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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | May 31, 2020

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Interview: Abe Nouk, Slam Poet

Interview: Abe Nouk, Slam Poet

| On 06, Mar 2015

Refugee turned national poet, Abe Nouk is one of the many brave new voices changing the face of Australian slam poetry. 

Watching Abe as he performed at the Brisbane Ruckus Poetry Slam last week, it was immediately evident that this was a young man who knew the power of his voice. An Australian Poetry Slam finalist with enough talent to be invited to perform around the world, Abe says he’s still coming to grips with it all.

“I have moments on stage all the time when I can’t believe I get to be here and do this. This environment and the one I grew up in are completely opposite. To grow up on streets so rough the concrete was soft and then to be here, it’s ironic” he said.

After fleeing South Sudan with his single mother and seven brothers and sisters as refugees, Abe described coming to Australia in 2004 as nothing short of magical. He said only a few years ago he couldn’t read or write a word of English and now he was creating art and connecting with people in ways he never would have imagined.

“I was volunteering for the Salvation Army and I found this book, One Hundred and One Disney Classics, it had Pinocchio and Dumbo and even though I couldn’t read I was so excited by the drawings. I thought ‘I should be able to read this’ and so I went home and my mum told me that since I knew what my weakness was now, I could turn it into a strength.”

“From that day on I started looking at the alphabet and lip-syncing words. I listened to a lot of hip-hop so I started writing music to express myself and what I couldn’t put into a rap song, I would write into a poem.”

Abe later went on to become an Australian Poetry Slam Finalist in 2013 and has since been invited to perform around the world at events like the 2014 Glastonbury Festival of the Arts and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. 

Currently he is finishing the last of his ‘March of the Restless Wolves’ co-tour with Australian Poetry Slam Champion, Jesse John Brand. Admittedly, Abe says this tour has been a learning process for him but the crowds who turn out for his shows make it all worth it.

“Slam poetry is storytelling, which is one of our ancestral responsibilities in my opinion” he said.

“The fact that it’s starting to take Australia by storm is not surprising. Like remember when hip-hop blew up? It started in the Bronx and then it went on as far as Japan with B-boys and B-girls. No body owns that culture, it’s a way people connect all over the place. Just like here with slam poetry, people are starting to recognize the power of their voices and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Abe Nouk preforming in Brisbane (Photo by Martin Ingle/Gawky Media)

Abe Nouk preforming at the Brisbane Ruckus Slam (Photo by Martin Ingle/Gawky Media)

Abe will be releasing a book of poetry titled Dear Child this March. For more information about Brisbane Slam Poetry and how you can participate visit Ruckus Slam.