In December, three poets of different faiths entertained and challenged synod staff over a special lunch to celebrate diversity through Slam Poetry. Slam Poetry is a competitive public performance where participants read or recite original poems and audience reaction determines the winner.
Organised by the Commission for Mission’s Uniting Through Faiths unit, the event included a Q&A facilitated by project officer Larry Marshall.
First to perform was Ee’da Brahim, an artist, singer and poet of Indian/Malay Muslim heritage. Attendees were delighted by her passionate love poems and a moving a Capella performance of her self-composed song ‘Spirit Speaks’.
Freeman Trebilcock, a Buddhist spoken word performer (state finalist, Australian Poetry Slam 2013) and social entrepreneur was the second to perform. His poems were a mix of political and personal, and used imagery and metaphor to support his faith-based ideas. One of his poems titled ‘Will you walk with me?’ touched on issues such as asylum seekers, climate change and Indigenous disadvantage.
Last to perform at the luncheon was Meena Shamaly (pictured), a composer and spoken word poet who has worked alongside acclaimed local and international poets in Melbourne and abroad. Raised Coptic Orthodox Christian, his heritage is part Egyptian, part Lebanese.
In one poem Mr Shamaly used a superhero metaphor to highlight the flaws in the way Australia handles the issue of asylum seekers. In another, written about his Christian faith, he described Jesus as “entreating a humanity to live his love as its creed”, to which attendees clicked their fingers in support – an equivalent, in slam poetry circles, of applause.
After the performances, the participants discussed the effectiveness of slam poetry as a powerful tool for change in cross-faith and cross-cultural dialogue.
“I believe in the power of stories. All faiths express their deepest truth through stories,” Mr Trebilcock said.
“Poetry is an exploration of my faith, an extension of my spiritual journey.”
Mr Shamaly described the value of slam poetry as ‘a very uncensored art form’.
“Nobody’s really going to be upset about you talking about your faith in performance poetry,” he said.
“It’s very honest, very raw; it’s speaking about what you really know. I also think it’s more accessible to more people than other art forms. And there’s a lot of freedom in the form itself.
“I find my faith to be an evolving thing, and sometimes I explore it through poetry. And I get to know others really well, and their thoughts, through their poetry.”
Ms Brahim believes performance poetry gives her the opportunity to have a voice and tell stories about cultural issues that need attention.
“Slam Poetry is a direct way to be heard. And I feel responsible to the community and myself to be a voice of change,” she said.
Go to https://vimeo.com/cfmucvt/videos to see the poets in action.