Interview with wāni Le Frère – Australian Poetry Slam Champion 2019

My full name is wāni Le Frère.
I just won the 2019 APS slam. I started doing poetry, I’d say like spoken
word poetry maybe about four or five years ago. I’ve always kind of like just
written in journals and then a friend of mine says, found one of my journals and
they were like “Oh I didn’t know you wrote poetry, that’s incredible. I thought
they were just diary entries.” So they took me to open mic and they were like “If you
just read out one of your entries” and I read it and they were like “Oh you know
spoken word is quite big here” I didn’t know what spoken word was so I Googled
it and found Def Jam Poetry Slam and you know kind of been in love ever since
I guess. I guess I’m really committed to finding new ways of telling stories and
especially stories from like communities like mine that, you know, aren’t often
platformed in the same way as other stories and growing up I felt like I was
surrounded by a lot of stories. I grew up in West Auckland, New Zealand at a time
where like it was heavy gang influence and affiliated and there was a
lot of poverty and I lost a lot of my friends to suicide. So writing just
became one of my outlets cuz it was like I don’t know, you got scared to be close
to people cuz you never know, you know, what could happen and there was a
lot of drugs or whatever and I just decided and made a commitment that like
I had to be different. I didn’t know what that was gonna look like, but, you know,
this is how I found my own path. I want to be able to like showcase it to the world in
a way that I think is deserving like kind of every other sport or every other
thing that’s massive, you know, I think being the Australian Poetry Slam is just
as big as, you know, winning the national basketball title, you know, and I think
it’s dope and I think people should know that. They should know how dope we are and
what we do cuz I think we hit places that most of them can’t always hit, you know,
we hit straight to the heart in ways that other mediums can’t hit so, yeah,
that’s kind of what I hope to be able to elevate with this title, hopefully.
I’m just committed to being honest with myself. I’ve always said I’m never gonna
say anything I don’t know, you know, I’m never gonna say anything outside of my
reality. I’m just gonna say my own truth. Whether that resonates with people, you
know, that’s not on me, but as long as I feel at peace about what I say and I
think like sometimes people see your willingness to be vulnerable in that way
and maybe that resonates with them. I don’t know. I’m just overwhelmed, you know, it’s like deep
down you aspire to this thing or you hope for this thing, but it’s not real
until it’s real, you know what I mean? And like you can say all you want about like,
you know, I just came here to just put my poem – no it’s a competition, you know,
and I don’t know, it just hit me different, you know. I aspired to it, but
you don’t always expect it. So it was like, it was dope. Interviewer: “How do you think your life might change now?” People might stop me in the street and be like “I want your autograph.” No, I don’t know. Hopefully I’m able to get
taken a lot more seriously in what I say because I’m already committed to
what I do, you know what I mean, but sometimes titles mean things and it’s a big title.

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