Last night I was at Hammer and Tongue in Brighton, supporting The Antipoet, and I had a great time in front of an enthusiastic audience. It was the first time that I’d performed in Brighton, and everyone made me feel very welcome.
One element of the evening, and a large part of the night, was the slam competition. Naturally, I wasn’t in it, because I was already on the bill. And in any case, I had made a solemn declaration to myself never to enter any more slams.
Why is this? I think it’s because I have recently started to realise that slam competitions do not show off the best of spoken word. A three minute crowd-pleasing rant is very entertaining and skilful and often performed incredibly well, but does this translate to a twenty minute set? How can an artist keep up with the energy of such a piece over a longer period? And is there a risk that in a slam situation, everyone seems to act more or less the same?
This is what I was thinking last night. I’d come up with a solution, in my mind, of a slam competition in which the poet gets ten minutes to do a selection of poems, of varying styles and topics, so that the audience can get a better sense of who they are and what they have to say about the world. I’ve had great fun in the past with slams, doing my finest comedy poems which I have practised, but these are only a part of my overall oeuvre.
I know that a slam competition is a very definite art form and a very specialised event. Slam poetry is a style, like jazz or hip hop. The idea I propose of something longer is more of a spoken word pilot show, a chance for an audience to judge, in a playful manner, a longer set. And people would still play to the crowd, no doubt. More skills would come to the forefront, such as props and movement, which are usually frowned on in slam circles.
Anyway, that’s my idea.
But then last night, the slammers were excellent and varied. There was a young lady who did a Kate Tempest-esque piece which was mesmerising, and there were one or two comedy poets who used the language of stand up and mime. In fact, every poet had their own style and method, which made it all the more enjoyable.
Which kind of leaves me in two minds. Should I forego competing in slams? I’ve had great fun in the past and won prizes here and there, and the exposure is great. Maybe I shall do one more. Just one more little slam somewhere, and see how I feel about it. I mean, what harm can it do? When introducing me last night, Sally Jenkinson told the audience about the first time she had seen me, which was at the Bristol Slam. If I hadn’t competed there and done quite well, then she would never have known me from Adam.
So yes. Maybe one more. One more little slam, and then no more.
Although, I’d like to do the Bristol one again . . .