Bo Svoronos has what Londoners call a good sense of ‘street’. You can tell this just by walking down Melbourne’s hipster capital Flinders Lane, where he hands out flyers to all kinds for his next show. One minute it’s with the ‘Kafka-Latte’ crowd, next a kid with a skateboard.Because, hey why not? The best art is ecumenical and that’s Svoronos’ main tag. Svoronos is not an artist. He is a creative producer, that largely unsung middle man who manages artists tour dates, venues and, of course, the money to make it happen.
Truly ecumenical, his unique background is part Aboriginal part Greek. Over the years he’s been involved in countless Aboriginal and multicultural arts projects. Recently he’s been making trips to New York organising three local slam poets to tour Australia.
“It’s called the Global Poetics Tour and it’s going to five destinations on the Australian Eastern seaboard. The poets are coming to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra to do a series of writers festivals and independently produced events,” said Svoronos. This tour has been in collaboration with his co-producer Fiona Brook and an emerging poetry organization called the Centre for Poetics and Justice.
“As well with Auspicious Arts and the Torch Project to run community, indigenous and Youth workshops,” said Svoronos. Initially Svoronos met with the poets in New York at the Nuyorican Poets cafe, which is a hybrid New York-Puerto Rican poets collective.
“This was first started by Miguel Algarin in his lounge room in 1973. It became extremely popular and he moved the salon out of his lounge room into an Irish pub and then found the current premises that it is in now,” said Svoronos. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is in Lower East Side of Manhattan and has become an iconic venue for poetry and performance. “People would line up for two or three hours in the middle of winter, particularly for the poets I’m bringing over, just to get a spot to recite poetry or just be part of the atmosphere,” said Svoronos. These poets are Jive Poetic, Mahogany L. Brown and Ken Arkind. Ken Arkind is the 2006 US national slam champion and the Grand Master of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Mahogany L. Brown is the Slam team coach.
“The idea of slam poetry in New York is massive. It’s got a huge following, also in Europe. But in Australia it hasn’t really been picked up as much.” “It has that sense of the hip-hop movement when that first came out. But it’s kind of a multidimensional thing. It emerged out of its own development by Mark White back in 1984 in Chicago. And like hip hop, it has the same competitive form, to a certain extent. It’s judged by the crowd. It’s about delivery and content and making a connection with those people in the audience,” he said.
So, can anyone get involved, whatever his or her style might be? “Yes anyone, and it’s always open to interpretation. But there are perimeters. You may have three minutes to deliver your poem for example. You might see the difference in styles from a New York poet to a poet from LA. Poets from New York are really fast and full on,” he said. “But, in Australia, they might have a different style as well. So, the domain is quite broad and open.” So, if you are an Australian poet who is keen to bust your stuff, you can. The best way is to approach the Melbourne-based Centre for Poetics and Justice, organiser of events and numerous workshops.
The Global Poetics Tour is on from 31 August – 18 September. For more information, visit www.globalpoetics.com or www.cpj.org.au