Q&A With Australia's Youngest Poetry Slam Champion
Ahead of the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival, TCI has a quick Q&A with the 2017 Australian Poetry Slam champion, Solli Raphael.
At age twelve, Solli took out the title of champion at the Australian Poetry Slam with his poem ‘Evolution’. At age fourteen, he is not only an accomplished poet, but he has written his first book and performed in front of audiences of thousands. The young wordsmith will appear at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival where he will perform and share his knowledge of slam poetry.
TCI: How did you first encounter poetry, and what drew you to slam poetry?
SR: Recalling the first time I encountered poetry is a little challenging for me as my family have told me that they read poetry to me when I was a baby, and I then grew to enjoy all the Dr. Seuss books, and other rhyming books. I discovered more technical styles of poetry in Grade Four, and from there I found slam poetry when I discovered it on YouTube – I liked that it combined my love of music (rhythm) with words in a meaningful way.
TCI: How did you find your voice as a poet? Was it a deliberate process, or did you encounter it unexpectedly?
SR: I found my voice as a poet around the age of six when I wrote a lot of rhyming stories and tongue twisters. But I was discovered as a slam poet when I won the Australian Poetry Slam event when I was twelve, making me the youngest ever winner.
TCI: What has your experience been like since winning the Australian Poetry Slam – you’ve had lots of amazing opportunities, have any stood out as highlights?
SR: Winning the Australian Poetry Slam was amazing! I didn’t enter to win, and basically felt excited just to share my poetry at the Sydney Opera House and hearing others share their slam poetry, too. I’ve had some great opportunities as a slam poet, like being offered to perform solo at the 2018 Commonwealth Games live in front of 35,000 people. I also really enjoyed performing my poem “We Can Be More” at the 2018 TEDx, and more recently on The Project.
TCI: You’ve said that your poetry is driven by a desire to create change. How did your passion for humanitarian and environmental causes begin?
SR: My passion for humanitarianism and environmental conservation has always just been something within me, like poetry, I think. Having grown up on the land, within environmentally-aware communities and also with a family who enjoy discussing global matters, I found that I just wanted to do what I could about the issues that I learned about, like unsustainable deforestation which I’ve written two poems about so far.
TCI: With events like the School Strike for Climate, do you feel like your generation are more aware of the issues around them than previous generations?
SR: My generation are probably more aware of global issues than previous generations because we have instant access to the 24/7 global news cycle, and we’re also living in a time where we have scientific facts alarming us to take action about issues that will directly affect our futures – like food supply, plastic pollution, imbalances in the natural environments and biodiversity, extinction of animal species, and even water and air quality.
TCI: As part of Brisbane Writers Festival 2019, you’ll be sharing your knowledge of slam poetry with other school-aged kids. Do you think slam poetry has more potential to drive change than other forms of poetry and writing?
SR: Slam poetry is awesome, and I find it’s an empowering and powerful platform for sharing ideas and for driving change. It’s kind of like rap and because it has a lot of creative freedom, and it’s maybe a bit more engaging or fun to listen to than traditional poetry… even though I also like writing poems using traditional styles like the villanelle or sonnet.
TCI: You released your first book, Limelight, last year. How did you find the experience of writing a book, and did you approach it similarly to how you write poetry?
SR: Writing my first poetry book, Limelight, was so much fun! It was a lot of hard work too, especially when I had to make sure there weren’t any typos. I had a structural vision for what I wanted Limelight to be like, such as the front cover and what I wanted to include in the book such as tips that could help others write and perform poetry. Like writing poetry, when writing a book, I choose the topic that I’m inspired to write about, then I collect my thoughts, facts and information, and then I begin writing.
TCI: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out with slam poetry?
SR: There’re quite a few tips in Limelight on how to start writing slam poetry, but my first tip is always find what you are most interested in and then write about ‘that’. If you write about what interests you, you’ll probably have emotions, experiences and thoughts that you can put into your poem which creates relatable content, depth and makes it interesting for others to read (if you’re ok sharing your work!).
TCI: What’s your ultimate goal with your writing and the platform it offers you?
SR: I love writing, so I hope to write and publish books forever. I’m also writing music now which I’m really enjoying. Overall, my main goal would be to continue writing, raising awareness for all the important issues that affect us today and in the future.
What: Brisbane Writers Festival 2019
Where: State Library of Queensland precinct, Stanley Place, South Bank.
When: 5 – 8 September 2019
Tickets: Tickets are available from this link.
More Info: https://bwf.org.au/