Local hip hop artist Omar Musa is the runner-up in Australia’s first national poetry slam, coming ahead of 15 other competitors.

Omar, 23, originally from Queanbeyan but now living in Canberra, believes hip hop poetry is the literature of today. “It is today’s most accessible art form and could reignite the love of the English language,’’ he said.

The young performer won the ACT heat of the Australian Poetry Slam 07 at the National Library of Australia on October 26. He went on to compete in the final at the State Library of NSW on December 7.

An initiative of the State Library of NSW, the event was designed to unearth the best spoken-word talent in the country, via 45 heats, with two finalists from each state and territory battling for the national title in Sydney.

“I was a bit apprehensive before my performance in the final,” Omar said. “But the fantastic audience response says a lot about hip hop being the new art form. It’s certainly more than just jewellery and coarse language.

“In his time, Shakespeare represented popular culture. In those days he was the commoner, certainly not how he is seen today.”

The final was won by Victorian poet Marc Test art, who received $5000 for his efforts. As national runner-up, Omar, who won $500, will perform at the three-day festival of Australian spoken word, Night Words, at the Sydney Opera House from March 6-8, 2008.

Omar Musa is available for interview on 0429 901 676

Media contacts: Yvonne Kennedy 02 6262 1353; 0411 753 891; ykennedy@nla.gov.au

Sally Hopman, 02 6262 1571; shopman@nla.gov.au