Creative Writing Students Deliver “Awesome” Slam Poetry Workshop at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre

Slam Poetry Program at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre
Kelly Palmer and Jonathan O’Brien

In a first for QUT’S Creative Industries Faculty, two Creative Writing students delivered a Slam Poetry workshop for adolescent males in Brisbane Youth Detention Centre. Despite some initial apprehension prior to the workshop, it was very was well received and the students young offenders produced some powerful and moving poetry.

Kelly Palmer, who is studying for her PhD in Creative Writing has been delivering Slam Poetry workshops for school students in Equity targeted schools as part of the university’s Widening Participation program in the Creative Industries Faculty since 2015.

Fellow undergraduate student Jonathan O’Brien ably assisted her. The Widening Participation program is a Federal government initiative to raise aspiration for university study among students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Slam poetry can be likened to rap, it’s written and spoken to a rhythm, with the emphasis on performance. Its focus on personal and social themes makes it a particularly potent genre for adolescents and adolescent offenders in particular. Warm up exercises and games encouraged the lads to express their thoughts and feelings in a short poem.  At one point in their performances, the boys asked Kelly and Jonathan to stand up and perform a slam poem, which they did to the approval of the tough crowd. The workshop was very well received by the group, with students claiming that it was “awesome” and two students saying they would like to come to university.

Emma Felton.

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