Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Friendly Slam in the Labyrinth

What do you get when you cross poetry with horse racing? Why, SLAM poetry competitions, of course!

Claire Askew, the one-woman poetry events machinatron, organised and very successfully hosted an entertaining and vibrant night of variety from Edinburgh poets. The night took on the form of a poetry SLAM, a concept  in which poets compete for the attention of a crowd/judge. Usually. But “This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam”, as it had been dubbed, had more to promote than just high-octane delivery.

The format of the night worked as follows:
1)      Each poet performs a 2.5 minute set (no going over, a buzzer tells you to get the hell out)
2)      They are graded by all the other poets in the room based on:
·         Content (marks out of 10)
·         Delivery (marks out of 10)
·         Overall feelings (marks out of 10)
3)      Scores are collected, totted up, and those with the least points are brandished and banished
4)      Repeat the process with fewer poets until one emerges as the overlord of everything versifiable

The Winner of the evening was Young Dawkins who, we were reminded, is the Scottish Poetry Slam Champion of 2011. And it was easy to see why he had earned the title. Dawkins performed a passionate and personal set, combining a witty American charm with solid poems. He won by a fair distance though there were notable pieces worth much greater praise than they received through the voting system.  As with any reading of this kind, humour tended to get the greatest reaction, sometimes leaving more potent and potentially better poetry in its laughing gas. As such those who opted for a more serious issue or tone in the first heat quickly found themselves sat in the sin bin for their attempts. One such casualty was Andrew Phillips, whose calibre was shockingly overlooked. I, of course, took the easy “funny man” route and whored myself out with gags and meaningless tripe to score poetry points and lessen my worth as a human being.

The night was an enjoyable one, though, holding a friendly atmosphere and quick pace that kept things interesting. If you didn’t like a poet you only had to put up with them for 2.5 minutes, much like my love life. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ahahaaha. Ergh. “This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam” was thankfully (for me, at least) low on the “rap” style I’d become accustomed to in poetry SLAM scenes (see the poem posted below which details my thoughts on this kind of reading “style”. It was also the first poem I read on the night), hopefully inducing the birth of a beautiful poetry baby which casts away an emphasis on the quality of performance and emphasises the importance of meaningful words being said in a meaningful way. Come here, precious poetry babe, and suck on daddy’s milkless, putrid teat.

All in all an enjoyable evening of energy and poetry. Each finalist (Winner, Young Dawkins, 2nd place Stephen Welsh, 3rd Chris Lindores, also notably, in close 4th place, Colin McGuire) deserved their place and are no doubt poets worth watching out for in the future. "This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam" had the usual (and potentially unavoidable) temptations of gags over graft, even some rapping at times, but offered a new, refreshing direction for slamming in the city.

(I came 8th)

Russell Jones

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Wham. Bam. Poetry Slam.

I have a strong disliking for poetry slams. They're up there with child abuse and mass murder. Well, maybe slightly below them. Slightly.

If you don't know what a "poetry slam" is and you're a complete bastard like me then you've had a lucky escape from this particular potent art form. Until now: it's a competitive form of poetry where people frequently "rap" their words to hide their emptiness.

Like Batman ("To defeat fear you must become fear"), I aim to defeat this evil by infiltrating it and corroding it from the inside. As such I have agreed to take part in a poetry slam organised by poetic pie-poker Claire Askew. The line up actually has a number of very decent poets who I'm hoping have a similar regime. They can be my Robins.

Details are:

March 30 · 7:00pm - 10:30pm

The Banshee Labyrinth
Niddry Street
The World
The Milky Way
The vacuum of my soul

If you come and vote for me then you too can have a part in saving Gothburgh from total annihilation.

Russell Jones