Last night the Roundhouse Poetry Slam took place at Hull Truck Theatre for the very first time. Previously the heats of the annual spoken word competition have not ventured this far North. Thanks to some astute arts advocates in the city working behind the scenes sixteen young writers put their words and themselves on the line to be in with a chance of going to the Roundhouse Poetry Slam Grand Final 2019.
I have never been to a poetry slam before, I have seen and watched hundreds of poets and writers perform/read their works on the stage off on or off the page but the word ‘Slam’ conjures up images of B-Rabbit in Eight Mile where he steps up to battle the first time. There are judges scoring each poem tonight from 0 – 10. They are esteemed writers and performers all, Chiedu Oraka, Vicky Foster and a late replacement for the unwell Steve Arnott, in the form of Beats Bus tutor Prez 96 (formerly known as Player One). The host for the night is Toby Campion and a raucous, mostly young audience sat in the Studio Theatre are primed, and ready to go off at any second.
The first poet baring their soul is… and it is there we must pause, the subject matters will be sensitive there is a trigger warning given. I hold no truck for trigger warnings, if a poem upsets you well good, that means the writer has done their job. However your anonymity in connection to subject matter you can have, so I won’t be identifying the individual poets on here.
On this night of celebrating young writers, their words and stories, what is it that drives them to pick up a pen or type text into a phone when they are alone? There is relationship stuff thats to be expected, break-up poetry reliving the rejection; self reflection, introspection, cries of anguish from Generation Z, stories of self worth and socks, self hate and sex, self destruct and self abuse. This last came as a bit of a shock but it is no-holds-barred poetry here tonight, the verse can be about anything you like, as long as you keep to the strict three minute window… points and poets will be docked for going over.
What else did the insta-generation have to say? They who inherit and carry forward the dubious distinction of being from the city of poets, or some other overlooked northern town.
There is beauty and power in the black girl’s song; responsibility and no little amount of courage in the great white hope, brown bodies made to be thrown away; the ethnic element levelling with the crowd as identity and ideology stake out their claim. I see Genderqueer bodies dragged out of shadows, girls who snap necks and crones with witchy bones and a hermit crab surviving in a minefield. Warrior sons worshipped as if they had lived, loved ones blown up in Enniskillen, minds lost but still living; love now leaving on the last train, reluctant sirens and good time girls, nostalgia for the noughties and another call to arms, to save the countless crustaceans with their appealing latinate names and dropped on the mat a winged trophy, caught by kitten whispered kisses… But seriously what’s with the clicks? This is Hull not Greenwich Village, these young minds have no time to be beatniks because of what their parents and their parents before them did. So please give your snappy little fingers a rest, yes?
And the winner is… Nick Conroy. He won with his second poem that stuck the knife into a broken education system, that brought into sharp focus exclusion and violent crime and wasted lives: the docks are indeed dry.
As I understand it two more poets with the second and third highest scores from the Hull heat also go to the final. For me that would be love is blue and the aforementioned black girl song. But for mixing the sacred with the profane, you had me at Holy water whore.
Well done to all and good to see that some of you had already found your way to the Women of Words stage at Kardomah 94 time: 2 – 4pm first Wednesday of the month.
For details and tickets to Roundhouse Poetry Slam Finals 2019 see: Roundhouse.org.uk