Poetry slam of many tongues

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THE Canberra Multicultural Fringe is almost upon us and there’s a new initiative – Canberra’s first multilingual poetry event.

Felix Machiridza
Zimbabwean musician Felix Machiridza… MC at the “Mother Tongue Multilingual Mic”.
To be sure, there will be the “all singing, all dancing theatrical extravaganza” from artists such as Alison Plevey, Qwire, MC Wizz and Mr Tim. And there’s the promise of a racy, late-night variety show hosted by Chris Endrey, of “In Canberra Tonight”, and Alison McGregor on February 12.

But the new kid on the block, “Mother Tongue Multilingual Mic”, looks diversity right in the face as it aims to showcase “the beauty and variety of the world’s languages”.

Audiences can expect Canberra poets to weave stories in Bengali, Indonesian, Persian, Igbo and Hindi, all under the watchful eye of MC, the Zimbabwean musician and Child, Youth and Family Gateway social worker, Felix Machiridza.

Fluid transition between languages is the name of the game these days. From Sydney comes showcase performer Liz Dakash, well-known from the Bankstown Poetry Slam and for her seamless performances in Arabic, Bulgarian and English. Dakash won the 2014 Amnesty International “Eye for Eye” Poetry Slam and the 2015 Sydney Multicultural Poetry Slam.

“CityNews” caught up with the organisers Jacqui Malins and Lauren Harvey, both poets based in Canberra, but they’re keen to keep a low profile and let poets from more diverse backgrounds than theirs have the centre stage.

As you’d expect from a pair of poets, they wax poetic, saying: “If poetry is food for the soul, then the many languages we speak offer a banquet”.

Liz Dakash
Liz Dakash… winner of the 2014 Amnesty International “Eye for Eye” Poetry Slam and the 2015 Sydney Multicultural Poetry Slam.
Malins and Harvey have been watching the rising interest in multilingual performance poetry in Sydney, noting that it doesn’t always work because of translation problems, with the usual mainstage solution involving translated poems projected up on huge screens well beyond their financial resources.

To get around this, they’ve asked each performer to present a brief précis at the beginning of their poem. So far, the pair have been very pleased and even surprised at the response to their callout and are confident of a lively event.

But they’re taking no chances, so they’ve also engaged the musical group Tapestries of Sound led by Mahesh Radhakrishnan, with Indian classical dance from Jennifer White.

Other eyes will be on this event; Sunday, February 21 is the UNESCO-designated International Mother Language Day and the Canberra Mother Language Movement committee, which is organising a lakeside walk and entertainment, is keen to pick up on this very desirable craze in previously monolingual Australia.

Mother Tongue poetry showcase, Canberra Multicultural Fringe venue, Bailey’s Corner carpark, 2pm–4pm, Saturday, February 13. Fringe, February 12-13.

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