A quick word with Sydney’s champion wordsmith

Jessica Santosa “poetry in action”

I recently managed to tie down wordaphile Jess Santosa long enough to extract some brain juice perfection from her. Jess is the only Sydney national finalist in the Australian Poetry Slam to be held on December 1 at the Sydney Theatre. The crowned champion will win a generous literary festival globe-trot and a chance to shout at and inspire the world with his or her  philosophy, gripes, greatest fears and neatest rhymes. Wordsmith extraordinaire, musician, espresso fanatic and all round sweetheart, Jess chatted about “all things words”.

Q. What is your favourite word?

Pulchritude (also, “pulchritudinous”) = meaning beauty (or beautiful)

Q. And words that rhyme with that?

Verisimilitude, multitude

Q. Who is your favourite wordsmith and why?

Tough one! Either Maya Angelou or Chuck Palahniuk. Maya for her straight talkin’ no bull dust, woman-of-wisdom sass, and Chuck for his skills in economical storytelling.

Q. What is the last book you read?

1984 by George Orwell (it got really dark for my liking so I didn’t read the ending

Q. Do you blog or tweet?

Blog – definitely! I love having a pretty space online to reflect back on what I’ve learned and been through. My current page http://jasantosa.tumblr.com is full of poetry, quote-art that has inspired me and photos of barista art, (their canvases being the face of my morning coffee).

Q. At what point did you think ‘Hey, I’m actually an awesome poet!’?

Rae Desmond Jones was the feature poet at an open mic night at Sapphos Glebe in September. After performing my piece “The Difference Between Poetry & Music”, he approached me and said “now that was very clever”, also leaving me a free copy of his latest book! I felt like I had just been accepted into the poet’s community. Lou Steer, my Poetry Mama, encouraged me to enter the APS Hurstville heat that night too. It was the start of poetry and me, as if together we could wow the world and release any ear into their own uniquely designed callings. It’s thrilling to hear testimonies of how people become inspired to dream bigger.

Q. What’s so important about an opportunity to get involved with the Australian Poetry Slam?

Being surrounded by poets who encourage you to just find your own voice and be true to your convictions. I love how real everyone was at the state finals. It’s ironic that it’s a competition and yet no one was particularly competitive. I think poetry exudes out of a pure heart, so a heart that is so caught up in winning will be transparent when performing. Better to have peace and resolve with the message you have delivered.

Q. What superpowers would your superhero alter ego have?

Teleportation!!! I would snap my fingers and bring you gourmet take away coffee in your lounge room, hahaha.

Q. What’s your self-medication of choice?

Laughter. Bucket loads of it.

Q. Lastly, what advice do you have for other wordsmiths out there just trying to get a word in?

Journal regularly. Without fail I have a coffee every morning, with my Bible, journal and favourite pen and mind map everything that is inside my head. This way you will get to know yourself better and establish exactly what you want to say to the world. Next, write three poems, show them to close friends and fellow wordsmiths you respect, and if they approve,  practice your lines; practice practice practice until you can hear your poem speaking to you. And finally, try them out at an open mic. Don’t be precious. Accept constructive criticism. Count every bit of feedback as an opportunity to refine your craft.


The national finals of the Australian Poetry Slam is on December 1 at the Sydney Theatre. For tickets and more information visit http://australianpoetryslam.com/about

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