Local poets Robin Archbold and David Hallett, from Nimbin, will contest the Australian Poetry Slam State final at State Library in Sydney on November 21.

Lismore City Library hosted Heat 6 of the Australian Poetry Slam. David finished first and Robin second, and they now will head to Sydney for the NSW State final where they will compete for a place in the National Grand Slam in December at the Sydney Opera House where the prize is $5000.

NSW’s top two slam poets will be decided at the State final and will battle against State and Territory winners for the coveted Australian Poetry Slam 08 title.

For the first time the ABC will broadcast and stream all State finals, plus the Grand Slam Final at the Sydney Opera House will be broadcast live to a national audience during the evening program.

Australian Poetry Slam 08 National Co-creator Miles Merrill describes the event as ‘basically a competition between people who get up on stage with their own spoken word pieces’.

It began in 1984, in a Chicago bar ‘in response to poetry readings where someone gets up for 20 minutes, looks into their notebook, never looks at the audience, and kind of mumbles everything until everybody walks away!’

“It kind of evolved from a mixing up of theatre with poetry, and what’s happened over the years is that people have gotten disillusioned with the mainstream nature of hip-hop, and how people are bobbing their heads to the beat, but not actually listening to the words,” Miles said.

Miles says many hip-hop artists are now crossing over to spoken word and poetry slam ‘because their words are being listened to … there’s no backing music, it’s just straight up – this is what I have to say’.

“There is no specific definition for it though,” he said.

“In the Australian Poetry Slam we really want to encourage people to get up with whatever piece of writing they have, and perform in whatever style they want.”

PICTURE: Robin Archbold and David Hallett.