Studio One – enter via Refinery ArtSpace, 114 Hardy Street, Nelson

17/03/2024 - 17/03/2024

Nelson Fringe Festival 2024

Production Details

All poems written by Emma Callaghan and Mark Raffills.

Dry Crust Holdings Ltd

Spoken word performance with EMMA CALLAGHAN & MARK RAFFILLS.

American poet and civil rights activist Alice Walker once said “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” Inspired by the long shadows of Walker’s ideals, Golden Bays poets Emma Callaghan and Mark Raffills join forces to paint, via the spoken word, their own revolution, to name the unnameable and to wash away the stains that blot our social, political, emotional and spiritual landscape and detract from the oneness of our humanity. landscape.

Studio One ,1 Rutherford Mews, Nelson.
Sunday 17 March, 2024.
7.30 pm.

Emma Callaghan
Mark Raffills

Emma Callaghan – representing Golden Bay/Nelson in the NZ National Poetry Slam, Emma made it through to the second round and on the way won the ‘Spirit of the Slam’ Award in 2022 and placed second overall in 2023. You will find Emma’s range of styles and subject matter inspiring and challenging.

Mark Raffills – Words have been Mark Raffills stock-in-trade for over 30 years. A finalist in the NZ Poetry Slam 2011 and 2015, Mark Raffills has performed at venues throughout NZ. Mark founded and ran Nelson Live Poets Society back in 1993 and helped the late Joe Bell set up Golden Bay Live Poets Society a couple of years later which he currently co-ordinates.

Spoken word , Theatre ,

60 minutes

Complementary performers each bring something different and vital to the stage

Review by Wesley Hollis 18th Mar 2024

I’m a big lover of poetry, having helped produce a few anthologies and published a couple of poems myself. But while I may dabble, two poets from Golden Bay in Nelson have immersed themselves in the world of poetry, a world that they hope to bring to us tonight in their show Wash Away the Stains.

Emma Callaghan and Mark Raffills have both performed at national poetry slams, with Emma placing second overall in the NZ National Poetry Slam 2023, and Mark having three published books of poetry under his belt. Tonight, they perform for us a selection of poems that challenge us, and make us think about the state of the world we live in and what it means to be a good person.

The show is held in Studio One, entered through the Refinery ArtSpace on Hardy street. Though the audience is small, the show seems well attended for a poetry event. The stage set up is simple – a microphone stand centre stage, with a screen to the side that features the words ‘Wash Away the Stains’, and other words that suggest what kind of stains may be washed away: fear, pride, racism, capitalism and colonialism.

Magdalene Laundry plays quietly over the speaker as we wait for the show to start. The night has been set up with a serious tone, and yes, there are some serious topics covered throughout the show. But the show never feels dark or uninviting, and the poets prove themselves capable of challenging and educating the audience while also creating a relaxed and engaging atmosphere. 

The poets alternate their stage time, with Mark opening and closing the show. His delivery is powerful – he knows how to use intonation, volume and pauses in all the right places to bring his words to life. He plays with language, using (but never overusing) rhyme, alliteration and repetition as well as fascinating combinations of words to tell stories and paint mental pictures. Sometimes, he will bring up a quote or a poem by an inspiration of his which helps to add depth and context to his work.

The preamble to the poems helps us to understand what they are about – however, the deeper meaning of some of his poems does escape me, possibly due to the use of poetic language and metaphors. There seems to be a drive for social justice behind Mark’s work, as well as influence from his own personality and personal experiences. I would love the opportunity to study Mark’s work written down, to help unravel some of the meaning behind it and enjoy his words over and over again. But reading his poems written down would do little to capture the magic one feels when seeing Mark perform his poetry live.

Emma’s poetry captures her experiences as a mixed-race woman of colour living in a divisive world striving for oneness. The meaning behind her words is more immediately apparent than Mark’s, and the poems are longer too. They tell stories of her life and her family, teach us about history and help us to understand that the world we live in is not perfect – we have a long way to go if we want to move beyond the damage that racism, capitalism and colonialism has done to our society.

Her work may be challenging for some, especially white audiences, and she has received some push back in the past. However, I believe this makes her words all the more powerful and important. Many would be tempted to tackle topics such as discrimination with anger or frustration, but Emma’s readings are always calm and measured, yet never lacking in passion. Gestures, expressions and impressions of her father’s Jamaican accent help to bring colour and emotion to her performance. As a white audience member I feel welcomed by Emma’s poetry, welcomed as a potential part of a solution to a problem that I cannot help but contribute to.

I think Mark and Emma complement each other well as performers, each bringing something different and vital to the stage. The show does feel Emma-heavy – Mark’s poems are shorter and he receives less stage time. While I think it is important that Emma’s messages about race and society are not overshadowed, I would have enjoyed seeing a more balanced show as I really enjoy Mark’s clever use of words and presentation.

Wash Away the Stains has helped to remind me of the important role live poetry has to play in the literary scene. With live poetry, we get to meet poets and hear their words in their voices, with their own expressions and intentions made more clear. If you’re interested in capturing a little slice of this magic, I would keep an eye out for Emma and Mark at future poetry slams and events in Nelson and nationwide.

Emma also has a website (https://www.emmacallaghan.net/spoken-word-poetry) where you can find out more about her poetry, as well as yoga and mindfulness and anti-racist education.

Mark has a website (https://www.markraffills.com/) where you can watch his weekly video poems. Mark is also appearing in The Word, the Reckoning and the Rose at Studio One on Tuesday 19 March.


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