What is an old woman doing in the NZ WOMAD Poetry Slam finals?
Turns out I’m one of seven finalists in the Poetry Slam at New Zealand WOMAD 2019, and must deliver the works on Saturday afternoon.
Every year for ten years a bunch of my family has headed for WOMAD in beautiful Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. This time there will be nine of us at this festival of world music with the usual happy multi-generation crowd.
Now there’s a new twist. Last year WOMAD ran a Poetry Slam, and I foolishly entered the slam for the following year. Ouch—that is now.
Blimey Charlie, why did I enter a poetry slam?
No idea, considering I thought slam was strictly for young people and had to have a shouty voice, a pounding rhythm, lots of swearing and a big issue. A kind of competitive rap and rant for poets without music. Now I’m not young, and these days my poems are intimate, and they all focus on old age and ageing with occasional thoughts about dying as light relief …
But wait, the personal is political and the ageing population is a hot political issue. Moreover, most of my other assumptions were wrong. (See Tarn Hood’s video, link below. Don’t be scared.) ( I am.)
Dreams of glory for any poet
Once I got used to the idea I embraced the challenge, chose my poems and decided to lift my game. I pictured myself on the little stage where the slam was held last year on a lovely hillside not far from the biggest outdoor amphitheatre. Last year there was a general audience of three or four hundred sitting in the sun, and a good sound system. Nice. And after all, how hard can it be for a someone who read poems at Nambassa Festival in 1978*? This will be a breeze and a buzz, I thought.
* (I think it was 1978)
How are the mighty fallen!
So I was disappointed to learn that this year we will perform in a different location, the Kunming Gardens, where tiny specialised events are run. I’m expecting it will be hard to make any impression. As platforms go, this one could be a challenge. The other stage seems to have disappeared off the map.
Now let’s see, where’s the upside?
- Less pressure, lower expectations.
- I’ll get to present the voice of an old person in public in a different setting.
- I’ll poke a sharp stick at the piñata of ageism.
- Maybe I’ll summon up a fitting pride in reaching the finals of the WOMAD poetry slam. It’s quite something, after all.
Tarn Hood slams out a poem about the huge variety and the democratic nature of slam poetry
Update: I did it but…
I did fine, the crowd was lovely and attentive and they laughed a lot and I had lots of fun but…
- I didn’t want to win, because deep down I am not into poetry as a competitive sport. For others, heaps of fun and valuable too. It’s just not right for me. (A bit like ageing as a competitive sport, which is truly with us now: suits some, but should not be mandatory.)
- This is all happening the day after the heart-breaking massacre in Christchurch by white supremacists. WOMAD celebrates diversity, peace, tolerance, and love. I am split in two. See the next post (if I can manage it).
29 thoughts on “What is an old woman doing in the NZ WOMAD Poetry Slam finals?”
Well done – what an amazing opportunity to represent the gorgeous greying brigade. Look forward to hearing how it went.
My hopes are low and happy that way
I was at Nambassa Rachel… best wishes for this years 2019 WOMAD. Myrax
Oh double wow!
Congrats and all the best.
You’ll be amazing! Congratulations. Once again, inspiring us all.
I think I may pass with a push
This is fantastic Rachel. Best of luck (but I know you’ll be brilliant). Be sure to blog about how it all goes.
Thank you so much, Carmel!
Poke? It is possible you could smack that pinata right off the string. 🙂
I’ll give it a go.
I certainly couldn’t listen as fast as that dear young woman could talk. I am interested if you have to talk that fast too.
Congrats! Poets are like wine – they improve with age!
That’s fantastic. You’re a self-deprecating fount of inspiration.
Funny:) On another note,Womad is a fine place of love diversity and tolerance on this darkest of days in New Zealand.
Wonderful! Glad you’ll add the perspective of an older age group. I recall attending a poetry slam in Santa Monica, California years ago with my husband — a new experience for us. We went to hear our son who was participating, were joined there by the young lady who later became his wife. My son had previously participated in some slams, won a few, in the university town where he graduated.
Then you know what I’m in for!
My son lauded that you were doing this poetry slam. He hasn’t been engaged in the competitive slams either for a number of years though there are a few where he lives now. Thought of you immediately when I heard of this recent tragedy — just unspeakable and yet we must speak out.
Thank you for your loving message. And for your son’s delightful response.
Congrats – carry the banner high for us aging folk.
Thanks Dan. I will do my bit.
I did do it, at least!
I’m So Happy you allowed me to find you again. I know Exactly what you mean about aging as a competitive sport.
Good detective work!
I will email you 🙂
Hi Rachel – it sounds like you succeeded with the challenge … and I’m sure the confidence us older folk manage to exude will inspire many … and we can laugh at ourselves. Just desperate that Christchurch had to happen at all – so sad for so so many. Take care – Hilary