Bravo Child is an acclaimed Sydney based performance poet who has starred in productions at the Sydney Opera House and the State Library SLAM poetry competitions. Here, he talks about his complex, compelling craft.
Do you think of yourself more as a performer or as a poet?
I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller, that is the underlying drive, the poetry and the performance assist in relaying the ideas. I think some of my performance definitely breaches the definition of ‘poetry’, so if I had to choose, perhaps performer? Though they defining characteristic of poetry, as I define it, is that it has been distilled down to its potent essence. I would always aspire to attribute that to my work as well.
So, you’re a performance poet- do you write your poetry with the intention of having it spoken? Do you think people could read your poetry on a page without losing something?
Yes definitely, the rhythm of spoken language and the physical tool of expression, (breath, voice, mouth etc), is taken in to consideration either when writing or editing my work. I always like to think the content has merit too, so hopefully it still holds value on the page. I don’t think the entire meaning or art of it would exist though, without the human delivery.
Do you write poetry with the intention of performing it and communicating to an audience, or is it more about you expressing yourself and working through things for yourself?
I write with an audience in mind. Often for a particular audience in fact. I very rarely perform the same set twice. I have a ‘stable’ of work which I draw from and remix as bespoke pieces for the occasion. I don’t really find I need to vent myself as a therapeutic process, though I can definitely see this as a vital attribute of writing for some. For me the moments I work for are those set in crystal clear air; the heightened seconds as words are presented as ideas, exposed. It is a very intimate experience to speak one’s poetry and to have it received by an attentive audience. Even if I don’t know a single person in the crowd, I fall in love with them for those moments. It is so important to me that they receive the concepts into their universe. I would do anything for them, to show them that I mean what I am saying and that I am changed by their presence.
Performance poetry is very strongly associated with hip-hop and rap. What role does music play in your performances?
Musicality is one of the core pillars I base my teaching on when running poetry workshops, (the others being Content and Language). Music is so immediate. It is a form of aesthetics which actually exists in a very tangible form. We can FEEL vibrations; hit in the stomach by a kick drum, tingle with resonance of woody reeds, wince at a crash symbol’s piercing “sssshing”… While I believe human beings have an innate sense of connection with aesthetics, few are as primal as music. I bring dynamic flow and rhythm to my work through both body and voice. I love fricative diction; the hum drumming of a tongue enunciating, tasting latent embres of the endless fire we breathe. We passionate dragons, saddling language under the ‘Performance Poet’ banner.
Of course performance poetry is not only associated with hip hop due to the musicality. The conscious voice and representing of Self are also key uniting factors.
At the EWF you’ll be working with writers at the Creative Writing Bootcamp. Can you give us a preview of some of the advice you’ll be giving to the aspiring poets?
I am revitalised by living, breathing language. ‘Animation’ comes from a word which translates to ‘a bestowing of life’. I focus on bringing movement to ideas through the performance of poetry. Stripping back considerations about what is ‘correct’ and instead working on a more instinctual level with words. Conversely I believe, if one is going to reach a level of true understanding of the art, one should develop a control and dexterity to precisely craft a poem at any time, on any subject! Not being subjugated by the whim and waft of one’s own artistic caprice.
To achieve this I pull poetry apart, dance around it, soak it in saliva, mingle and mumble it and eventually forget all about it and just say what I really mean.
If the Emerging Writers’ Festival gets your creative juices flowing, you’ll be able to visit Bravo Child for his poetry expertise at the Creative Writing Boot Camp. He will be joined by Sam Cooney, Leigh Rigozzi and Zena Shapter. You can purchase tickets to the Emerging Writers’ Festival by visiting our product page or calling the NSW Writers’ Centre on (02) 9555 9757.