to those who don’t want to listen, and embrace our differences.”

Solli, who is home-schooled, says he was inspired to write about modern life.

"We're not really changing much in our lives, we're not really living to what our expectations are," he says.

"We're sort of just working for money and that's about it. We're not really helping others much."

Over the course of the competition Solli wrote, memorised and performed three different poems, which he says was "pretty difficult, but they flowed really well".

Solli was awarded the Australian Poetry Slam Under 18s prize of $500, which he plans to put into his savings.

"We were all pretty stunned by Solli," says Miles Merrill, creative director of Word Travels, which puts on Story-Fest and the Poetry Slam.

"I kept thinking, 'the intellect and confidence of this kid is amazing! What if he actually takes the title?'"

Solli says the win "feels really, really good" and plans to keep doing what he loves.

"Poetry will always be a part of my life," he says. 

"I'm actually writing a few books I want to publish at the moment, but I'll just see how it goes."

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