Last night I went to my first poetry slam (competitive performance poetry), in the bar of the ADC theatre. Darren and I were probably the only non-students there, which felt slightly awkward. He spent the interval moaning on Twitter: “I am at a poetry slam. God help me. This would not have happened if Musketeers had turned out to be good.”
Well, it could have been a lot worse. The students had a lot of energy and enthusiasm for their work — sometimes a bit more than it deserved, but that’s unavoidable. It was fun to see a lot of rhyme and humour in action, which I find enlivening. Sometimes rather painful syntax was employed to achieve those rhymes, which is a common mistake among newbies, but an enthusiastic delivery makes up for a lot. I wondered which came first for some of them, whether the performance gave them an outlet for their poetry or the poetry was an excuse to get up on a stage and perform. I got the impression it was often the latter, but that might just be because the performances were so much more polished than anything I personally am ever likely to come up with.
What the carefully-tuned hand gestures put me in mind of was rap – this was a bit like 8 Mile for rich sheltered white kids. They haven’t had any actual life experiences, but they dutifully Wrote What They Know: young love or marine ecosystems or the experience of performing in a poetry slam. And although they didn’t entirely speak to me, they spoke well. A few of them were even properly good. Unlike Musketeers.