From lock-down aftermath to championship, Ren Alessandra performed from the confines of her desk in Melbourne, a city newly unleashed from Australia’s toughest COVID lock-down. Reaching through her webcam, she shook a screen-bound audience and five judges who crowned her 2020 Australian Poetry Slam Champion.

Ren performed powerful writing in two rounds. In her first performance, Ren used a metaphor of bleeding in the shower to lead us to how she found self-acceptance by shedding shame, expressing gratitude for her body and learning how to trust herself. In the final round, Ren encouraged us to break free of societal chains and speak our truth.

Australian Poetry Slam – National Final, 14 November, was the climactic closing event of International Story Week, presented by the literary arts organization Word Travels. “My heart is in my throat,” said Ren. “I’m so grateful to be part of this [performing writers’] community. It’s done wonders for my health and my identity to be able to share words with everybody. “As a writer, as a creative, as a woman, there is a lot of fear around the things that we want. This moment in my life is very much celebrating that journey of self-acceptance and self-love, and understanding what that means for a woman in our society.”

The 27-year-old has written all her life. She burst into the poetry scene in 2019; winning slams locally and internationally. She recently launched Wordcraft Creative Mentoring, which helps writers overcome the block of perfectionism that can stunt their manuscripts. “Each year is like a national election with over 1000 writers vying for the top spot. Australian Poetry Slam pivoted to a mix of 60 digital and live slams judged by audiences across the country,” said Miles Merrill director of International Story Week and Founder of Australian Poetry Slam.

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