Solli Raphael from Coffs Harbour, NSW has been crowned the youngest ever winner of the Australian Poetry Slam National Final, after delivering a mind-blowing poem to a full house of 550 at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday 15 October, 2017. Coming in second place by 0.1 of a point in a tie-breaking slam-off was Jesse Oliver from Perth, WA.
Stunning audiences with his intricate strings of internal rhymes, Solli’s first round performance addressed the stresses of modern life and the importance of political action at a breakneck pace, encouraging all to “breathe out yesterday’s air, and breathe in today’s opportunities.”
The final round saw Solli driving home his message of standing up to create change, with a rousing call to arms tackling the flaws of current Australian government, from the education system, to refugees and homelessness. Earning uproarious applause from a thrilled audience, he closed his poem urging everyone to “speak to those who don’t want to listen, and embrace our differences.”
“I never thought I’d win the National Final! I tried to write something that I thought would really speak to everyone, no matter their age or background, so I’m really glad that it resonated with everyone so well,” said Solli Raphael.
Both Solli and Jesse are winners of the dual championship. Solli will be awarded the Australian Poetry Slam Under 18s Prize of $500. Jesse Oliver wins the Adult Prize touring Ubud Readers & Writers Festival in Bali, Byron Writers Festival, Hong Kong International Literary Festival and Sydney Writers Festivals in 2018.
“All sixteen of the writers are incredible performers. The audience kept going crazy for each of them, so I really couldn’t have picked a winner. We were all pretty stunned by Solli. I kept thinking, “the intellect and confidence of this kid amazing! What if he actually takes the title?’” said Miles Merrill, Creative Director of Word Travels.
Jesse Oliver a trans-poet from Perth, WA writes about social justice, aliens, and star crossed love. Jesse delivers with an almost conversational style performance. Third place went Srisha Sritharan from Sydney, NSW with her passionate slam on racial heritage in Australia.
The evening also featured special performances by world-renowned slam king Ian Keteku, and Afro-Latina feminist poet Arielle Cottingham, both showcasing their devastating talent as performing writers.
“We remind each of the poets that the competition is just an artifice that gets the audience excited. The real win is that the Drama Theatre at Sydney Opera House is packed out and giving standing ovations for their poetry. ” said Merrill.
Last night’s National Final wrapped up three jam-packed days of poetry slams, forums, and live literary mayhem, which ran from Friday 13 – Sunday 15 October across Sydney.
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