My Generation: Four Talented Poets

Meet these four talented poets you need to keep an eye on: Marist College students Jennifer Rockwell, Amy Crerar, Pearl Muzariri and Tiara Rico

(From left) Pearl Muzarir, Jennifer Rockwell, Amy Crerar and Tiara Rico in the gardens of Alberton House. Picture / Babiche Martens

Marist College students Jennifer Rockwell, 18, Amy Crerar, 18, Pearl Muzariri, 17 and Tiara Rico, 16, have just represented New Zealand in Sydney, competing at The Final Verse, the first transtasman high school poetry slam.

What is it about spoken word that you love?
Pearl: The fact that we can freely express ourselves in an uncensored art form, and being able to be the voice for our generation.
Amy: Each of us were attracted to spoken-word poetry for different reasons but all share a common love for the passion and the depth of the art form. Spoken-word is a totally free, uncensored form of expression wherein we are encouraged to speak out on the things close to our heart. Words cannot describe how empowering it is to stand up and give voice to something, especially when you have a personal conviction. We are definitely learning as we go to acknowledge the intention for each piece as this is an artist’s fuel and motivation for their performance. The audience can tell if you deliver something with sincerity and conviction. The rawer, the better.
Jenny: There is something so powerful about speaking words. For thousands of years words have been spoken to stir emotions; to motivate, to cause fear, to bring about change and used in war as a battlecry. Spoken-word, in a sense, is the modernised version of something that has been done since the beginning of human civilisation. Using words to express not only oneself but to tackle everything from injustices to humanities overpowering questions of “why”?

Tell us about some of the messages or themes in your poems, and why you’ve tackled these particular topics.
Jenny: We have a mindset that is very intune to one another. We are all feverishly passionate about the injustices in our world and the complete lack of freedom to express these as well as the often intentional — even more often subconscious — ignorance we [have about] the corruption we as Westerners continue to create.
Amy: We tend to address issues of growing concern, such as social injustice, discrimination, violence/abuse, mental health and religion. These topics tend to be rather controversial and this is exactly the sort of thing we like to challenge. Although progress is being made to shed some light on these issues, many remain hidden or unheard of. This is not healthy nor is it reality and each one of us aim to create a normalcy around speaking the so-called “unspeakable”.

Why do you think it’s important to be able to express yourselves in this way?
Jenny: Spoken-word poetry has provided each of us with a platform to voice the things that we have been brainwashed from birth to ignore. People are often hostile when faced with truths that threaten their way of living and stir (very natural and necessary) feelings of guilt or shame, which often coincide with change. People make a conscious effort to attend spoken-word events and bring a sort of openness with them very rarely found in any other environment. This means it’s the perfect place to be able to speak out about these things and have them well received in
order to start conversations that need now more than ever to be had. We also believe in the power of self-expression and freedom, and strongly believe every person should have the right to express their fears, their beliefs, their hopes and dreams in a way that is authentic to them. We have found that slam poetry as an environment breeds this creative freedom and self-realisation.
Amy: Because we have been spoon-fed by our society from a very young age to keep quiet on such topics, which we have come to learn is very wrong. Spoken-word poetry has provided each of us with a platform to creatively express the things that have been brewing inside for a long time. We believe that every person should be entitled to freedom of expression, for it is this that will empower and give form to the world in which we live.

Tell us about your creative process and how this is different from traditional poetry.
Jenny: There is a lot more fluidity in the shape and form of spoken-word poetry than traditional poetry. There is so much freedom in terms of how the piece is written, and for all of us we let the poem be shaped in whichever way it decides it wants to be and however it needs to be said to best express what is on our heart. All of us agree that we write in bursts of inspiration, or rage, or fear or whatever emotion, often catapulted by an event or interaction.
Amy: Generate ideas at 3am, start crafting the next morning, repeat! We’re pretty spontaneous with our work; something will spark a brainwave and we will be scribbling away until our pen loses its ink. In preparing for our trip overseas, however, we have needed to put some sort of structure in place, and this has been somewhat of a challenge.

How does it feel to stand on stage performing alongside your friends?
Jenny: Empowering! We all have vastly different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences yet for a moment we are all in complete harmony speaking on something which binds us together and to which we all deeply relate.
Amy: It is a beautiful feeling to know you have a support system right next to you that is just as firm in their belief of their words as you are of yours.

What sort of impact do you hope your poems have on the audience?
Jenny: I want people to feel uncomfortable; to be slightly pushed outside their comfort zone and to be challenged to really think in a way that is confronting, beautiful, terrifying, and always necessary. I really believe the only place we can truly grow is where we are uncomfortable.
Pearl: If even one member of the audience was touched and took a personal meaning away from our poetry, that would be enough of an impact in itself.
Amy: Although there are more opportunities with a large audience, it isn’t about size or scope, it’s about the viral power of what we are speaking.

Would you agree there’s an element of rebellion or protest in your poetry? If so, in what ways?
Pearl: There’s an element of rebellion against having to conform to society.
Jenny: Spoken-word to me is protest. It isn’t just empty words — our words hold a purpose much bigger than ourselves — to stir, to educate, and to make people uncomfortable with and unable (for those three minutes) to ignore the truth. In a sense it is a battle cry against the injustices of our world.
Amy: Definitely. Although I prefer the term “unconventionality” or “non-conformism” to rebellion as it suggests that giving voice to such topics is acceptable. As strong believers in pacifism, spoken-word is the perfect way to provoke thought without causing harm or destruction. All four of us feel it is our responsibility to shed some light on the issues and ideas that have been silenced throughout the generations; we have tremendous privilege as Westerners, so why wouldn’t we use this?

(Results of The Final Verse competition were not known at the time of going to press.)

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