The Last Word Festival

The Last Word Festival is a week-long annual festival of spoken word events at The Roundhouse. In addition to  the scratch show for ‘Dear Adventure’ with Kid Glove, I watched ten other shows. You can find five of them reviewed briefly here, and another five reviewed on The Norwich Radical website.

Sophie Rose

Quiet Violence

I hadn’t seen Sophie Rose perform, and this ending up being of of my favourite shows of the festival. Rose had a natural quality to her performance, as she moved from narrative story-telling to poetic details, successfully blending humour with more serious moments. The ‘quiet violence’ began with high heels, which made me think I should get rid of mine, dusty because they look so much better in my wardrobe that on my feet, where I’d eventually be stumbling and sporting some of the ankle-protection shown on Rose’s subtle costume. The concept of the show appeared to me as a unique one, yet it was so relatable that it was both hilarious (who knew bags could be so funny?) and, dare I say, life changing. By the end, it encouraged the audience to do what makes them happy, rather than what they feel obliged to do, to find the people who would make them soup when they’re ill, and to change what they don’t like rather than simply put up with it. Sophie Rose wants to know, what’s your quiet violence?

Producing Your Own Poetry Show

Throughout the festival there were a range of workshops offered. Having seen Sophie Rose’s show, I was curious as to how this would also work with a workshop about how others could produce shows. Rose made the room a comfortable space, where we worked individually and as a group to discuss different aspects of making a show. It was difficult to contain in the hour slot, and she generously offered extra time, as well as the space for collaborative discussion under her direction, and gave everyone detailed notes and the offer to contact her. One of the useful tips I picked up was about distilling your show idea down to one word; my word ended up being ‘self-acceptance’, which isn’t what I expected, but shows an idea of what the audience should get from it as well as the artist.

Luke Wright

What I Leaned From Johnny Bevan

Poetry veteran, Luke Wright, previewed his new show amongst many emerging artists. With many shows already under his belt, I was excited to see what this one would bring. Sitting in the audience, I was already excited by the music playing, and as the show began, we heard crafted guitar twangs (from Art Brut’s Ian Catskilken) to a backdrop of changing scene sketches. I was filled with nostalgia of my own early twenties, that were often filled with drinking in council estates with mates and days spent in my first years at UEA, locations both featured in the show. Yet this nostalgia also gave a sense of timelessness, a dystopian feel, which the tale of Johnny Bevan represented, that we remain to the social class we’re born in, and that just as previous governments reinforced these class divisions, so will the current one. With the election results still fresh, the poetic narrative of Johnny Bevan painted a bleak future, but perhaps, in this gritty reality, it is a reminder as to why it is important to keep fighting. Essentially, this is a story, but the poetry of the show is not merely due to the use of rhyme, but the depth of meaning behind the words.

Poetry Reincarnation

I didn’t know what I had let myself in for at the time – Poetry Reincarnation started at around 7pm, and it was stilling going past the scheduled end time of 11.15pm. I had also attended part of the earlier programme of events, with a panel discussion on poetry and, essentially, its importance in our lives creatively and politically. The evening event kicked off with Malika Booker, giving a somewhat unspoken progression this world has made beyond the Beat Poet generation of white men, and its unmentioned allegations of pedophilia, and support of the NAMBLA. Since finding this information out, I now always feel uneasy about this kind of worship of poets such as Allen Ginsberg. There were around twenty poets, so I’m going to focus on my favourites. Booker was one highlight, having recently read ‘Pepperseed’ and she was followed by Cecila Knapp, who represented the under-30s and did a stellar job all weekend. Libby Houston was a poet from the older generation of poets performing since the 60s who impressed with her poetics, humour and wide smile.

Kei Miller reminded me that I want to buy his collection, and poets such as John Hegley and Elvis McGonagall brought excitement to the event in the form of rhyme, rhythm and comedy. Music was used effectively throughout the show, breaking up the mass of spoken word, and including more experimental and psychedelic parts that were evocative of the 60s, yet Gwyneth Herbert was a powerhouse in this respect, with a voice that ranged from soft and subtle to loud and proud. Janaka Stucky was a poet I was unfamiliar with, and coming from Boston, it felt a privilege to see him perform his work. Salena Godden, recently mentioned by Hannah Silva at The Place for Poetry, was even more of a delight to watch after hearing this analysis. Francesca Beard was a poet I recently argued at She Grrrowls, and I saw her do some of the same, as well as new material, and again, she left me wanting more, with every word layered with meaning, yet also dishing out a dry, witty humour throughout her set. I sadly missed the end of Dr John Cooper Clarke’s set, and leaving after a couple of sexist, tired wife jokes, I was disappointed with what I did see, but hopefully I’ll be better impressed when I see him again in July. The way poets such as JCC are often held on a pedestal, it seems almost sacrilege to dare say his jokes were sexist, and as much as I want to suggest that perhaps I just couldn’t keep to the the speed of his speech, I can’t deny that these cliched wife jokes just don’t tickle me. And surely, if we want our poetry to be truly revolutionary, I can’t be too scared to say something is sexist. What this event did showcase, as well as the non-programmed event simultaneously taking place in the Made in Camden bar, of which I was meant to be a part, is the vibrancy and variety of contemporary poetry today, and the importance of learning about poets who came before us.

Cecilia Knapp

Finding Home

In case you’ve not noticed, Cecilia Knapp has been a regular feature in The Last Word Festival. This scratch was presented almost in full, stripped down against a backdrop of a blue moon sinking behind a horizon. We saw the first half, where Knapp delivered her usual poetic narrative, mostly in free verse, that lulled the sold-out audience into her world, painted so beautifully with her words. I felt there was a danger of romanticising things here, but this was possibly because cigarette references personally jar with me. I know this criticism is probably unfounded, and otherwise that I would struggle to find any room for improvement here, because however beautiful the language, this is her life. ‘Finding Home’ is a piece that manages to be both autobiographical, and I found that I could relate to the words, and I was taken on a journey, so that by the end – or the half-way point – I wasn’t ready for the lights to come up.

Taking Risks

On Saturday 30th November I performed as part of the current Roundhouse Poetry Collective cohort in the Roundhouse Studio. I had just seen Kate Tempest’s play ‘Wasted’ there and so it was pretty exciting to be in the space. We had time to do a quick run through and then the doors were opened!

In the lead up to the showcase, I had suggested the theme of games, after thinking about a piece I wanted to write. Luckily people were on board with the idea and we all got writing. The piece I wrote was a story surrounding a game of Risk. I’d initially written it out in prose for a short story competition called ‘Story Slam Live’, but I never got to share it as names were picked out of a hat and there was a cap. I didn’t realise this, and really think they should have said beforehand as I had prepared it for two months, editing it down to 5 minutes. In the end, I enjoyed listening to other stories and I realised mine wasn’t really a story at all.

risk

My story was based on a real life experience and my first attempt at writing about it was something I needed to get out. The poem that it became was driven by this same necessity to get people to understand the message that my story illustrated. The editing process came through getting feedback. At the Story Slam event I actually had one woman read through it as she was curious to see what I had planned (I had embarrassingly put my hand up when my name wasn’t read out at the start). Then over a few short weeks, with the help of Bohdan Piasecki and my collective of poets, it developed into a seven minute performance poetry piece.

I have provided two recordings here as the actual performance didn’t quite catch the first words. Funnily enough, we got the audience to pick names out of a hat to determine our order. Despite our worries about audience, apparently it was sold out! Maybe because of our run-through, it was less nerve-wracking, but I ended up performing my piece last. I didn’t hear much from the audience, other than one passing woman congratulating me. I was unsure and then feared the feedback from Inua Ellams (Bohdan was away for the possible birth of his child, so Inua kindly stepped in).

As I love Inua’s own poetry, it was especially meaningful to hear him use words like ‘brave’ and ‘gorgeous’ to describe my work. He even said that it broughr tears to his eyes because it was a story of human experience. Although I have had feedback from both him and Bohdan about making the ending ‘more of a purse-clip than a door slam’, part of me likes that sometimes. Part of me thinks that maybe it’s important that it is a door slam, as it serves to highlight the point of why I had to do the poem. And maybe I could have edited it again, but every time I look at it and think about taking something away or changing bits, I realise that it wouldn’t be quite how I want it, and I am happy with it. In a way, not editing it again after this process is a risk as people may not like the ending, but as long as people know it is a conscious decision that I felt was integral to my writing the piece. It is a poem that went through motions of quietness and rage, but ultimately, it was a call to action for everyone to take a risk now and again.

Food Goes In, Poetry Comes Out #2

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Spaghetti Bolognese, The Gallery Cafe

6th November 2013

It was the garlic bread that did it,
tempted me to take off my coat
and settle into some spaghetti Bolognese.
Now, it might seem that I don’t eat my greens,
but rocket’s just too bitter for me,
so I move it aside and dive right in.
And I confess, I tried just one tomato,
because I don’t like them raw
but the veggie meat-like pasta
has me begging for more.
I twirl it in tomato-y bliss,
taking bites of my bread;
garlic breath may make a smelly kiss
but my heart it found when I’m well fed.

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Mi Casa Burritos

7th November 2013

I’ve just eaten the most disappointing burrito.
I picked chicken, pepper, salsa verde – simple. Or so I thought.
I checked if it got heated up and they said that yes, it’s freshly made.
The foil wrapper felt toasty but it was mostly just the pepper, roasted
and quite tasty… But the rest was just disgraceful.
I’d spent nearly seven quid on something quite disgusting!
And I’m pretty sure it was gone-off pigeon and not chicken.
I’m really not sure where they plucked that meat from,
but I simply couldn’t finish it, or else I would vom!

Nando’s Sestina

13th November 2013

Table Four. How spicy do you like it?
Hand over loyalty card to get stamped.
A free half chicken built up over time:
A dedicated peri-peri fan.
Regular chips, corn on the cob, please.
So much food, but I’ll manage it just fine.

I’m sat on my own and I’m feeling fine.
It won’t be much longer – I just know it!
Cutlery, water, spicy sauce – yes please!
Back at the table, I count what’s been stamped
On my Nando’s card, showing I’m a fan.
Waiting for my food, looking at the time,

I need to make sure that I leave on time
And just when I think it will all be fine,
On the table next to me, a new fan
Sits down, away from his mum, I know it:
Trouble. Loudly he spoke, loudly he stamped
His feet and blew down his straw – oh please!

I wanted to ask could you move him please?
Back to his mother, I haven’t got time,
I’m writing a Nando’s poem. He stamped
Again, walked flailing his arms around. Fine,
I guess I will have to put up with it.
Guess I felt sorry for my fellow fan.

Clearly, his mum knew he was such a fan:
I got my food, he got his, seemed to please
Him, and yeah, he didn’t need to fight it,
A wave of silence fell over us this time,
Mouth filled with food and everything was fine.
Bet his mum didn’t miss the way he stamped,

But he had stamped for food, didn’t say please.
I’m a big Nando’s fan and it was fine
But next time –  that boy should put a sock in it.

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Pad Thai, Thai and Lao Street Food

14th November 2013

A regular favourite, I always get the same thing,
still plated up, I was excited to mix it in –
noodles, egg, buts and proper prawns,
the only niggle I’d say
less salt, extra spice,
but for £7, I can’t complain –
this Pad Thai is pretty damn nice.

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Chicken Satay and Chips, Charter House Bar

20th November 2013

Reading Proust under the glow of red lights,
I forego the salad for chicken satay
and hand-cut chips. Leaving the bed of rocket,
I feel plump as a pillow. I remind myself
to get my blood tested for high cholesterol.
thinking about salad, ‘maybe next time’
becomes my mantra. Now, for some Sage & Time.

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Bean Chilli and Naughty Natas,

The Gallery Cafe and Nando’s

27th November 2013

Not my favourite kind of beans…
pretty sure one was a carrot,
but it felt wholesome, fresh
vegetables and a perfect dome of rice.
I sat near the guy who only comes in for free Wi-Fi.
At 7pm, it closed. Fuck!
he exclaimed into his laptop.
and I wondered what to do
with my spare half an hour.
On route, I passed Nando’s,
turned in for a hot chocolate and
custard tart, a warm space
until another door opens.

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Camden Market

30th November 2013

There we were, huddled by Camden Lock,
shovelling noodles down our necks
in case the wind cooled it too fast:
December just around the corner.

Everything deep fat fried

and crispy. I took a bite of broccoli.
That’s one of our five a day.
The containers could not stop the cold:
Your departure just around the corner.

13.10.13 – Sunday Circus

Sunday Circus at Proud Camden.

The current Roundhouse Poetry Collective.

Sunday 13th October 5.30-6.30pm

Words & Music

Had a busy week! Tuesday I went out with my friend Laura and my ex-housemate Kirstie (who is travelling around India as of today!) Me and Laura had Nando’s (standard) before meeting Kirstie to go to the Camden Barfly for a gig.  For only a fiver we got to see Supercute and the inspiring Miss Kate Nash in her side project The Receeders.  It was definitely worth seeing and an interesting path for Kate Nash.  Also spotted her boyf Ryan Jarman at the bar.

Last night, after a really stressful day trying to work out PDFs, trying to deal with too many DM boot bids on Ebay and a shift at Sainsbury’s (oh, and after walking in the wrong direction to the venue – typical) I found myself a haven at The Gallery Cafe for The Word House poetry event.  I saw a friendly face in Captain of the Rant, (check out his event, there’s one this Friday I plan to go along to!) and after a quick chat and a rather unimportant embarrassing incident I found myself in, Christian Watson took to the stage.  He was incredible!  I don’t really know what else to say.  It started on a high and that high just did not stop.

The open mic included the likes of Emma Jones who performed her winning set from this year’s Glam Slam (and myself, performing my winning poem from the ‘Loss’ category).  John Berkavitch continued the features and was also amazing, and played with the audiences emotions with a poem that began with a cliché, went forward with comedy and ended with words to send shivers across your skin.  He then told us to read The Empty Space, which is so cheap on Amazon I may have to add it to my huge pile of books to read.  I’m currently reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.  It’s massive.

Last up before a dash for the tube (both him and me) was Inua Ellams.  I have said before how lovely he comes across and he is so genuine.  Not only that, but he has an amazing way with words, and also an amazing Graphic Artist. Jealous much.  All in all, a wonderful evening, raising money for Oxfam, yay!  And I even made it home for a late-night viewing of X-factor.

I’ve been working as usual, doing lots of useful and interesting MA stuff (including a gruelling day about accounting) and spent a couple of days with my boyfriend in Norwich, forcing him to come with me to a Feminist Society discussion group, and coming back to his only to watch a rom-com.  Sorry love.  Oh yeah!  And we did Yoga.  About 2 hours of it!  It was really hardcore, seriously, my legs hurt a couple of days later and everything.  Oh yeah, he’s starting up this Sketch Club – if you’re creative in any way, get involved!  I also saw my Gran for dinner with my parents which was a welcome return from the coach journey from Norwich.

Matt made me these cool timetables that you can draw and wipe off.  It’s really good because it gets your mind focused and you feel good ticking things off.  I’ve missed a few things off but I think I’m doing pretty well!  I wonder if I can count my Sainsbury’s work as exercise since it’s manual? Hmmm!

Adios!

xxx