Slam Dunk: Game Changing Poetry with Solli Raphael


Limelight by the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam, Solli Raphael, is a slip of a book, barely a shiver of autumn breeze, yet between its snappy tri-coloured covers beats an enormous heart of passionate ability.

Barely 13, Raphael tentatively turned his attention from writing and performing poetry to recording the evolution that resulted in him being a virtual overnight poetry sensation. For those like me that enjoy poetry from afar, dabble in the most basic of poetic structures and, up until a few literary festivals ago, thought slam poetry involved a shot of tequila and a lot of gratuitous shouting (and had no idea why anyone would want to encourage that sort of activity in a children's writing festival), this book is a revelation.

Raphael writes with unfettered, youthful candour describing his passions for sport, music and the arts, namely writing. His zeal translates into an introduction that is both chatty and inspiring. He credits his primary school teachers and his ancestry for opening up his 'wonderful world of poetry' and since the tender age of nine when he penned his first haiku poem, has never looked back.

Humanitarianism is his other true love; helping people be the best they can be. It is this driving force that enables him to write about 'change that makes tomorrow even more awesome than today!' What a noble motivation to live and work by.

Solli performing Australia Air at the Australia Poetry Slam 2017

We learn how he entered the Australian Poetry Slam 2017 because his mother wanted to enter. His compulsion to beat her obviously worked to overcome his debilitating stage fright because much to his surprise, he won! Before inviting the reader to enjoy a selection of his original work, Raphael escorts would-be poets on a personal journey of idea gathering, figurative speech definitions and writing activities that easily matches the content of some sophisticated 'adult' writing workshops that I've attended. There's even a top 10 list of ways to overcome the dreaded writers' block, all incredibly useful tips even for seasoned writers of prose.

The Poetry chapter is then where the fun amps up. Some of Raphael's poems are illuminating and upbeat, others assume a more serious tone asking the reader to search within themselves for answers to questions about climate change, the environment, social toxicity - the future.


For readers of his generation, these are pressing concerns even if they are not always foremost in their minds. When performed with the impassioned, perfectly timed execution this young artist seems naturally imbued with, slam poetry, which incidentally has nothing to do with tequila slams but does warrant the occasional loud exclamation, is a thing of infinite beauty to experience.

Limelight is a unique pairing of emotive poetry and autobiographical writing inspirations that primary aged kids, poetry lovers and anyone who has an interest in positive action and social change will benefit from. Read it then explore some of Solli's various live performances to complete your introduction or enhance your appreciation of slam poetry.

But wait, there's more. Now I'm no poet. I've never written or performed slam poetry in my life. I don't even like tequila! But when asked by Book Links QLD to 'slam' my predictions for the recently announced 2019 CBCA Book of the Year Award Shortlist, how could I resist! Fortunately, Solli has nothing to fear career-wise but happy to report, it was a fun night of sharing a roomful of more real 'game changing' children's books. Did I succeed? You tell me...


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