Farrago Zoo Awards: Nominated for Best UK Poet Performance!


Here’s a very wonderful surprise: I’ve been nominated for the Best Performance by a UK Poet in the 2010 Farrago Zoo Awards. I’m tremendously flattered, and only sad that this time I’m not going to be able to make it down for the night. I was at last year’s Zoo Awards ceremony and saw some of the best UK performance poets; I reckon tomorrow night is going to be fantastic. The details of the night are below, and I’d also be very grateful, naturally, if you’d think about voting for me — if you think my performances have been worthy, of course!

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The Farrago New Year SLAM! & Farrago Zoo Awards Ceremony.
Thursday, 6th January, starts 7:30pm.

RADA Foyer Bar, Malet St, WC1. Goodge St tube.

Open to ANY poet SLAM! Any subject or style, read or perform. Every poet wins a prize!

+ The presentation ceremony for the annual Farrago Zoo Awards, voted for by the audience and supporters of Farrago Poetry.
+ Features including full sets from AF Harrold, Fran Landesman & Rachel Pantechnicon & short sets from fellow Farrago Zoo Award nominees including: Mab Jones, Vanessa Kissule, Mark Niel, Niall Spooner-Harvey & Others tbc.

Emcee: John Paul O’Neill. Tickets: £6/£5.

Information from John Paul O’Neill: 07905078376. farragopoetry@yahoo.co.uk. http://London.e-poets.net http://www.myspace.com/farragopoetry

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The Farrago Zoo Awards for performances at events during 2010.

Listed below are the nominees for the Farrago Zoo Awards for performances in 2010, which was, thanks to your support, another brilliant year for us. We’ve continued to draw big audiences to the shows through the year and had some superb readings and performances by new and established poets and performers, making the selection process especially difficult in each of the eight categories.

The Farrago Zoo Awards are the UK’s longest running performance poetry awards, voted for by the supporters and audience of Farrago Poetry. Please choose your favourite performer in each category and email farragopoetry@yahoo.co.uk with ZOO in the subject line. The deadline for getting your vote in is noon on 6th January, the same day the winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony at the Farrago New Year SLAM!

1) Best Overall Performance/ Reading:
1 AF Harrold
2 Keith Jarrett
3 Sabrina Mahfouz
4 Rachel Pantechnicon
5 Gerry Potter
6 Niall Spooner-Harvey

2) Best SLAM! Performance:
1 Amy Acre
2 Harry Baker
3 Andrew Barber
4 Martin Daws
5 Charlie Dupre
6 Anna Freeman
7 Peter Hayhoe
8 Shavunda Horsley
9 Kit Lambert
10 Christopher Kracken
11 Amy McAlliser
12 Bridget Minamore
13 David Morgan
14 Gina Pisapia
15 Taniya Sonko

3) Best Performance by a London Poet:
1 Ray Antrobus
2 Rob Auton
3 Hamza Beg
4 Suli Breaks
5 Jasmine Cooray
6 The Bro’s Grim
7 Pierre Ringwald
8 Deanna Rodger
9 Dudley Sutton
10 Vanessa Walters

4) Best Farrago Debut Feature Performance:
1 Anna Chen
2 Paul Cree
3 Vanessa Kisuule
4 Richard Marsh
5 Sharnika Power
6 Clair Whitefield

5) Best Performance by a UK poet:
1 Harry Giles (Edinburgh)
2 Mab Jones (Cardiff)
3 Hollie McNish (Cambridge)
4 Mark Niel (Milton Keynes)
5 Bohdan Piasecki (Warwick)
6 Tina Sederholm (Oxford)

6) Best Performance by a performer using spoken word or music.~
1 Ian Keteku & Brad Morden
2 Fran Landesman
3 Sarah Moule & Simon Wallace
4 Rachel Rose Reid
5 Gemma Weekes
6 Zorras

7) Best Performance by a performer working in English and another language(s):
1 MT Ali
2 Ascen Arriazu
3 Sophia Buchuck~
4 Carlos Reyes Manzo
5 Isabel del Rio
6 Yamilka Noa

8) Best Performance by an International poet:
1 Penny Ashton (New Zealand)
2 Andreattah Chuma (Botswana)
3 Amy Lee Cutler (USA)
4 Ian Keteku (Canada)
5 Yuyutsu Sharma (Nepal)
6 Afua Wilcox (Swaziland)

Why So Serious?


Farrago was pretty fun on Thursday night. The features were as hot as usual; was especially impressed by the debuts from Paul Cree and Bridget Minamore. There’s this thing also about Farrago — the wild divrsity of its performers, both in content and identity. Paul and Bridget were followed by a couple of aged performance veterans, and the white males like me who dominate poetry as much as they do everything else were kept at bay. That’s reflected in the slam as much as the features, and I think Farrago does it better than any other night; all credit to John Paul O’Neil for that one, though I guess that once these things are set up they just keep on running.

Credit too to him for what he did to the Love Slam. Partly ‘cos he was knackered, partly ‘cos there were too many performers, he just refused to take it seriously, and so too did most of the slammers, including me (whose poem was so filthily unromantic that despite coming third in the initial scores was “toaded” for the only nil points of the night — fantastic!) I love Slam, it’s a great way of bringing people into poetry, and it’s still going good work for getting poets and audiences excited — but it’s really important not to take it seriously. I made the mistake of doing that after I discovered in my first two that I was pretty good at them; getting creamed in the third (including by people I’d previously beaten) was a good lesson. It’s about celebrating and enjoying the poetry, never about winning. Sometimes the best way of doing that is just to take the piss out of the whole institution. JP was told his Love Slam ruined the statistical integrity of poetry slams. Bravo! sez I.

On the Other Hand



Luke Wright was one of the people who got me writing poetry. At an Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago, after a year where I’d finally started to get into rap and hip-hop, I spent a blissful two days at his poetry tent — a free event space on the Meadows where he’d invited some of Britain’s best and craziest performance poets to perform, all day long. It was seeing that, combined with catching the amazing Baba Brinkman and especially his clarion call The Rhyme Renaissance, that got me thinking I really could do performance poetry and slam. I wrote Introduction about my rap/poetry anxieties soon after (it still in part holds true for me) and I’ve never looked back.

So I’ve got a major soft spot for him. Quite apart from being a great poet, he’s done a lot to revitalise and promote the form. I do think performance poetry needs more shameless self-promoters. But there’s a downside to that,  when an ignorant media can make it seem like these guys are all there is. Take this article in the Independent, which LW posted the other day:

Performance poetry. It’s not a phrase that strikes joy into many people’s hearts – there’s a fear it’ll be some fop emoting furiously about a penchant for self-harm, or a lame attempt to make an archaic art form ‘hip’.

Bollocks! Is that really what most people think of when they hear the words “performance poetry”? “Open mic” or “spoken word”, but we’ve worked so hard for so long to make poetry exciting and immediate! Is this just journalistic excess, or is something really wrong? Also:

But one young poetry collective is proving it doesn’t have to be that way.

Bollocks! Self-promoters (and thus poetry-promoters) we need, but we don’t need the way journalists latch onto that and make it seem like one group, one person is all their is. This isn’t the fault of Aisle 16, I’m not saying that in any way; I just hate the way it’s so easy to make it seem like there isn’t a massive community, a massive culture behind what celebrities we have, doing really exciting things. We’ve got to be careful not to encourage the understanding of that whenever we can.

I’m reminded of this Times article about Farrago. It’s a bit more respectful to the whole culture, it says “Every week in small theatres and pubs across Britain, poetry is being dragged back into popular culture by a new generation”, showing the widespread collectivity of the scene, but at the same time it’s so basic, so simple and so unaware of how big this thing is now. Poetry is big! Isn’t it? I mean, Farrago’s been going for a decade and a half! Don’t we get more recognition than that now?

Or are we all overcome with hubris? Are people much less aware of what we’re trying to do than we thought? I believe so passionately in the power of art to give people voices, to make essential testimony, to empower people to take charge of their lives, I really do. I love even the worst slam poetry because someone is getting to speak and people are getting to listen. I really believe in making that happen and spreading it out. So in that mission, in this celebration of the Year of the Poet, there’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of pitfalls to avoid. But we can do it. Right?