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Slam poetry moves youngsters

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 09:03 04/04/2014
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ

Slam poet Elise Wilson, 16, performs her poem Lonely Girl.

Elise Wilson
JOSEPH JOHNSON
SLAM POET: Elise Wilson delivers her slam poetry at the opening of a new centre for youth activities in Tuam Street, opened by the White Elephant organisation.

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Slam poetry is a global, social, literary movement. The spoken word form owes a lot to hip-hop culture.

Cashmere High School student, Elise Wilson, 16, was introduced to slam poetry by her English teacher, Daisy Timo Lavea.

''I love doing it,'' Wilson says.

''My English teacher is amazing. She got me into it. That made me keep writing. There are lots of teenagers really getting into it as a way to express themselves. Especially after the earthquakes, it brings up pain and a lot of people use it to express that.

''Everyone's piece is different because everyone is living a different story.''

As part of a project called Rising Voices, last year a group of young people were offered six weeks of intensive poetry writing and performance workshops.

Wilson was one of them. Her moving poem Lonely Girl is one result.

She hopes that others will read or hear her poem and connect meaningfully.

''Even if one person can read the poem or hear it and be inspired by it, that is my motivation.''

She sees a need for slam poetry events that cater for young poets outside of the pubs and bars in which most slams are held.

Recently she organised her own slam poetry night at Christchurch's Beat Street Cafe.

''Lots of young people are into it. I wanted a place for slam poetry so I made it happen. Lots of people turned up for the open mic. I think I was the youngest."

She says it takes courage to perform something intensely personal.

''Lonely Girl was written out of frustration of seeing so many girls my age trapped. It was my way of trying to reach out to girls and say we all try to make ourselves perfect but we always find ourselves lost. I wrote it from a place of trying to get my head around it too.''

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- The Press

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