Interview: Slam For Your Life

This Saturday six of the most exciting poets from the new crop of Jo’burg poetry talent will take to the stage to do battle. Slam For Your Life will see Conelius Jones, Mandi Poefficient Vundla, Elysium Garcia, No Life, Andrew Manyika and Mpho Khosi do just that…slam for their lives.

1380148_4743940576924_1396061693_nPhotographer: Philiani Hadebe | Designer: Kagiso Tshepe

Sidenote: Big up to your team, this was one
of the most exciting visual campaign for
any event we’ve seen in…forever really.
The photography, design and concept is
on point. Salute!)

We caught up with three of them ahead of this ultimate clash of the poetry titans.

1. Name 3 reasons why you will be winning the slam. What makes you better than the competition?
Andrew: #1 I write like there’s no box to think outside of; #2 in the not so famous words of Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” – “There is a competition in me, I want no-one else to win.” #3 And of course, I’m “Concept, The Ideas Man”

Mandi: 1. Everything is possible. 2. I am possible and because 3. I’ve grown remarkably from slams

Mpho: Why I will win, it’s in the rounds themselves. Round 1 is the incorporation of music with poetry and I feel I have been able to do that very well and can go on beyond this round. Round 2 is for theatrical pieces, I write mostly narrative poems which are easier to adopt for theatre. Round 3, slam, I may not be the “talk of the town” slammer, but I have proven that when pitted against the best, I can bring my own.

2. Who is your toughest competitor and why?
Mandi: I am my own toughest competitor. This competition is about challenging myself more than challenging others. Can I be better at this than what I already am?

Andrew: Oh these are some of the best slammers in the country, so it’s hard to pick just one. I feel like I’m going into this as the underdog, and I’m very good with those odds, they’ve always worked for me.

Mpho: Here everyone is tough competition; this is because the slam is designed in a way that allows everyone to show off their strongest capabilities.

3. Who do you think will be first to be eliminated?
Mpho: Anyone can be first out, this will be toughest round to judge hey.

Mandi: I come with no expectations! It could be anyone.

Andrew: Haha, geez, don’t hold back, ask some really tough questions why don’t you!? Here’s what I know, no one can touch the poem I’ve written for the 1st round, so I haven’t even thought about who’ll survive the fallout from that. What I have thought about is who I’ll be pitted against in the last round.


4. Does the competitive element of a slam take away from the art of poetry?
Andrew: Once the word “winner” comes into play (as it does in a slam), it implies the word “loser”, and ego simply cannot be absent from that setup. So the writing that went into this slam, was directed toward eliminating the competition. Stylistically, it’s different from the poetry that I write simply to write.

One can still create beautiful art even in this context, so I wouldn’t say it’s “bound” to take away from the art of it, but it can because on some level it’s about presenting what you think will win as opposed to writing simply what’s in you.

I once posed the question “would you write if there was no one there to listen?”. My answer is that I would, in fact I often write as though that were the case. But when you’re slamming for your life, it’s a different ball-game.

Mandi: Not if you have matured in this field. You know better than to write for anyone but yourself.

Mpho: Competitive poetry allows one to enhance and better themselves, so it does not take anything away, rather it allows one to see how far one is and grow more. I always perform to share my art, winning is a bonus.


5. What do you think of additional elements to performance poetry such as props and music? Do they add or take away from the poetry itself?
Mpho: Additional elements help enhance once performance, depending on how well one can use them, also one needs to be careful not to have those elements be the showcase and over-ride the poetry.

 Andrew: I draw a distinction between poetry, performance poetry and slam poetry. I distinguish between poetry, prose and play (theatre). Without getting too technical, in my view, as long as it’s a “poetry” performance, then the biggest factor should be the story you’re telling judged primarily on the strength of the writing. This applies to performance poetry as well. Everything else in performance poetry (music, props, actors) must work together with, and not overshadow, the writing. I say this because you can hide poor writing behind how you present yourself, and that’s not cool. Ultimately, this is poetry not drama.

Mandi: They challenge the competitor to utilise those tools to enhance their truth.


6. Why are you taking part in this slam?
I’m taking part to go toe to toe with the best in Jozi (even though we are missing a couple of other names), and see how far I have come.

Mandi: Because Masai pulled out and I was asked to replace him. Initially I had reserved my right to say ‘NO’!

Andrew: I’m probably going to be taking a different direction in terms of my art in the future. So, while I’m still slamming, I enjoy being pitted against the best. Oh, and the money’s nice too.

Also the formats for the different rounds of the show will help us to showcase the different styles that can be used to present performance poetry. I think this is vital to industrialising poetry to the point where a person can say “I wanna do this for a living” and not be looked at as a loon.

In order for poetry to become a “top of mind” choice for event organisers, promoters, writers, corporates, and mainstream media, we have to push it, and this will be one of the ways we’re doing it.

This is one show you definitely don’t want to miss so make sure to be at the Market Theatre Lab (inside the Bus Factory) on Saturday 4 October at 1pm.


…in #WordNSound we trust…

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