Doug Poole on the Poetry Slam

Doug Pooleweb Tell me a little bit about your involvement in the Going West Poetry Slam over the years.

This is the third year I have been the director of the Going West Poetry Slam. Over this time I have had the pleasure to work with Murray Gray, Naomi McLeary and Anna Fomison. With their support they allowed myself and our MC Zane Sacrborough to rework the format of the slam to create an audience focussed event of 2 ½ hours of poetry, music and commentary. The event has over sold for the last 2 years (so yeah no pressure this year haha).

This year we have the pleasure of working with Penny Howard as our new producer, who brings her experience and artistic flare to the team (now formally as she has been assisting us for the last two years).

What are some of the high points of the poetry slam you’ve witnessed?

From the heats right through to the finals over the last two years, it has been the depth of talent and variety of voices who create, recite or perform poetry in the wider Auckland region. That has been the highlight for me as the director.

It is encouraging to see the range of ages, cultures and styles of poetry being shared during the heats and finals each year. The last two years winners highlight these points, we had Amber Esau a young graduate of MIT's creative writing program take out the Slam in 2014 with powerful and emotive works and last years winner Ila Selwyn a seasoned performer and poet, take out the slam with humorous and technically brilliant work. There is a real depth of talent in the Auckland poetry scene and this event brings some of the very best to the stage on the night of the Grand Final.

What do you think makes a good slam poem?

A confident, well read and believable poem makes a good slam poem. It is the poem that is the star of the event – as much as the poet reciting, reading or performing it.

This event allows the poem to be read from the page, recited from memory or expressed and performed as many spoken word artists bring to a stage. Whatever the mechanism, it is the Poem that must stand up and stand out with confident and believable expression.

So what makes a good slam poem? You tell me – it is an eccentric and dynamic artform.

Do you write poetry specifically to perform, or for the page, or both?

I have written for the page as all poets do – it is when you are writing a poem that is begins to speak and tell you what it wants to be. So I believe all poets write for an audience and whether the work has formed for the page – working from line breaks and formations that work best for it to be read. Or works which are more prosaic/ conversational which work for the poet best to be read aloud. Works I create are written for an audience to read off a page and other works I write work well for me to recite to an audience. Often it is the poem that tells you what it wants.

Who are some of your favourite performers?

Some of my favorite performers are Sam Hunt, David Eggleton, Tusiata Avia, Albert Wendt, Serie Barford, Grace Taylor, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Courtney Sina Meredith, Mua Strickson Pua, Zane Scarborough, Daren Kamali, Karlo Mila, Raewyn Alexander, Ben Kemp, Ila Selwyn, Amber Esau, Tulia Thomson, Ria Masae to name just a few! (phew)

How do you fit poetry into your busy life?

I have started a full on management role this year so writing has not fit at all this year. However I have performed at “Stars of Pacific Poetry” this year and really looking forward to directing this years poetry slam.

When things settle down I will make time to write and take back up my works revolving around my life and also hope to collaborate again with my partner Penny Howard later this year or next. Sometimes life takes precedence over writing and you just have to go with it until things subside enough to create.

I find I can't write around people I need to be in a space where I have isolation or at least a sense of solitude, that's when I write best. When life gets busy writing becomes more difficult to attain.

What would you say to a first timer who was thinking of entering the competition?

Here's my mantra – Let each word stand – let the poem be the star – stand behind your poem let it guide you in the recital – performance.

Lastly my green room pep talk ends - Remember before you start – breathe in and out deeply three times,  – look at the faces in the crowd and then begin.


Doug Poole - 23 August 2016