This (really) is the Year of the Poet


(crossposted to my poetry site)

I moved to London back in September, but plunged myself nearly exclusively into just one of my interests: theatre. That was the purpose I came for — to get trained, to get knowledge — so it made sense. But back at the end of December two poet friends of mine took me along to the Farrago Seasonal Slam, and despite being rusty and not planning to compete I somehow managed to take the title away with me. That felt good, but what felt better was the sense of community and the celebration of the spoken word that was there.

The London poetry group Poejazzi have declared this the Year of the Poet,  and the term is spreading, catching on, becoming our meme for the year. Let’s launch spoken word properly, not just as something Radio 4 does every two years, or that the newspapers write about as a culture pages filler on slow arts days. Let’s all talk it up, let’s love it, let’s stop being ironic about it. I reckon that’s a decent Resolution to make.

I’m getting the poetry back into my life. I went along to the Farrago Zoo Awards on Thursday, and yeah, there was that celebratory feeling again, and the slam was packed with talent (and, as always, crazy-ass judges). I got to catch up with Deanna Rodger after a very long time; she and I and Ray Antrobus resolved to splash spoken word over youtube. Got to see Keith Jarret again, who blows me away every time, too.

Then Poejazzi launched their year with a showing at the RFH. Alex Gwyther and Ventiloquist were pretty solid poets: AG had an especially good turn in internal rhyme, and a nice ironic sense of observation; V restored my faith in comic verse, and he wasn’t frightened to bare his soul a bit as well. The guy who really took my breath away was Ed Sheeran: his music’s a pretty high quality version post-Jack Johnson islan’ pop that’s hot right now, but his lyrics were amazing. Smooth and rapid rhyming with no loss of sense, just a natural rhythm and flow that floored my poet’s ears. So that was fantastic, but what was even better was the crowd. Oh man, the crowd. There were seats for maybe 100 at most, but there were already twice that standing around and crowding in when the show started — and as it built and people around the RFH could hear the awesome talent on display, it just got packed and packed and packed, more I think than anyone expected. People really got into it, despite this not being a natural spoken word home, despite it being an anarchic display squeezed into a flashy bar in a swanky arts centre. It was great. I believe in it. Year of the Poet. True.

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