Australian Poetry Slams into the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast has seen a rise in poetry nights of late, with events at various venues providing a stage and crowd for budding poets and fans of the spoken word. With the Australian Poetry Slam again heading to the Gold Coast’s own Dust Temple in August, we thought we’d have chat with co-owner Isla Wilson to see what it’s all about. 

The Dust Temple has a bit of a history with poetry nights…

Dust Temple opened its doors in May of 2013. Before that time John and I had operated IRAcoffee, a small arts cafe in Tugun. This is where we started the poetry nights. The Sandpanther Slam was initiated by Louise “the poet” Moriarty who was our first ever resident poet in 2011. It was a small underground movement, attracting local hip-hop and spoken word artists. Being new to the coast it helped us to get a better understanding of the area and discover an amazing depth of talent. Through our poetry nights we not only meet storytellers and wordsmiths but also local musical poets like Felicity Lawless and Kate Leopold.

When we opened Dust Temple we continued the monthly tradition with Alternator Poetry Jam and have opened the scene up to a wider audience. Carla Versitano has stepped into the MC/host role and she brings such a fantastic energy to the evening. There is a sense of powerful connectivity, respect and support between the artists and the audience at our poetry events. We are wanting to develop it more and have a lot of ideas that we are consolidating for a bright poetic future!

Who are some of your regular poets? 

We now have a strong and regular rhyme of poets. Audiences regularly comment on the high quality and amazing range of artists who perform at our nights. Benjamin Wild has been a regular since moving up from regional NSW. His works are smart, alluring, thought provoking and always humorously bent, in the best possible way! Fatz, the magic Fatz, you have to see him to believe him! Bob Strum and his Sister Sue are both beautiful prose writers in the most eloquent of traditions. Caresse Cranwell has been delivering powerful political and philosophical words since the Tugun days. Caresse last year went on to represent the Gold Coast at the Australian Poetry Slam regional finals in Brisbane. She is a lover of nature, people and the rights of all living things. Rachael Dawson has been with us since the Tugun days also. She is an amazing, darkly humorous writer and storyteller. Josh Holms from Bigger than Poetry read his first ever poem in public at our Alternator Poetry Jam a few years back. He has gone on to do amazing things for poetry on the Gold Coast.

We have also hosted some amazing, internationally renowned feature poets such as Luka Lesson, Manal Younus, C.R Avery (Canada) Anthony Lawrence and the Late, Great, Daevid Allen.

Can you tell us a bit about the Australian Poetry Slam?

The Australian Poetry Slam has been running for over 10 years. It is the largest spoken word programme in the Southern Hemisphere. It has unearthed some amazing national talent and enhanced the career opportunities of previous winners. Luka Lesson, Omar Musa, Jesse John Brand, CJ Bowerbird to name a few. The exciting National Prize is an all expenses paid tour to China’s Bookworm International Literary Festival and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali. It’s a trip worth about $11,000. State winners around the country will receive a variety of prizes. They will also be invited to compete in the National Finals in Sydney.

As well as the local slammers on the night Dust Temple is honoured to host Queensland Poetry Festivals International Spoken Word artist Grace Taylor from New Zealand. Grace Taylor, 32 years old, is of English, Samoan and Japanese descent. Grace is a poet and performer who has been writing, performing, teaching and producing for the last 8 years. She has been a key spearhead in the development and growth of the spoken word poetry movement in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Why do you think that original poetry is an important addition to the cultural life of the city?

Poetry reflects what is going on politically, socially and economically in a culture and gives a voice to the people. It invests in the culture of the city by telling the stories of the people by the people. Through poetry we can define and drive our own cultural development. It is different to the top down development of culture, which often runs the risk of not hearing all the stories or silencing voices. I believe that the best cultural development comes from the underground, like a rhizome, creating beauty, that when spring arrives, raises it up. Culture is about having a future. We need to create that. We don’t need to be told the story that we are culture-less, this is so often heard on the Coast and it is untrue. We are just in the springtime of our cultural story, it is developing underground, ready come up and bloom.


Dust Temple hosts the Gold Coast Heat of the Australian Poetry Slam on the 24th August, in conjunction with APS and the Queensland Poetry Festival. The top two spoken word artists, as decided by 5 judges picked randomly from the audience, go on to compete at the State finals in Brisbane on 28th August at the Judith Wright Centre.


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