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Meet Parramatta Poetry Slam host Troy Wong

Nic Dowse

Twenty-three-year-old spoken word poet Troy Wong is a co-founder of Parramatta Poetry Slam, he was a finalist at last year’s Australian Poetry Slam and this year he’s one of the hosts of Word Travels’ Story Fest – a three-day festival of spoken word poetry.

Despite his success, Wong is relatively new to slam poetry. He first performed in 2013 and his success has steamrolled from there. And he gets that spoken word poetry can be mystifying.

“People don’t know what slam poetry is and when they first learn about it, they’ll often say, ‘Oh is it like the poem Jonah Hill does in 22 Jump Street?’ My answer to that question is yes, actually. But not in a bad way,” says Wong, speaking to Time Out ahead of October’s festival.

Today, Wong is an English teacher and he performs spoken word poetry in the evenings – but before becoming a teacher Wong spent time working at the detention centres on Manus Island and Villawood, Sydney. Much of this earlier poetry was influenced by his time there.

Sukhjit Khalsa on stage
Poetry slammer Sukhjit Khalsa
Photograph: Supplied

“I don’t think I was ever fully successful in articulating [my time at Villawood],” says Wong. “I was very aware that I was writing about other people’s experiences and I didn’t want to hijack that for my own personal gain. I’m writing and performing much more personal work these days – taking it back to myself, to my upbringing, to my family.”

Wong tells us he grew up in a “pretty dysfunctional family”, saying that he no longer keeps contact with family members. “I was feeling was that I hadn’t resolved [experiences] for myself [but] I find that I can write about my family with a lot more clarity now.”

To hear Wong’s poetry in person, be at the Sydney Slam Final – where the best spoken word poets will perform to compete for three spots in the state final. Word Travels festival also includes a lyrical battle between Canadian slam king Ian Keteku and Aussie talents Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa (who appeared on Australia's Got Talent), Arielle Cottingham and Philip Wilcox. Plus, the big one – the Australian Poetry Slam national final on Sunday October 15.

Find out more about Word Travels Story Fest.

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