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Podcast spotlight: Audacious

First established in 2015, Audacious is the audio-journal of arts organisation Melbourne Spoken Word (MSW). Each ‘issue’ of the paid-for audio-journal is produced as a quarterly album of spoken-word performances. A live component, Audacious Live, will involve a line-up of artists featured in an upcoming issue performing commissioned new works for the event. Asked why he thinks people are attracted to this format, MSW director Benjamin Solah said, ‘I think spoken word is immediate, in that you can hear the tone and inflection from the person performing. And they have much more control over how it is heard, and the poetry tends to be much more immediate—often vulnerable and confessional.’ He spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

For new or uninitiated listeners, describe your podcast in under 50 words.

Audacious is like a podcast, like a spoken-word open mic night, like a poetry journal, like an album. Featuring an eclectic range of spoken-word voices around Melbourne, it’s a sampler of what spoken word has to offer in Melbourne.

What makes your your podcast unique?

There are very few audio publications like this that explores poetry as the spoken word; that looks at the way things sound, not just the language used. We’re very clear that we want to focus on a cross-section of what Melbourne offers in terms of spoken word; it’s taken from the live scene.

When and how did you get started in spoken word performance?

I was introduced to spoken word when Santo Cazzati, another Melbourne spoken word artist, invited me along to Passionate Tongues, an open mic night in Brunswick. After reading a poem nervously on stage that first time, I just kept coming back until people liked my work enough to invite me to perform as a featured poet.

Where and how is your podcast recorded (and how big is your team)?

Audacious is usually either recorded from submissions from poets, and many are record or re-recorded in my home office. Audacious Live is going to be recorded at The Melbourne Spoken Word & Poetry Festival in May.

Our team doesn’t just work on Audacious, but events and the organisation as a whole. We usually assess the submissions and I work on the recording. We had an amazing sound engineer, Mandy Petit, who since moved back to Queensland, but haven’t yet found someone to replace him that’s quite the right fit.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

We get a lot of support from those already familiar with the spoken-word scene and those curious about what spoken word is and all the different things it can be. We mostly reach Melbourne audiences but would love to reach beyond that.

What have been your most popular guests or most memorable episodes? 

A couple of years ago, we launched Issue Three as a single-poet issue, collating the works of Santo Cazzati. The issue featured a number of suites, each track numbering a few poems blending into each other, mirroring the way he performs poems live, with no applause, introductions or banter in between. The launch was very bizarre. Santo hid in a backroom for most of it and I wasn’t able to tell anyone if he was turning up to his own launch, as poets were invited to perform defenses or prosecutions of Santo in a mock-trial of sorts that was kind of also like a funeral given he wasn’t there. That was, until he emerged at the end to perform and defend himself. The launch ended with Santo climbing a ladder, arms outstretched as a kind of crucifixion and resurrection. It was not our biggest launch but those who were there still talk about it today, and those that weren’t there really wish they had shown up.

It’s that kind of relationship between the live event and the recordings as an artifact that make Audacious exciting to produce.

What recent trends have you noticed in audio storytelling? (Do you have any predictions for this format in the future?)

We’ve definitely found—at least, with submissions to the current issue—that there is more interest in accompanying the poetics with music or soundscapes, sometimes in quite experimental ways. Previously, if most poets wanted to be published, they’d have to submit the text to journals. Now that we’ve done this a couple of times, people are starting to think about how the recording can be different to the page, but then also how it can be different to it being live.

How do you fund the podcast? Do you have plans to explore other funding options?

So far we’ve funded Audacious via pre-orders, through a cover charge at the launch of the issue, and general sales. As we move away from printing a CD to making it all-digital, we’re definitely looking at grants and other funding options so we have more security around paying the poets and upgrading some of our recording equipment.

What plans do you have for Audacious Live going forward?

With funding, an expanded team, and perhaps a dedicated producer/editor, we hope that we can make it much more regular; four a year would be ideal. But we’d love to get the funding first to do that.

What other podcasts, or spoken-word performances, should we be listening to, Australian or otherwise?

We love listening to LAPKAT’S La Danza Poetica. For a more international look at spoken word, there’s Alice Allan’s Poetry Says.

We also love listening to Write About Now from the US: it’s a YouTube channel but very much about what you hear as well as what you see.

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Category: Features