How to be old—we're all learning

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?

All about NZ WOMAD 2019


NZ WOMAD 2018 Poetry Slam

The big TSB Bowl filling up before a big act at NZ WOMAD 2018.

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…