This post originally appeared in Bad Reputation – a feminist pop-culture adventure on July 25th 2012.
“Hello my name is Hannah… and I am a poet.”
“It started with just scribbling the odd rhyme by myself in my teens. Then I went away to university and learnt you can have poetry slams, but even then I didn’t really take to it. Then, in 2009, I moved back to London. Not many of my friends had moved back yet and I didn’t know many people and then one night I just fell into the wrong crowd… you know how it goes.”
Ok, not quite, but from the way many people respond when the subject comes up…. you’d think it was something at least a bit distasteful. And when it’s not great it’s not great, but when it’s good: holy shit, you have no idea.
See Exhibit A
When it’s done right performance poetry (or ‘spoken word’ as it’s often coyly referred to) is a thrilling, visceral, hilarious and beautiful experience. Going everywhere to music-backed comedy to rap to beat and sonnets. Most nights have an open mic section, too, so the opportunity to try your hand and get involved is always there.
This is one of the first pieces I saw performed live and I was hooked:
Three gigs and a couple of glasses of wine later and I was on stage trying my hand in the Hammer & Tongue slam and I came second. No going back. Though I’ve been a writer for years, there’s something incomparable to seeing your work hit an audience – getting gasps and laughs right where you hoped they’d be. And – when it doesn’t quite hit the mark – you’ve just had a room full of feedback. OK, back to the drawing-board, cut the third stanza, up the ending, sort the rhythm in the third line and try again next week.
And now – wonder of wonders – I’m part of a poetry show that’s going up to the Edinburgh Fringe and is organised by the ‘Welsh whisperer’ Fay Roberts. The shows are (according to an audience member on Sunday:
“A heady blend of rhythms – poems that catch you in the throat, stories so compelling that you realise you haven’t taken a breath in minutes, and if you start to take yourself too seriously, then surely someone will tell life in words so true you wonder if they are reading your diary.”
So, yeah. I’m pretty stoked. The vibe is big, vampy and bold. Red drapes, candles, and did I meantion the bowls of heart-shaped sweeties? The booked acts are an array of outspoken women weaving words about whatever we damn like. We have a London premier this Thursday at the wonderful Hackney Attic (Facebook event here) featuring Fay Roberts, Sophia Blackwell, Fran Isherwood, Isadora Vibes, and yours truly – Hannah Chutzpah.
If you read BadRep there’s a strong chance this is relevant to your interests.
Here’s my own contribution (dressed like a goth glitterball because showbiz)
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