Alicia Sometimes seeks out the most exciting spoken word artists in the land for your reading/listening pleasure.
THE OFFICIAL BIO
Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian writer and slam poetry champion of Afro-Caribbean descent. She is the author of the poetry collections Gil Scott Heron is on Parole (Picaro Press, 2009) and Nothing Here Needs Fixing (Picaro Press, forthcoming), the title poem of which won the 2013 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize.
Maxine’s debut short story collection, Foreign Soil, won the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and will be published by Hachette Australia in early 2014.
As a spoken word performer, Maxine’s work has been delivered on stages and airways, and in festivals across the country, including at the Melbourne Writers Festival (2008,2010, 2013), Melbourne International Arts Festival (2012), the Arts Centre (2009) and the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival (2013).
Maxine’s short fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous publications, including Overland, the Age, The Big Issue, Cordite Poetry Review, Harvest, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, Unusual Work and Peril.
She is the poetry editor of the academic journal Social Alternatives, and is the spoken word editor at Overland literary journal.
Find her words here.
The Blue Corner has allowed me to gush and I am unashamedly going to do so each month because there are so many great orators, so many spoken word artists who uplift, engage, baffle, excite, break you, put-you-back-together-again and make you want to be a better writer. Maxine is one of these. Firstly, her voice is tantalising and warm. Each story she tells invites you into a world that carries you away. Her worlds are real or dark or funny or shocking and they are most certainly hers. She owns words. When I first saw her read I already thought she was famous and somehow I hadn’t heard of her yet. She will surprise and delight. She is like most of the best spoken word performers I know – she is multi-versatile, jumping from genre to genre as easy as switching grains of bread. From poem to short story to novel. She inhabits all these forms effortlessly. (And I love how she blogs or tells you on Facebook the behind-the-scenes of her literary life). Winner of the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, she is just swinging along. Going up and up and up.
I started falling in love with words…
when I first heard them as sounds, muffled by the drum beat of my mother’s heart and the red blood coursing through her body. I feel in love with them again later, when I heard, but didn’t understand them: when they soothed my crying, scolded me, crooned me to sleep. And later as a toddler, when my own tongue began to speak them, cradling and savouring each new sound with wonder and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
Then I became even more besotted as they were read out to me from beside brightly coloured intricate illustrations between the covers of classics such as Mister Magnolia, Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Then again, when I could write them – carve these wondrous symbols next to each other to make rhythm and meaning, string them together to form story and song. And I fall in love with them every time I read J. California Cooper, Jamaica Kincaid or Ntozake Shange, or hear warrior women like Zora Howard, Jean Binta Breeze or Staceyann Chin wield them expertly at the mic, fierce and fighting with their tongue weaponry.
The first time I knew I was hooked was…
at the first poetry slam I ever entered, the NSW Writers’ Centre/Gleebooks Poetry Sprint back in 2006, when the audience fell quiet and gave sixty seconds of their undivided attention to my words, story and voice. I realise again exactly how hooked I am every time I sit down with pen and paper, dictaphone, or laptop, how that compulsion to craft words is a thing overpowering, a thing unquenchable, a thing undeniable, a thing overwhelming and in that moment of creation, a thing all-consuming.
Poetry (or spoken word) means…
communication, sound, word, the way it was supposed to be – winding around the tongue, singing itself out, carrying on sound waves and sneaking into the ear-drums of others. Spoken word is primal speech, message-making, prophecy, history, war-cry, victory wail. Spoken word is testimony.
Other poets I adore are…
in the grungy pubs, festival circuits and literary stages of Melbourne, Def Poetry jamming live from the infamous Nuyorican cafe on YouTube, blaring through iTunes, raging across the many poetry compact discs I’ve somehow accumulated over the years. The poets I adore are on commercial radio disguised as rock stars, crouched between the covers of yellowing books stashed in the back corners of local libraries.
I love the sounds of…
children learning to talk, leaves rustling in the wind, the microphone crackling or whining just before a poem takes flight, the breath a poet takes just before they deliver that first line, the applause after they have delivered, expunged, conquered. I love the sounds of Nikki Giovanni, Gil Scott Heron, Saul Williams, Zora Howard, Jean Binta Breeze and Staceyann Chin. I love the sounds of my comrade Melbourne spoken word poets: this raggedy band of incredible wordsmiths who inspire, annihilate, interrogate and contemplate my words, and me theirs.
If I could tell you one thing…
I would combust in the deciding. There are so many things that need, and want, to be said that I’d be way too often anxious about choosing.
Alicia Sometimes is an Australian writer, poet, musician, co-host of 3RRR’s Aural Text and a past editor and long-standing contributor of Going Down Swinging (co-editing issues No. 18-No. 23 and contributing to issues No. 14-No. 17 and No. 25-No. 29).
Photo by Michael Reynolds