Poetry more than being a word nerd

By Alexandra Newlove

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Genie Blasingame, Tara Barlow and Jorja Heta will be among the youngest competitors at Northland first poetry slam. Photo / John Stone
Genie Blasingame, Tara Barlow and Jorja Heta will be among the youngest competitors at Northland first poetry slam. Photo / John Stone

It's the art form where censorship is sin and the rulebook reads "swearwords and vulgarity are acceptable" - and it's all part of the appeal for a group of high school girls set to compete in Northland's first poetry slam.

"We've [been taught] not to apologise for our work," said Whangarei Girls' High School poet Genie Blasingame. Fellow student Jorja Heta says "youth is actually an advantage" in an art form known for dealing with the sensitive and controversial, political and personal.

"We have a fresh perspective on things that adults might overlook," Jorja said.

The art of slam poetry is reliant on talented writers who can double as compelling performers. Next week, when Whangarei holds its first poetry slam to celebrate National Poetry Day, a group of 11 students from WGHS will compete in the all-ages event.

The key ingredients will be four minutes, a live audience and a panel of judges, with the first two rounds judged by the crowd, a similar form used at slam poetry events worldwide.

The WGHS crew informally call themselves "Literature Girls" and have drawn inspiration from celebrities Kayne West, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill "all of whom have dabbled in spoken word and slam poetry", Jorja said.

"We're all competing. In the first round we aim to do a group poem together, then we have individual girls who will share their own poems as well," Jorja said.

Their group poem discusses identity and the pressure to be perfect.

"What people don't really realise is that it's a way to express your truth and and talk about something that you think is really important. It's inspiring, empowering and you get your message and thoughts out there," Jorja said.

Whangarei's National Poetry Day includes the launch of poetry book Fast Fibres III, an open mic session and the slam

on August 26, from 6pm at the Old Stone Butter Factory. Email slamwhg@gmail.com to enter.

- Northern Advocate

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