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Poetry for our times

What do you get when you mix performance poetry, spoken word and rap? Star-Crossed Poets, a group of Perth performers who will be mixing poetry with a little hip-hop at Fringe World. Jesse Oliver, founder of Star-Crossed Poets, gave Seesaw an insight into the wonderful world of performance poetry… including competing nationally!

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Jesse Oliver: I knew I wanted to be an artist when I realised that my poetry is worth more to me than having money. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of artists start. I left a full-time retail job and lived hard for the art! I’m just glad it paid off in the past year.

S: Did you do formal training, learn on-the-job, or a bit of both?
JO: In the few years leading up to the National Poetry Slam, I trained myself in my bedroom. I think you’re the hardest on yourself, the worst critic… but that can be a good thing! It just requires patience, forgiveness, determination and being able to recognise when something’s finished.

S: Describe your artistic practice.
JO: Usually my best work comes to me around 11pm when I’m falling asleep and I annoy my girlfriend by jumping out of bed and scrambling for a pen in the dark. Once I have these sleepy scribbles I make sure I make time to workshop them for performance. It’s a lot easier with the Star-Crossed crew because we have scheduled meetings. Every one of the team inspires me with their unique styles and it’s easy to roll with each other’s poetry. Two things we do always ensures a great session; laughs and food.

Jesse Oliver
Jesse Oliver, winner of the 2017 Australian Poetry Slam Championship.

S: Career highlight so far?
JO: October 15, 2017. After months of daily practise, I won the Australian Poetry Slam Championship at the Sydney Opera House to a crowd of 600+. Since then, I’ve been blessed with amazing opportunities like directing the National Young Writers’ Festival, a world tour and of course, starting my Star-Crossed crew.

S: Career lowlight?
JO: Not winning in 2015. I missed out on attending the Sydney final by half a point, and was so ready to give up poetry all together as I battled social anxiety. But on the plus side, it’s the same time that I met the amazing Perth Poetry community (SHOUT OUT!) and it was like a warm hug through a dark time of my life.

Seesaw: What do you love most about what you do?
JO: The intimacy, connection and liberation that comes from sharing yourself. Poetry is personal, when I’m on stage with a poem that’s true to who I am I feel like I’m flying. After the social anxiety thing, it’s the most amazing feeling to be fearless in your words and to have people clicking your truth. That’s the connection, having a whole room on the same page. (Fun Fact: Clicks are a poet’s applause, as clapping is thought to throw off a performance)

S: Tell us about your 2018 Fringe show, Star-Crossed Poetry!
JO: Star-Crossed Poetry is a brand-new show! It’s actually based on my own love life, told through poetry, rap and storytelling. I’m performing alongside some of Perth’s most talented young writers; Laundry Man, Demie Scally, Saoirse Nash and Jake “Wiseguy” Sulli. It’s a light hearted, funny journey through four stages of being in love; love, heartbreak, meaningless sex and something more. We’re all really excited to show it to the world!

S: What made you decide to give Fringe World a whirl?
JO: Some of the SC crew and I were heading back to Perth from the National Young Writers Festival. So we were hanging at the Sydney airport terminal when I saw that the Fringe registrations were open, and to be honest, also closing that night in exactly one hour. I have never mobile typed so fast in my life. But underlying this, I’ve just always wanted to do one. Also, sometimes I just cheekily want to see what I’m capable of, I’ve spent too long living in fear. Sometimes I surprise myself, other times I fall flat on my face. Thankfully, this crew has been the coolest thing I have ever put together.

 

S: What is your favourite playground equipment?
JO: I am NOT a fan of slides… When I was about eight I went down one after a kid who had peed himself and it’s never been the same for me. I like the weird animal things that are on a big spring, to this day I cannot resist a quick go.

Star Crossed Poetry’ plays Mezzanine Bar at Cheeky Sparrow and the Common Room at Paper Mountain, 29 January – 4 February.

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