There were two things that impressed me about my first experience of live, spit-on-the-stage spoken word poetry at the Great Northern Slam: the variety offered by the poems, poets and audience; and the power the audience was given to vote, including them in the competition. The audience and stage alike were filled with people of all ages, and the poems were an equal mix of hilarity and depth.
The poems covered topics from increasingly graphic vegetable innuendoes to nuclear weapons, suicide bombers, and giving blood as a gay man. The atmosphere in Stage 3 of the Northern Stage was welcoming and intimate, where only the electric buzz of stage lights broke the silence of an enraptured audience. An audience who had the power to contribute to an art form once thought entirely for the elite, or coffee-drinking art students.
Poetry is no longer pressed delicately in the pages of a dusty library book.
With their response card ‘clicker’, each audience member could either vote for the poet in the blue corner, or the poet in red. The experience was engaging and democratic, although choosing between two poets who each presented their work to you like a lovingly crafted home-made Mother’s Day card was like choosing a favourite child. Nevertheless, each knocked out competitor took their loss with grace. A prime example is Zach Slater, losing to his girlfriend and slam winner Rosie Fleeshman after opening the night with a poem dedicated to her. Their mutual support was reflected by the entire room, who forgave the sweaty, shaky hands –and sometimes voices- of the nervous. Runner-up Chris Bowles’ paid returning guest spot to next year’s slam shows that this is a community that supports each other, and one that you could be a part of.
Choosing between two poets who each presented their work to you like a lovingly crafted home-made Mother’s Day card was like choosing a favourite child.
Poetry is no longer pressed delicately in the pages of a dusty library book. It is live, living, and right on your doorstep. Regardless of if you think you know everything about words or nothing at all, I urge you to witness a slam poetry event for yourself – maybe even next year’s Great Northern Slam. It may turn out to be something fantastic.