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Philip Wilcox

Author, Entertainment, Inspirational Speaker, Poet, Social Issues, Storyteller/Performer

Philip Wilcox is an awarded and published full-time poet, touring nationally and internationally. He is an Australian Poetry Slam champion and two-time New South Wales Poetry Slam champion. He believes poetry is for everyone: sleazy advertising executives, criminals, and even school students. He has made it his mission to share his poetry in the hope of sparking a passion for words and language and in the last 8 years, Philip has worked with upwards of 100,000 students in over 300 schools in 12 countries.

Where were you born?

I’ve been told it was in a hospital somewhere in the western suburbs of Sydney but my memory of that day’s a little hazy.

What other jobs have you had?

I took on a whole host of jobs before I made poetry my full-time profession. Some were ridiculous like playing Darth Vader for Russell Crowe’s son’s birthday party, some were hard like landscaping in winter in Lithgow and others were almost-but-only-partially-fulfilling-my-goal-of using-poetry-to-inspire-and-transform-the-lives-of-young-people like training as a Primary Teacher and working as a big bad copywriter. To be honest though, nothing compares to the job I’ve been lucky enough to do full-time for the past 8 years, going into schools and encouraging kids to rethink what they know about poetry and then surprise themselves by writing and performing something honest and funny and moving.

What themes are recurring in your work?

I try to find the everyday, the mundane, the equivalent of the empty Twistie packet lying on the floor of the Honda Civic and try to turn it into something that says something honest and real about ourselves or our world. I think when poetry is performed it can have a similar power to that of a comedian telling a joke that a whole auditorium laughs at “because it’s true”. I try to write poems that touch on something true to being human in a world that is chaotic, unfair and sometimes, stupidly beautiful. I write about our response to the climate catastrophe, I write about the absurdities of modern life, I write about how our world might be enchanted and how that Twistie packet might have the answers we all need.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Probably standing in front of the audience at The Sydney Opera House in the finals of the Australian Poetry Slam. I did something really dumb. I improvised a poem right there on the spot, something I’ve never done before. I was terrified, and then I won(!)

But also, I’ve been lucky enough to travel all round the world with poetry. I’ve performed and facilitated workshops at The Sydney Writers’ Festival, Beijing Bookworm Festival, The Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe, Tedx and more.

I’ve spent a few years in the UK setting up the London Youth Poetry Slam (one of the first of its kind) and saw students from diverse backgrounds all across the city tell their story and own the stage.

But if I’m honest, a lot of the highlights are the little moments like:

  • A child volunteering on the spot to be my interpreter as I performed a one hour set of poems to a theatre of Chinese engineering uni students in Ningbo who exclusively spoke Mandarin – the kid got a standing ovation at the end.
  • Being surprised at someone turning one of my poems into a mural.
  • Helping change the public perception of netball in Australia with this piece (I wrote but didn’t voice it).
  • Having a whole Year 9 all boys cohort cheer and holler in support as one of their classmates, who was hearing impaired, delivered a roaring poem that was half-yelled and half-conjured from the whirl of his hand.

Where have your works been published?

Although my first love is writing poems for performance or for poetry slams. I’ve been published in a few of the big dog poetry journals such as Cordite and Australian Poetry.

I also have a collection of poems Beetle Prayer out with Australia’s most prestigious poetry publisher – Pitt Street Poetry. I also have a children’s poetry book with Caboodle called Secret Notes on an Alien Planet, a collection of journals and notes and poems from the perspective of an alien who crash lands on Earth and has to contend with the big questions, such as what are hugs and who, exactly, is Batman?

What are you passionate about?

Probably seeing students challenge, enchant and illuminate our world by telling their story, in their way. I’ve found that most students think they don’t like poetry but seeing them come alive to its power (especially those who don’t normally excel in English at school!) and then perform a piece that stills a previously rowdy classroom is something that never fails to give me goosebumps.

Haven’t I seen you before?

I don’t know, you might not have but if you want to see some of my work…

  • Here’s me winning poem at the Australian Poetry Slam.
  • Or a poem where a random audience member jumped up on stage and started beatboxing to my words.
  • Or a video I made about how poetry cured my insomnia during the pandemic.

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