Amanda Robinson meets five Auckland writers who are stunningly good at a much-derided art form – spoken word poetry.

Perhaps the most cringeworthy phrase in all the arts, the one that makes everyone recoil, including most poets, is “spoken word poetry”. But when it’s good, when a poem reading ends and you realise you’ve been holding your breath for the past two minutes, there’s nothing like it.

Five Auckland poets who have managed to wrangle this messy, often embarrassing form into something considered and good are Vanessa Crofskey, Ken Arkind, Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, Mohamed Hassan, and Carrie Rudzinski. I spoke to them about their work, why they do it, and what they think of contemporary New Zealand spoken word poetry.

Carrie Rudzinski

Her heart is a phantom of shoplifted fears: paralysed from the waist down.

A lot is said of making the personal political, but US-born Carrie Rudzinski’s poems are expert in making the political personal. She says, “Performing poetry is my career, it’s why I fell in love with my partner, it’s why I moved to New Zealand. It’s inseparable from who I am.”

Carrie ranked fourth in the World at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam and was named Best Female Poet in 2008 at her first national poetry competition. A published author, Carrie has performed and taught writing workshops around the world. She tends to write about what it means to be a woman alive in the world, and the way she walks through the space that has been given to her.

“The most important way for me to approach a poem is with honesty. I am most interested in writing about what it feels like to dig in the darkness.”

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