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Senior wordsmiths use poetry to reflect on lives well lived

Twenty seniors, aged 70–98, have taken part in an inspiring slam poetry workshop, culminating in their work being showcased at the Byron Writers Festival.

Gran Slam is a collaboration between performance producers Everybody NOW! and aged-care provider Feros Care, which gave the seniors a creative outlet through two weekends of workshops under the guidance of award-winning poet David Stavanger.

“There might be a perception that the only writing older people do is their will and letters to the editor of their local newspaper, but Gran Slam has challenged those tropes, the stereotypes, the ideas, the limitations that people put on older people,” Stavanger said.

 

My head is a kaleidoscope at circling merry-go-rounds.

My heart is a wire stretched beyond

My Dreams, ready to snap

My Dreams are not pedestrian sitting in a tired chair

I am writing this on the tree of my youth

I am writing on a rainbow

I am running a white light on a rainbow.

Alan Harkness – 88 years

“I’ve learned that desire is sustained throughout a lifetime – whether it’s to keep moving; to stay on one’s feet; for companionship; to turn and see the back of another’s head on a pillow – the passion that came through the poets writing was palatable.

“These beautiful breaths, these beautiful pauses, and this willingness to push yourself outside your comfort zone at any age, has me totally inspired.”

The workshops yielded poetry that gives voice to a group who often feel ignored. Under the theme ‘If I died tomorrow’, the work sees the group open up on moments and feelings from their lives. They prowl and prance around a boxing ring in the performance video, as slam poetry is as much performance as it is literature.

Gran Slam poet Wendy Taylor said: “It’s been an incredible experience, and an honour that Feros Care and Everybody NOW! put on something for people over 70 – usually things are for people from 18 to 35, and now we’ve had a chance to excel at being older.”

Fellow poet Felicity Gordon said that despite her initial reticence, projects like Gran Slam are important as you age.

“As you get older and illness happens, you can get a bit lazy; this project inspires one to go again,” said the 79-year-old.

“To begin with, I resisted participating because it’s away from my comfort zone, but I was inspired and impressed by the marvellous crew from Feros Care and Everybody NOW!”

One 98-year-old Feros Care resident, Nina Marzi, has well and truly caught the writing bug and can be seen in the performance film revelling in the recital of her poetry.

“Since I started doing Gran Slam, I can’t stop writing! I have woken up at 4am the last two days writing, writing, writing.  I said to myself, ‘Why do I write so much? I need only a few lines!’ but it was just so interesting, and the words just kept coming,” she said.

“I think challenges are very exciting because it is an important discovery of yourself, who you are, and what you can do.”

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