Conversations about performance poetry, spoken word, improv, punk and hip hop poetry, poetry set to music, lyrics vs poetry and related topics.

Alex Taylor

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Alex Taylor

Alex Taylor Photo: Striped Trees Photography

Alex Taylor, composer, curator of the Intrepid Music Project, multi-instrumentalist, poet and blogger talks with Kenneth Young.

Zech Soakai: Slam poet

17-year-old poet Zech Soakai returns to the fourth year of The Rising Voices Poetry Slam in the Auckland Town Hall concert chamber. He speaks to Eva about what inspires him.

NZ Society - Survivor Poetry

Doc Drumheller and Ciaran Fox at the Survivor Poetry auditions
Doc Drumheller and Ciaran Fox at the Survivor Poetry auditions

At the recent Open Mic event, auditions were held for Survivor Poetry, a poetry slam/reality TV mash up which will be part of the upcoming Word Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

Based on the 'Survivor' television programme, the show pits performers against each other in a series of poetic challenges. Katy Gosset braves the auditions.

Kate Tempest

kate tempest brand new ancients

It was The Wu Tang's GZA who first told an 18 year old Kate Tempest she was a poet - she’d rapped her way backstage after one of his shows, on a mission to showcase her skills to her hero. He was impressed.

Now 27, she’s a rapper, but also award winning poet, playwright, and novelist. She’s taught creative writing at Yale, won poetry slams in New York, been published by Picador, had plays staged around London, been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and had a band who put out an album and played all the major European festivals.

She’s juset released her first solo album, produced by Dan Carey (who’s worked with Bat For Lashes and Hot Chip amongst others) and released on respected UK label Big Dada.

She’s had to fight for her place in the hip-hop world though. As Kirsten Johnstone found out, Kate Tempest is not your stereotypical rapper.


Artist: Kate Tempest
Songs: Theme From Becky, A Hammer, The Beigeness, Lonely Daze, Circles, The truth.
Composer: Tempest/Carey
Album: Everybody Down
Label: Big Dada

Ben Salter in session

An unlikely friendship between Australian musician Ben Salter and Grey Lynn punk-poet Tourettes was struck up when the likely lads crossed paths on their respective OE's in Iceland. They've reunited in New Zealand this week for a nationwide tour. Ahead of their run, Ben Salter joined Tourettes in the Music 101 studios to play some songs.

Feature: Laurie May - Alice Springs slam poet

Anglo-Indigenous Australian Laurie May is a resistance poet from Alice Springs who challenges societal norms and perspectives on poverty through her spoken-word poetry. She is known for her clever, often humorous, wordplay and identity-politics themes. Laurie is in New Zealand to perform in Hamilton and Wellington.

Musician John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats

Charlotte Graham talks to John Darnielle, who sets poetry to music as the leader of American indie outfit the Mountain Goats. Since he began the project in 1991, his work has gained a cult following, partly for his ability to cram richly-cast narratives and stories about the transcendence of existential pain into two to four minute songs. Darnielle has been referred to in the New Yorker as "America's best non-hip-hop lyricist"; Paste magazine named him one of the "100 Best Living Songwriters"; and his fans once started a petition to have him made US Poet Laureate.

In this interview, he talks about some of the philosophies behind his music, and newcomers to the Mountain Goats are given an introduction to his songs.

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Spoken word poet Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet from New York. She began performing her poetry at 14, and in 2006, she joined the Bowery Poetry Club's Poetry Slam Team, NYC Urbana, and competed in the 2006 National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas - at which she was the youngest competitor. She has performed in venues across the country including Lincoln Center, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the United Nations, where she was a featured performer for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report. Sarah also co-founded and co-directed Project VOICE, which teaches spoken word poetry in schools and workshops all over the world. She talks about truth, creativity, and storytelling.

Sam Hunt Vs Tourettes

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Auckland punk-poet Tourettes gets a master class in performance poetry from fellow bard Sam Hunt.

Living by the voice inside from THE WIRELESS NZ on Vimeo.


Playing Favourites with Tourettes

Auckland author, poet and rapper who last year completed an artist's residency in Iceland writing a novel.

Performance poet Ali Jacs

New Zealand's representative at the recent Women of the World Poetry Slam in the United States... in fact Ali Jacs was the only 'foreigner' taking part in this performance poetry event. She shares her impression of the Poetry Slam scene in North America and compares it to the much younger scene here in New Zealand.

Chuck Perkins

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Running a venue can be a thankless task and poet Chuck Perkins has found it tough after buying Cafe Istanbul in St Claude, New Orleans. The work involved has meant he's had barely a moment to hone his particular brand of performance poetry, which is often backed by musicians playing an improvised blend of soul and jazz specific to the Crescent City. Music Mix host Nick Atkinson caught Chuck on the phone outside his new joint. Lionel Batiste's Treme Brass Band provides the soundtrack.

John Cooper Clarke: poetry and punk

John Cooper Clarke

John Cooper Clarke Photo: CC2.0 Bryan Ledgard

An English performance poet who rose to prominence in the 1970s punk scene, John Cooper Clarke continues to entertain and has just announced he'll be visiting NZ in April. He had a good old natter to Kim Hill in 2012.

Skip to tour details.

Copper Clarke left school at 15, a mod with a love of classical literature and word-play.

"The best advice I ever got - and I think I might have given it to myself - was that, if you're going to write poetry, find a poet you like, swipe their style, only: write about the world that you know. And that's what I did... swiped the style of Alexander Pope, and applied it to life in the North West of England in the mid sixties.

"And I've kinda stuck with that rhyming kind of style. Quite old-school in many ways.

"I've kept everything low tech. There were people doing what I'm doing now a thousand years ago."

John Cooper Clarke came to prominence performing alongside Manchester bands including Joy Division and the Buzzcocks. His occasional backing band The Invisible Girls included Factory Records producer Martin Hannet and other well-known musicians of the time.

Clarke was in the audience for the first Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976 - a show famous for the number of people who claim to have been there, and for inspiring those who were there to give it a go themselves in bands like the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths, and more.

"I had great hopes for them [the Sex Pistols] at the time because they were so very very different from everything that was around when they happened ... I'll tell you what confounded my expectations ... I was expecting a large degree of technical ineptitude, you know what I mean? Music-wise. But the one thing that blew me away was, they were fantastic! They were better than anyone around. Steve Jones has always been, and certainly remains a kick-arse rock'n'roll guitar god."

"I'll tell you who was tougher than the punk audience. This is why the whole punk thing held no terrors for me. For a couple of years preceding the punk thing I'd been doing gigs in the Working Men's Clubs of the Manchester area. And one thing you could take for granted about those audiences was: none of them was particularly interested in poetry. When punk came out, it seemed like a doddle compared to the Working Men's Clubs."

John Cooper Clarke remains a popular festival and touring act. His profile got a boost when his (Not Safe For Work) poem 'Evidently Chicken Town' was used to powerful effect in the closing scene of a Sopranos episode.

"That did fit in extremely well, that did. I just said, "Yeah, yeah, of course". Just being associated with that in any way ... that's TV's greatest hour, after The Simpsons"

Tour details:

  • Sat 21st April - Crystal Palace, Auckland
  • Sun 22nd April - The Vic, Devonport
  • Mon 23rd April - St Peters on Willis, Wellington
  • Tues 24th April - The Piano, Christchurch

Laurie and Alwyn Lewis

Jazz musician/arranger and poet who created choral setting of Mike Nock's 'Land of the Long White' - to be premiered by Orpheus Choir at Wellington Fringe Festival.

Ross Harris - Wild Daisies

This well-known cycle is loved by performers and audiences alike. It was written in 1994 around a set of evocative poems by Wellington based poet Bub Bridger. Performers: Soprano, Jenny Wollerman; Piano, Emma Sayers

Tourettes - Tiger Belly

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People's poet and working class hero Tourettes has made a career out of his mission statement of "getting the words out of my head and into yours", and on LP number four he's been assisted by producer Karl Steven, working side-by-side in Steven's Mt Album bedroom to put 'Tiger Belly' to tape. Sam Wicks talks to Tourettes about unleashing his new album.

Hip Hop Shakespeare

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Akala is the younger brother of the double BRIT Award-winning Ms. Dynamite. He uses hip hop music to bring back the voice of London's original street poet William Shakespeare to a whole new generation. Sam Wicks headed along to one of the Hip Hop Shakespeare workshops Akala delivered in July, where Auckland youth to talk to the Camden wordsmith. You can find Akala's Hip Hop Shakespeare Company online at

Access All Areas: Attila the Stockbroker

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Ranting poet 'Attila The Stockbroker', real name John Baine, has been a politically active punk poet and road warrior for over 30 years delivering his own brand of uncompromising mile-a-minute performance poetry to a niche global audience. For Access All Areas Trevor Reekie talks to Attila about prose, poetry and political agenda.

Dudley Benson - Forest

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Reworked songs by the late Maori composer, poet and author, Hirini Melbourne. With the exception of Taonga Puoro played by Hirini Melbourne collaborator Richard Nunns, all of the songs on 'Forest: Songs By Hirini Melbourne' have been reimagined with the human voice alone - including a capella ensemble The Dawn Chorus, beat boxer King Homeboy and 'Freak Folk' godmother, Vashti Bunyan.

Chapter and Verse

Buddhist Rain is the name of a new CD of Bill Manhire's poetry set to music by Norman Meehan.

Norman Meehan and Bill Manhire

NZ Composer and Poet talk about their collaboration on new cd: Buddhist Rain.

Kapiti - Call and Response

What will happen when a poet, a taonga puoro player, singer, painter, and audio producer are left on an island with only the birds, the seals, and spirits of the Tipuna of Kapiti to listen in?

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Photo: RNZ/Chris Reid

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Reporter Kirsten Johnstone takes us onto the Island to hear how the creative process is shaping up.

Glenn Colquhoun is writing seagull haka and poems about some of the notorious characters who've called Kapiti Island home, Whirimako Black is singing to the Whai (stingray) who flaps his wings around the shore.

Nigel Brown is painting Richard Nunns as a Tiki, while Richard is off having conversations with the very vocal native birds, and Riki Gooch and audio producer Victoria Parsons are capturing the sounds of rain falling on the leaves of the Puriri tree.

Charlie Dark

Poet, writer, teacher, producer, rapper, DJ. These are just some of the creative hats worn by British performance artist Charlie Dark.

Chapter and Verse - Gaylene

Dunedin poet and integral part of the city's underground music scene in the '80s and '90s, Gaylene, on gifting her papers to the Hocken Library.

John Dixon

Lucy Orbell looks at poet John DixonÂ's musical collaboration with Alistair Galbraith.

Sam Hunt and David Kilgour

Iconic poet Sam Hunt, and musician David Kilgour talk about their collaboration for the new album Falling Debris.

NZ Live - David Kilgour and Sam Hunt

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After a chance meeting two years ago, the considerable talents of The Clean's David Kilgour and poet Sam Hunt merged to produce the critically acclaimed album Falling Debris.

David Kilgour and Sam Hunt

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Falling Debris is the title of a collaboration between two fairly iconic New Zealanders, Dunedin musician David Kilgour and the poet Sam Hunt. Kilgour first thought of doing an album with Hunt almost 20 years ago but it took a chance meeting on a plane to make it happen. Hunt only ended up on the album as a sample recorded from a phone call. Hunt says he's more than happy to take a backseat vocally for once, contributing the words while Kilgour sang and handled the music.

Sonya Renee: slam performance

National and international Poetry Slam Champion, HBO Def Poet, and international touring artist championing social causes.

Chapter and Verse - Nikki Patin

Chicago based Def Jam poet and member of the American National Slam Team.

Sam Hunt

Poet and performer speaks about his upcoming shows with legend Leonard Cohen.

Anna Rugis : mouthfuls of music

New Zealand singer and poet who had an international career as a backing singer.

Playing Favourites with Ben Kemp

Poet and musician who has been living in Tokyo for six years, accompanied by flautist Mitsuru Ogata.

Harry Ricketts, Chris Price and Andrew McCallum on Bob Dylan

Three Bob Dylan fans - a professor, a poet and a policy analyst - talk about the man and his concert.

Poetry by kalen bloodstone CC

Poetry image by Kalen Bloodstone CC3.0

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.

– Carl Sandburg

The essentials of poetry are rhythm, dance, and the human voice.

- Earle Birney

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

― Leonard Cohen

Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.

- Carl Sandburg