Oral Goes Viral – Reversing the Print Revolution

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Marsden, Peter H.
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This paper attempts an evaluation of the phenomenally rapid growth over the past few decades of spoken-word poetry – a genre which is currently attracting more and more exponents across the globe, whose work is being disseminated with increasing speed to a worldwide audience. It is a genre both facilitated and shaped by the most modern of electronic media. After revisiting classic definitions of orality vs. literacy as media of communication, particularly in poetry, the paper goes on to illustrate the phenomenon via an examination of specific instances of a relatively recent revival of the oral tradition by Aotearoa New Zealand poets within the broad context of the Maori Renaissance. These authors, ranging from Hone Tuwhare via Muru Walters and Apirana Taylor to Robert Sullivan, might be said to have paved the way and set the pace for the meteoric post-millennium emergence of a substantial cohort of predominantly female poets from a Polynesian – and very often specifically Samoan – background, among them notably Sia Figiel, Tusiata Avia, Selina Tusitala Marsh and Courtney Sina Meredith. What these two groups have in common is their location on the margins of society and their articulation of protest against the associated status quo.
Aotearoa New Zealand poets, Maori Renaissance, Spoken word poetry