In this issue, UNIT-E had the opportunity to interview Luka Lesson, a hip-hop and slam poetry artist hailing from Australia. Luka currently holds the title of the 2011 Australian Poetry Slam champion and has spoken to young people across the world on self-empowerment through the written and spoken word. Recently, UNIT-E spoke with Luka on creativity, writing, and his own personal experiences with slam poetry.
UNIT-E: Can you describe slam poetry in five words?
Lesson: The best thing since life.
UNIT-E: Can you describe the time when you first realized that slam poetry was something you absolutely had to do?
Lesson: It was a classic next generation moment. Youtube, a Def Jam poetry episode, Lemon Anderson and Mayda del Valle ripping into a raw piece together. They killed me into submission.
UNIT-E: What does your writing process typically look like?
Lesson: It doesn’t look like anything in particular. I often say my process is different for every poem I have written. There really aren’t many that are similar. Sometimes, I write ten pages just to get it down to one piece that is only a page long. Other times I write everything from start to finish, and not one word is cut or deleted. One sitting, 12 stanzas, one page and there it is – finished. One of my poems took a year to write, another took half an hour. They are both equally as loved by people who hear them.
UNIT-E: What do you hope to communicate through spoken word?
Lesson: The entire spectrum of human experience.
UNIT-E: Among the poems you’ve written, do you have a personal favorite? Why?
Lesson: I love the poem about my grandmother; I will be performing it until I am as old as her.
UNIT-E: What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
UNIT-E: Where do you typically find inspiration?
Lesson: More than other places at the moment I find inspiration in my memories. I feel like I have a backlog of stories I need to share, and I won’t be writing in the moment very much until I get more of them out.
UNIT-E: What’s the best advice you’ve heard, or that you can give, on how to be creative?
Lesson: "Write not from the perspective of giving answers, but from the perspective of asking questions." – Hinemoana Baker
UNIT-E: In your opinion, what is most significant about spoken word, and where are you planning to go with it?
Lesson: Spoken word is a key into a million and one worlds. Its simplicity means it can be anything to anyone. It can go as far as the poet wishes to take it. It can unlock prejudice, destroy people and raise them up. It has so much power because it has the ability to allow people to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. Not many art forms can do this. Spoken word can also be terrible, boring, annoying, spiteful, disgusting or just plain bad. All of what goes into a good poem is invisible, you can’t add lights or sounds or hype, but so much work goes into a good piece and performance. I love that it can’t be seen, but can be felt. You know when a great poet takes the stage, and yet when they step off they are exactly the same person. No costume change or even dropping of an instrument. You are the instrument. I am planning to go as far outwardly and inwardly with this art form. Forever.
UNIT-E: Any last words of advice for the young, aspiring poets out there?
Lesson: Connect with your heart in writing, but don’t make it cheesy. If you can balance those two, you’ll be fine.
To read more about Luka’s work or his recently released poetry collection The Future Ancients, visit his website at http://www.lukalesson.com.au/
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Kathleen Ma, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.
Photos courtesy of Very Quiet (Flickr)