Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Huzza! It seems the term Maximalism in poetry has caught on. What a strangely awesome thing.

In the winter of 2011, Fern Thompsett and myself, were joking about how self-indulgent poetry can be. Like "did you get my profound metaphor?" "I can use words with LOTS OF SYLLABLES!" and basically taking the piss.
From that we thought how funny it would be if we wrote some poems, MAXIMALIST POEMS, that were basically us standing there going "hey I'm a very intelligent person please validate me for being so intelligent! Yeee!"

I performed my first "Maximalist" poem at the 2011 QLD State Poetry Slam..

From there it really got some weight behind it.
Cameron Logan jumped on board and has written a number of Maximalist poems, the most famous being his "Ipswich!" piece. Stef Petrik accused all the men in the room of being murderers. K-Dawg down in Melbourne wrote about being a maximalist coz she lives life to the max. Archie has written a carnivorous feast upon the literary elite. Michael Cohen did one at the Brisbane Slam heats this year and it was a highlight of the night: "This is my sad poem, I am sad, this is my happy poem, I am happy..."

Fern wrote me one for my birthday, it had ninjas in it and is therefore the best poem ever.

The wikipedia explanation of maximalist art is a wank. sooooo wanky.

Maximalist Poetry is the most direct path to your point. It doesn't cover it with anything other than an explanation... or something... It takes the piss out of anything that could be intelligent.
And while I have struggled to keep from "owning" the term or the art form at all (it is something anyone can and should do), I'd like to let you know what I think a maximalist poem is:

1- It is usually read. Mess it up, make mistakes, read it. It's not a polished performance.
2- It is usually done in a monotone voice. Very little inflection or pausing. You're not reading a 'poem'. You're being a maximalist. What the hell is a comma?
3- It is usually done with a shouty-ish volume. You are a maximalist, not a haiku poet or a rising slam star. Just be loud all the time so it annoys soft-voiced poets and thumbs its nose at the poetry slam "mountain" (the rise and rise and rise and then sharp fall in volume of every slam poem ever).
4- be unafraid and unapologetic in your writing. Self-involved, politically motivated and "important" poets, whether performance based, blog based, page based, avant-garde based blah blah are there to be ridiculed. But most of all, ridicule yourself. Don't be prejudiced you arse, but don't be soft and PC like everyone else. Fuck with em.
5- have fun. It's meant to be fun. And a good maximalist poem is really really fun. Funny. Funnimungus.

That's my first one ever. I like it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Ish


I've been thinking about the way we write and what we write and how we challenge ourselves recently. After a conversation this morning, I realised there's been this unwritten rule at Jam Jar Poetry Slam (this Sunday 11th Nov 3pm y'all!), where you bring new shit.

Of course, no-one's gonna string you up if you perform or read the same piece from a previous month, but at the last slam in October, there were a few folks who did the same piece again.

I'd rather you got up and performed than didn't at all, however when it's a monthly event, and a regular crowd forms, is it artistically okay to perform the same 2 minute poem as last time? I don't know, and I'm only riffing here, so please don't take my word as bond...

Personally as host, I'll always try to bring something the crowd hasn't seen before. On occasion I've done the same piece from a few months back at the Jam Jar slams, but as a general rule, I'll usually have new material. Sometimes it's great and goes down a treat, it ALWAYS shows me if a certain piece needs a bit more tinkering. Thanks to following that ethos, over the past 12 months or so I have over 20 different performance poems up my sleeve. Some suit certain audiences better, of course, but overall I've built up a pretty strong repertoire of pieces which I can pull out almost any time.

In this context I think of performance poetry as something in between stand up comedy and a band. I'd be pissed if I went to see Billy Connelly and he gave me the same jokes and stories as on his dvd's. However it would piss me off as much if I saw Radiohead and they didn't play something from OK Computer or Kid A.

So there's an element of "play it again Sam" because you enjoy the delivery and the art of the piece, like a song, yet in the up-close-and-personal world of performance poetry, there is a need for the conversation between audience and poet to be fresh and new like a stand-up's jokes.

But I'd hate it if performers, especially those who are only just getting their feet wet, felt some sort of pressure to give new material all the time. I work on my art constantly. I have both the time and the energy to commit to writing new material. A lot of other people don't. The slam at Jam Jar can be a confronting enough space as it is - no mic, a round space, very close vocal crowd - without having to always write new material.

But remember that it's a small community, this poetry thing. The same folks come to most of these events.

Eleanor Jackson and Betsy Turcot are endlessly inspiring because they not only work full time, but also write whole new sets of poetry for specific gigs. When Betsy came to Jam Jar in October, she had a fresh 12 minute set prepared. I've barely seen Eleanor Jackson repeat a thing.

I'm not saying be prolific every single month. And your challenges may be different: this month you might read your piece, next month you might have it memorised. You might skip a month, so you can get a new piece ready for the next one. There's a lot of valid choices to make. But playing it safe may just be the easiest way to distance yourself from your audience.

I was incredibly impressed that Martin Ingle, who has begun to acquire a nice little collection of poems, read something new at the recent QLD Poetry Slam heats. He could have pulled anything from this year's Jam Jar performances out, yet he didn't. And he didn't make it through to the finals either.
Yet through the poetry community there were whispers of pride and encouragement for a guy pushing himself constantly. Which is why I recommended him to the State Library to be sacrificial poet at the state final, he did a great job, got paid too, and it could almost be argued that - more so than the runner-up or the winner - Martin is the go-to guy for a fresh new voice in poetry.
Because he's starting to push himself in new directions with his art. Therefore making an exciting experience to watch.

Try to enter the challenge of constantly writing.
Create feasible, realistic goals and go for them.
Try something new.
Make your art on the knife's edge.

At Graham Nunn's recent workshop he commented that, if you are a writer, you write.

So write.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


It’s the end of the year (derrr), Speedpoets has finished up, we are coming up to our last Jam Jar Poetry Slam of the year too, Words or Whatever is having a November sign-off on the 16th and basically we say bye for another poetry year and let the words sift through till January…Not that it’s all over, of course, Woodford’s WordFood is going to be a hell of a new year’s event and there’s a few nice little open mics still kickin around. 
But sometimes it’s nice to honour the year and go out with a bang. 
So please come, if you’re in Brisbane, to

Raw Poet Roar! 

Dec 1st, 6:30-10pm. $15 entry. The Box. West End. 
It’s gonna be huge.

And it’s been a huge year for me, my first year doing art as my actual career (eek!), the 1st anniversary of Jam Jar Poetry Slam, my first year touring Melbourne, Sydney, Lismore, Byron etc etc… So I want to celebrate and honour that, if nothing else…And really, I’ve NEVER done a big set in front of my home audience before. It’s been my personal challenge to hold the space for a big, big feature. Not like poetry “big feature” of 15minutes. 
I mean like... double that, if not more.
It brings into play my role as not only poet, but entertainer as well. Someone who can hold a crowd. Can I do it? I don’t really know. But you can come and see that’s for sure. And if I fail, then there’s entertainment in the cringe worthiness of it all…

The other thing about this event is, well, I thought about who else to get to feature. I thought of some of the big names and my friends in Brisbane spoken word at the moment… Doubting Thomas, Eleanor Jackson, Betsy Turcot, Ghostboy, Graham Nunn, Adam Hadley… the list goes on…
But then I thought, there are a fair few poets whose work I really like, whose ethos and attitude I really like, and who seem to come to almost everything, read a poem or two, basically making the Brisbane Poetry community the warm and diverse place it is.

So fuck it, let’s make a place for the raw talent to shine. An event featuring sets by some of Brisbane’s hidden (and not-so-hidden) poetry talent. From beautifully realised car rides with Trudie Murrel through to haiku heavyweight Vuong Pham, faerie love poet Rachael Dean and slam maker of lurrvve to words Martin Ingle, this is going to be raw, different, crazy, real...

So let’s roar together eh? With host Fern Thompsett at the helm, we are guaranteed a night of bad puns, fun smiles, and a down-to-earth way to celebrate success in all its forms AND future success in all its hope and glory.
Raw Poet Roar has come together beautifully.
I can’t wait to see what this crew of 10 poets has to offer.
And what the hell am I gonna do?
Blow the roof off the mother.
The official line-up for Raw Poet Roar is as follows:

  • JD
  • Rachael Dean
  • Vuong Pham
  • Ahliya Kite
  • Michael Cohen 
  • Zenobia Frost
  • Trudie Murrel
  • JK
  • Angela Willock
  • Martin Ingle
Special guests include 18 year old stand-up comedian Calum Johnston 
and kooky songstress Lucy Fox!
6:30pm, Saturday 1st December, The Box, 29 Vulture St, West End. $15 entry.