Last night I saw something amazing happen. Last night I saw an ordinary guy do something extraordinary in his own clever way. It was very satisfying and inspiring!
Want to know more dear readers well here are the players. The ordinary guy is Ben Lawrence an is an excellent poet. He’s also fashionable, with his wonderful Rumpelstiltskin style beard and winged trainers.
Archimedes Screw showcase is a poetry event run by Matt West. It’s held at Art House Cafe in Southampton. Archimedes Screw runs an open mic and the winner wins a paid gig at Apples and Snakes 451.
Apples and Snakes is the leading organisation for performance poetry in England, with a national reputation for producing exciting and innovative participation and performance work in spoken word. Peter Hunter is our man in the Southwest.
The story so far. Archimedes Screw has been running a showcase with a paid gig prize for over 2 years. We go along and Pete pops in to say hello and keep up with the amazing performance poetry scene..
Ben has been competing in the slam for over 2 years. He has been pitted against the brightest and best of Southampton. But he’s never won a showcase
Why? I believe that the ‘old’ system had a flaw. Note I said ‘old’ system dear readers. The ‘old’ system was 8-10 slam spots. Two winners would be picked to go head to head next show and the winner of the head to head got the gig and was declared the winner.
The problem was poor Ben got through to the second heat TWICE! TWICE he was good enough to win and TWICE he had to fight it out with another of his peers. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we the audience did not like it. Silly old Matt Smith made us choose between our favourite friends. One terrible night, I’ll never forget it, I had to refuse, refuse dear listener, to vote because Carrie Carrie and Jenn Hart were head to head and they BOTH deserved to win.
I even wrote and performed a protest poem at which I performed at the 2014 Ejector Seat Slam called Tempest. I didn’t win, but I wanted to make a point. Some systems are broken.
The solution is a sea change. Two sea changes. Busy sea. First change 1) The system. Clever old Matt West listened and now when you compete in the slam, you win! No faffing around with ahead to head, no choosing between your best mates the next time. No loading the audience with your friends, (not that we’d do THAT dear readers, no we would not). Clever old Matt West arranged individual judges, which means that you don’t feel utterly rejected by your peers if you don’t win, its more a ‘I will do better next time’ feeling. And if you want, you can get excellent feedback from your judges.
2) Ben got personal. Our bearded hero and champion poet, can write very clever poems. Some are shaped like teapots. (As teapoet, I love that poem). Some are amazingly clever word plays. Last night, he performed a poem about being caught in a very hot train in the summer. We were in the train carriage with him and he was vulnerable, relateable and used subtle clever word play. My friend, ,cheerleader and muse Sarah Taylor said something clever to me. Just lost Ejector Seat and she said. “That was a good poem, Cat but we want to know about the real you.” Well we meet the real Ben, he did an extraordinary thing and we liked it. And he won. FINALLY!
The extraordinary thing Ben did.
Ben didn’t give up. After 2 losses he could have called it a day. He could have walked away. Takes a lot of courage to keep throwing yourself on the black volcanic rocks of slam competitions. They are not easy. I was inspired and I am very excited because one day, I’ll have a clever poem you’ll all like and I might win. One day my friends will have their clever vulnerable moment and they might win.I will be there cheering them on. Last night Ben got so many pats on the back because we were all very very very pleased for him. We’re those sorts of poets.
And finally people to watch.
Olivia Tan from ANDOVER who came down and did an amazing job for her first slam performance. Oliva delivers very heartfelt poems. She will be guest poet at April at Andover Afternoon Poetry Cafe.
Alice Rose Watson. Beautiful emotional slam style poet. The way she uses pauses in her work is breathtaking. She’s supporting Dizraeli fund raising gig at The Art House on 20/01/2015. Go see her.
Rightyo off to find my vulnerable, clever personal poem…no pressure.
Cat Randle is the current chair of Big Up Words and writes occasional reviews of live poetry events. In her work time she is a social media consultant and blog writer. You can find her at https://www.facebook.com/CatRandle