A couple of weeks ago I attended a course at The University of Kent on performance poetry.
I have written poems for years, some for cards that I give to friends and family; some to my partner to express my love; most for me, to deal with, write about, my emotions. I had never read my poems to anyone, although I had recently taken the step to publish them for free on Smashwords and I have shared a few of them at PoetrySoup.
I began the course with some trepidation. The tutor was Dorothy Lehane, and she began by delivering the most wonderful and emotional spoken word poem that she had memorised and performed. I think she said that she had performed it on BBC radio.
Around me were a collection of people who, to me, had experience of poetry that I could not match. I love poems; I love reading them and listening to them; I love writing them; but I am no expert and can never deliver a line from memory, save for ‘the frost performs its secret ministry’, which I studied years ago at college.
What I found, however, through the charm of Dorothy and her openness, was that I could deliver my poems and that they were worth the effort. I had an audience, and they all took something from the words that I had put together. When i delivered my poem to them, the room was silent, and I could not believe the positive reaction that I had got. It changed, for the better, how I view my writing.
Then we went on to look at various spoken word artists on Youtube and I was amazed at the world that was presented to me. Here were people, mainly from the US, who were delivering heartfelt, political, angry, emotional commentary to an audience who, by the noise they were making, were loving every minute of it. We watched Taylor Mali; Daniel Beaty and others that I cannot find but wished I could. In the US there is Def Jam Poetry and Three Minute Egg, which I found subsequently and enjoyed the brilliant words of Sierra DeMulder, who had written a poem about Jeffery Dahmer; it is astounding, and I urge you to click this link.
What I got most from the course is that there is a world out there that still appreciate poetry; it has changed, it is not the world of the Romantics, and some would suggest that that is a good thing! It is exciting; and now I have the confidence in my words to try and repeat what I had seen.
Since then I have posted the poem that I read in the lecture on-line, you can watch it here.
It does not have the same emotional resonance as it did for two reasons: I read it in a quiet room; and there is no audience. Poetry like this is better live and that is why there are live events such as Slam Poetry or Spoken Word nights. If there is one in your area, then do go. If not…create one.
The Poetry cafe in London host spoken word nights weekly, check their website for details.
Dorothy was enthusiastic, inspirational and rewarding. Performance Poetry or spoken word poems have given me something new and exciting. I have a new favourite thing to do!