The Adelaide Review sat down with Gemma Boyd and Wallis Prophet from Draw Your (S)words and Lou Heinrich of Subtext to discuss their origins, their upcoming collaborative event and the importance of giving a platform to diverse voices.
Draw Your (S)words is a monthly open-mic poetry night that has long established itself to those both in the scene and out of it, as a safe, supportive place for both timid first-timers and spoken verse-veterans to share their stories on stage.
Draw Your (S)words takes up residence at a handful of Adelaide hidey-holes; with its mainstays of late being Mama Jambo and Ancient World.
The atmosphere is one of collectively dropped guards and calmness; people are shuffling their cue cards over a pint or quietly talking together before the show starts. There is a lack of pretension in the air that is, unsurprisingly, very conducive to the sharing of spoken word- even for the most meek.
Gemma Boyd (left) and Wallis Prophet (right) helped found Draw your (S)words
This atmosphere, Boyd and Prophet, explain, has been there from the onset.
“It’s such a safe environment,” Prophet says, “people are really supportive of one another.”
“You get people coming along who don’t want to perform but the next time they come you see them put their names down. It’s really great to see them get that boost of confidence from watching other people do it.”
Running for over two years now, Draw Your (S)words formed after the pair’s first meeting back in 2014, when Prophet came third in an event Boyd also performed at.
Post-gig, Prophet reveals that she approached Gemma with an idea for organising a regular poetry night; “a week later we sat down together, and we were like, ‘let’s do it!’”
“I’d been on the scene since 2012, and it was kind of poets-seeing-poets,” Boyd says.
“We all knew each other- which is nice; its lovely… but I think we wanted to grow on it. We wanted to give people a microphone.”
Lou Heinrich of Subtext
Helping individuals find their voice amongst a nurturing community is a sentiment equally shared by Heinrich at Subtext Collective. Heinrich, a freelance writer, felt there was nowhere non-fiction and feature writers could go to learn and hone their craft.
“There’s a lot of great stuff happening, but [with] a big focus on fiction…I went to the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne, which is a place people can go and gets lots of advice about different aspects of writing: from how to transfer dialogue you’ve heard onto the page or how to do super and tax when you’re a freelance writer -which is terrifying,” she laughs.
“There’s this range of practical to craft which I felt was kind-of missing especially in terms of non-fiction in Adelaide,” Heinrich explains.
“But also, I felt as though there were a lot of things happening and I couldn’t tap into it; I wasn’t part of a community. We all need guidance and it’s hard to know whom to ask for advice. So we hope to collate all the stuff that is happening and be a source for that [and to] create a community where people can learn and get tips off each other.”
This creation of community is something Heinrich has been seeking to achieve through monthly writing workshops, and events such as the upcoming collaboration with Draw Your (S)words.
The idea was sparked after Subtext made contact with Alok Vaid-Menon; a non-binary transfeminine writer, artist, community organiser and one half of Darkmatter: a trans, South Asian performance duo based in New York City.
NYC-based writer and performer Alok Vaid-Menon
Vaid-Menon is a strikingly honest speaker, who harnesses vulnerability into strength; using language to cut through presumptions and dissolve prejudices that surround people of colour in the LGBTQ community.
“Subtext is keen on non-fiction and Alok’s work could be seen as that- but I [felt] weird running a poetry or spoken word event”, Heinrich says of her decision to reach out to Draw Your (S)words.
“I thought, I don’t have an audience and you guys do- you make a safe space and you have a diverse crowd… where it’s safe for the queer community. So I kind of wanted to use your audience really…”
“It’s genius!” Boyd laughs.
“[But] we’d been talking about this heaps lately though – getting people over,” Boyd continues.
“We’re still about supporting the talent we have here, but also opening minds to other people.”
This Heinrich affirms: “I really believe in amplifying diverse voices. I’ve got privilege: I’ve got a platform. [So] it’s important for me to use the space to allow other people to speak who have different experiences”.
The evening of poetry and power will take place at Mama Jambo, October 17th at 6pm.
Book your tickets at trybooking.com