Standing tall with the pride and confidence of a young Queen, Sharnay Mkh is an undeniable force to be reckoned with. The 20 year old slam poet, law student and tutor is breaking down the walls in the poet community with her honest, sharp, raw and powerful prose focussing on hip hop, youth, world issues and everything in between that deserves to be heard on this platform.
As the 2015 recipient of the Bankstown Slam Poetry Olympics, Sharnay wowed the crowd at the recently celebrated 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival on March 19th at the Bankstown Arts Centre with prose dedicated to the current political climate engaging race matters, world affairs and hip hop culture in Australia and the world. Highlighting the grittier edge to poetry than vintage Wordsworth, this student of Shakespeare and Hip Hop loves the fact that slam poetry reaches a more diverse audience and engages the younger fans of poetry to think outside of the box.
She is passionate, driven and determined to make a difference through the power of the spoken word and as she shares a small portal into her journey as a slam poet thus far, it is clear to see that Sharnay is only getting started in a role that is guaranteed to inspire and ignite the fire of self-expression in those who follow her!
Nice to speak with Sharnay – how are you doing? How old are you and the area of Sydney you represent?
I’m great, thank you. I’m 20 years old, and I represent the Bankstown area.
I was so excited to discover your incredible talent for slam poetry at the recent 4 Elements Hip Hop Festival – you were incredibly powerful on stage (alongside your fellow poet in crime Shalice). Tell us a little more about yourself and how you discovered the world of slam poetry?
I’ve been writing since I was very young, stories, poems and gibberish; it’s always been a ‘thing’ of mine. I never really experienced slam poetry, until I started you tubing in high school. It was cool to see a different medium where people expressed their most inner thoughts. I never really had the courage to perform. I went to a BPS slam that was presented at Western Sydney University, and from there I was inspired. I managed to pen a poem that very night, and the very next BPS slam I performed for the vert first time. This was in September 2015. I didn’t think it would be successful, but I managed to score enough points to be runner up to one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, Iman Etri. That same year we managed to win the BPS Olympics, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for meeting Shalice and Iman. When I’m not doing poetry, I’m trying to catch up on being a law student and a tutor.
You are a proud and beautiful young lady of Middle Eastern descent and command the stage and those that are on the receiving end of your poetry. This poetry is unlike what most of Australia’s greater public would be familiar with, as it is certainly more hip hop than Wordsworth. Can you describe your love of hip hop and how you combine with your love of poetry?
Well, first of all I’m a literature nerd. I like to read poetry in my spare time, but poetry is such a vast genre. It’s not just Wordsworth, Shakespeare, etc. Tupac, Nas, Biggie, Kendrick and Cole, they’re all poetry to me. I’ve been an avid listener of hip-hop since my uncles first exposed me to it, and it’s something I grew up with. The bars, the flow and the soul are in my blood. I try to combine them with my writing and performing. I want my words to leave a mark, and hip-hop has allowed me to do that.
How necessary or important do you feel slam poetry and its origins are for the youth of Australia in how they can express themselves and the issues they face on a daily basis?
Slam poetry is an amazing outlet. You’re angry? Write a poem. You’re sad? Write a poem. You’re happy? Write a poem. You’re in love? WRITE A POEM. Being able to tell your story through art is so important. You can change things for others, whether it is to make them happy or make them aware, poetry never fails in its aim of expression. Getting things off your chest is the greatest aspect of all.
Do you teach or run slam poetry workshops at schools or youth centres at all?
Alongside, my team members, Shalice and Iman, we have been running a program at two neighbouring high schools. Punchbowl Boys’ High School and Wiley Park Girls’ High School will be competing against each other in a slam at the end of this month. We mentor the students, we become an ear to vent to and we also help them become more confident with themselves and their expression.
Who or what would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your journey as a spoken word artist is and why?
My greatest influence would be my life struggles and my mother. I feel like I’m finally being heard. I’ve witnessed what it’s like to have no voice, and I never want to be in that situation ever again. My struggles mean I live to do better, feel better and want better for others. This is my goal as a spoken word artist.
What are you currently working on right now?
I’m working on my poetry and a fiction book, who knows? Maybe I’ll publish something soon!
Where can people come and see you or hear your work online or live?
At the moment, I do not have a YouTube. But my poetry can be found via Facebook.
You’ll catch me performing at BPS!
Your hope for your poetry and the message it holds for those who read your work?
Poetry is a versatile medium. Everybody belongs. There is no style, no ‘way’, and no compromise. I’ll leave a stanza that was adapted from Lang Leav below. The mantra:
“For the world has given you poetry
So you must give it your all
And most importantly
GIVE IT BACK”
For more on Sharnay Mkh visit: https://www.facebook.com/sharnaymkh
Always Hip Hop