Willow Johnson-Priester winner of Australian Poetry Slam Moree heat

Moree Secondary College student Willow Johnson-Priester proved to be Moree’s top poetry slammer, with an emotional performance during the Australian Poetry Slam heat held at Moree library on Wednesday.

Willow’s performance of her deep poem about isolation impressed the audience judges the most, and as a result she was crowned the winner of the Moree heat of the 2017 Australian Poetry Slam competition.

As well as receiving a $100 gift card, she now has the opportunity to represent Moree at the state finals in Sydney in October, along with runner-up Laura Adcock.

Willow has been writing poetry for about five years now and said she was thrilled to have won Wednesday’s heat.

“It was very exciting,” the 17-year-old said. “[Poetry] is a good outlet, a good stress-reliever.”

All up seven brave people of a broad range of ages got in front of the microphone to perform their original spoken word, poetry, hip hop, monologues and stories in front of a live audience of about 20.

Moree library assistant Sarah Dean said performer and audience numbers were an improvement on last year.

“We’re really happy with that,” she said.

“We had a variety of people come in including travellers, older people and young ones.

“It’s good to see a range of different people from the community come to support the local poets.”

Six of the seven performers were scored on their performances by five audience judges, who were picked randomly by this year’s Australian Poetry Slam host Zohab Zee Khan.

Zohab was the 2014 winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and kicked off the Moree heat with a lively performance of one of his own poems.

The audience was also treated to a compelling performance by last year’s winner Arielle Cottingham.

Earlier in the day, about 20 students from Moree Secondary College and Mungindi Central School attended a workshop presented by the Australian Poetry Slam crew.

“It gave them a chance to experience poetry in a different way to what they’d get in a classroom,” Ms Dean said.

“The first workshop was all about poetry and how to use things like similes, metaphors and alliteration to enhance a poem, while the second workshop was about how to present poetry, with students learning how to do podcasts and videos.

“The idea is for the workshops to give skills to anyone who wanted to enter the competition after the workshop.”


Australian Poetry Slam is a live literary performance competition where the audience is the judge.

Performing writers are given a microphone, a live audience, and just two minutes to capture the crowd. 

The MC selects five judges at random from the crowd.

After each performance, judges hold up score cards using a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest. Of the five scores for each poet, only the middle three scores are counted.

Two performers from each heat are chosen by their audience as local slam champions, who will then go on to state finals from which two powerful wordsmiths will be chosen to compete at the All-Star National Poetry Slam Final in Sydney.


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