If my poem was a Fringe show: Maddie Godfrey on glorious healing

IF MY BODY WAS A POEM maddie godfreyThe Perth poetry scene has been growing magnificently in the past 18 months, so much so we now have a crop of cool literary talent hitting the national and global scene. Maddie Godfrey is one of these rising stars. At just 21, Godfrey has been a finalist in the Australian Poetry Slam, won a swag of spoken awards throughout England and has even graced the stages of America with their explosive poetry, Godfrey’s poetry and presence enraptures the audience into the vulnerability and strength that comes with being a human. And Fringe World 2017, Godfrey is all set to debut their first full length theatrical work, If My Body Was A Poem

Can you describe your poetic style?

I asked my Dad this question and he replied “anarchist, feminist, vegan poetry” which made me laugh but I kind of like it!? My poetry style is honest about all else. I struggle to write about anything I can’t feel. Because of that I’d say my poetry style is also evocative, it tells stories, it captures attention and it maintains a fierce passion even in the softest moments.

What is at the core of your show?

If My Body Was A Poem is a conversation about how bodies exist as a canvas for social and political meanings.It is about taking up space, gender politics and sexuality verses sexualisation. The show addresses body positivity, bedroom mirrors, intersectional feminism and sexual assault. Imagine me covered in sweat, dancing furiously, with an Oreo in my mouth and tears in my eyes. That’s pretty much a visual representation of the show.

What led you to create this show?

Although it is a work of scripted theatre, it is based on the true experiences and conversations I’ve had with my own body. This show encapsulates so much of what I’ve been working towards as a poet for the last two years of my life. There’s a quote in Lemonade that says “If we’re going to heal, let it be glorious” and I’ve been thinking about that a lot in relation to my intent for If My Body Was A Poem. This show is not just about healing, but healing gloriously.

In recent months that society has been reconnecting with poetry, what with the large unrest the globe is experiencing – care to comment on our ‘collective return to poetry’?

I’m definitely seeing the reach of poetry widen. In my own experiences, I am getting lots of people approaching me after gigs who have never experienced Spoken Word before and it’s an honour to be their first exposure to it.

Right now I believe that people are reaching for some kind of hope. It hasn’t been provided by politicians, in any state. I don’t need to go into the details of that. Hope isn’t being provided by television shows or the media either, and I think everyone is starting to realise how biased and brainwashing most of these dominant broadcasting sources are. In the wake of all this loneliness and fear, there is stability in art which I believe that humanity is hungry for. Even when art is not hopeful, it has an honesty that breaks through the noise of contemporary society.

Spoken word poetry especially has the ability to tell stories and share experiences with heartfelt intent. My favourite example of this from 2016 was Kate Tempest’s release Let Them Eat Chaos which I believe captured all of the pain of London. I was lucky enough to see her dress rehearsal of the album in London, and there was a sense of unified hope in that room that I haven’t felt in a long time. Right now, we need spaces like that. We need people to hold and cry with. We need to fall in love with strangers and skylines. These are dark times and I think spoken word poetry can act like a narrator’s voice that guides us.

As an international award winning poet, what advice do you have for others who wish to pursue spoken word as a career?

Work your butt off. I’ve done really well for myself these past few years, and I’m still surprised about it sometimes. I’ve had some very cool opportunities to share my work and all of these have come from hard work and dedication.

If you want to be an award winning poet, you have to love yourself so fiercely that rejection doesn’t slow you down. Yes, always take constructive criticism. But if you believe in what you do, every rejection will simply be a push in an alternate direction.

I have failed spectacularly. I have forgotten words on stage, I have performed badly, and I have written some terrible lines. But I have persevered through all that. I think my most notable achievement as a poet over the past two years, is that I’ve remained passionate about what I’m doing. I still want to change the world.

How can poetry heal a body?

Poetry is not a band aid over the wound, it is the salt that hurts but heals. Poetry has helped me remember that my body is a home. Performance poetry has made me proud to stand on stages, in cities all around the world, and take up space without apologising.

If My Body Was A Poem appears 20th – 26th January, 8pm at Paper Mountain. Visit fringeworld.com.au for more information. 

Scott-Patrick Mitchell 

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