Artist and poet Greg Smith and David Reimer will battle spoken-word style at the State Library of NSW next week as part of Australian Poetry Slam 08.

In its second year, the national poetry competition is Australia’s largest and richest, with a prize of $5000.

The pair will compete against NSW’s top slam poets at the state finals this week for one of two coveted places in December’s grand final.

An artist and storyteller, Greg first became involved with poetry when asked about the meaning of his paintings, which are a mix of contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art.

“People started to ask me because I am an Aboriginal artist `can I do a story to the paintings?’, so I said ` no worries’,” he said.

His poem Where Have All the Children Gone? won the semi-finals the first he entered.

“It was a bit of a shock to win,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it, I was knocked for six.”

Greg is a member of the Darug tribe. His strong spiritual belief is evident in his daily life and work.

“I do a bit of teaching and I say to the students `let it come from the spirit’,” he said.

“No matter what you do, art work or whatever, it has to come from within.”

David Reimer, 20, is also new to the slam poetry scene. The Parramatta heat recently held at Mars Hill Cafe was the first time he too had read his poetry for an audience.

The personal training student moved to Cherrybrook from California in the US a year ago. He heard about the competition while looking for a poetry club or group to join over the internet.

“Before I entered competition the largest group I had ever read my poetry to was an audience of two,” he said.

“The audience were very supportive, always polite and they clapped and cheered when we each had finished, so they made me feel comfortable.”

David was introduced to poetry by his high school English teacher and began writing his own five years ago.

“It’s hard to explain what it’s about I just write what I’m thinking at that moment,” he said. “I like to manipulate words a lot and to experiment with phrases and how things sound.”

The NSW state final will be broadcast live on ABC 702 during presenter Andrew Daddo’s program, from 7pm.

All contestants have just two minutes to impress the judges with their spoken word, poetry, monologues and stories.

“Contestants can speak, scream, howl, sing, even whisper their words,” said Slam co-creator and host Miles Merrill.

The top two state and territory winners will face a live audience at the Sydney Opera House on December 4.

The state final will be held at the State Library of NSW, Maquarie Street foyer, on Friday, November 21 at 6.30pm.

The cost is $22 or $15 concession.

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