By Natalie Freeland
Ahmad Al-Rady, founder of the Bankstown Spoken Word movement, is distracted. He seems perpetually in a rush. Twenty minutes ago, he swept into a crowded room and, with a winning mix of charm and eloquence, won over the audience with beautiful spoken poetry. As he talks, his face lights up, his gestures reinforcing the symmetry in his words.
His deep, expressive voice softens as he paints images in the air: a letter to his grandmother in Iraq; pictures of love and of hurt; nervous fluttering in the stomach; the sad progression to becoming strangers. They are moments that most of us wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with our closest friends, let alone in front of 50 strangers.
Ahmad Al-Rady: “A lot of people just want a poem; they just want to write and get up and say their piece.”
Being vulnerable in front of an audience isn’t particularly daunting for Ahmad. To him it creates this kind of rawness that overcomes any embarrassment.
“It’s the fact that you remind people that we all make mistakes, we all feel,” he says. For him, the spoken word achieves that, reminding people of the universality of the human experience.
Thoughtful and charismatic, Ahmad, 24, seems the life of the party. With a big boyish smile and dark friendly eyes, he’s reminiscent of the guy who was in every school – as school captain, top of the class, the most valued player in the footy team.
He laughs and says, “Yes, I was kickboxing and I did amateur fights. I was school captain and I was on the footy team. I can’t sit still. I’m too restless. I get bored with things quickly.”
This becomes obvious considering his life right now. He is co-creator of the Western Sydney poetry slam, completing his master’s degree in podiatry, taking part in a panel discussion at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, compiling his debut book of poetry, contributing to the Bankstown Youth Development Service. It’s all in a day’s work for Ahmad.
“I guess I see so much opportunity. And I think, I’m only here for a short time, I might as well have a bit of everything on the buffet,” he says.
Ahmad’s first poetry slam was in a Glebe pub. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he was entering the NSW Wales state finals. More…