No Slam funk. No Slam clunk. Slam dunk!
The Harlem Globetrotters of Powerful Poetry were in Swindon last night. Hoop after whoop after whoop. Tuppenny Craft and Los Gatos hostelries both asked us to turn the noise down.
The slam poets had issues with us: social issues like fibromyalgia, glass ceilings and suicide vests (poetic license).
Swaying and handclapping the length of the crowd from balcony to front row, hosts Sara-Jane and Steve set the tone. Hot Stuff set the evening on its Strictly Slamming Trajectory as at every burst of music, slam lovers got Bowie-Jagger Dancing in the … in the … aisles.
The 21st Swindon Slam broke the rules and the record books with Sarah-Jane observing ‘Camaraderie amongst the poets is disturbing’. In a packed, dark auditorium where 50 people were slam virgins it was always going to be a throbbing night. Boots stomped the floor upside our heads.
Points were awarded for: writing, performance and warmth of audience response. Each slamster had 3 minutes max; enough time to boil an egg. We had some omelets and scrambled egg poems but most of them simply, succulently sunny side up.
So that’s dancing school and cooking school and then we had the Sarah Cheering School. Supersonic cheering, whooping, clapping, banging, whistling, winking, kissing and Mexican Waving. The wonderful Festival Volunteers replaced the roof.
Host Steve tested the scoring system with “When I phoned in sick to work with Man Flu I never felt better”. Audience whooped-up like a BBC green-roomed and sign-shown studio audience.
When Heather Still told us that genetic disease would take nothing from you a very whooped-up crowd clapped amazingly, and this time, Swindon Arts Centre staff replaced the roof in time for Steve Daniels in the Poet 2 Slot. We were not really ready for his cleverness nor for Taylor Swift antidotes ‘the shark’s fin slam arsonist glow between parents and children, between poet and audience’.
Which left us panting for more, not expecting the Nick Lovell high volume, Race for Life that lost out to a mortgage … and lost out to depression.
The self-proclaimed Seamus Heaney of the poetry performance slam Peter Wyton, who had first graced the Swindon Slam stage 20 years ago, mumbled ‘bloody mumblers every one’.
Nick told us that the Education Bus does not stop round here.
We also heard from other poets that 25 years of sparkle was never enough to walk in the shadow with Kimberley.
Flicker flames of hope needed breathing apparatus for Ivor’s mattress fire that gave fevered fear, second by scrutinising second, such that no witness could say ‘there is no English Civil War’.
Joy asked ‘Can you spell fibro myalgia with your ‘globules of brain cells and your limb-dead death clawing finger nail marks on my sanity. Got your back hypochondriac! was strongly declared.
We truly saw a galaxy of star stuff and considered ‘shrinking violets only as good as our broadband speed’. We also looked over the shoulders of ‘a three witch coven each with a bun in the oven’.
Evoking a potential lover, Joy, would ‘lick off your stubble if not to much trouble’ and invite her unrequited lover to ‘play with the rubble of her broken heart’
Andy had our hearts trembling as he journeyed us, like a troop of donkeys quicksand-stuck and pinned and penned to the fence at his boys’ school. With crystal at end of nose ‘You made me crawl.’
‘All I desired was to be me’ one poet opined. The males in the audience shuddered at these words ‘your sexist arse is nailed’.
Ooopz upside your head
The mix of the more, and less experienced poets, rammed home to the sensitive audience what particularly high skill slam poetry is. Two contestants misspoke or brain faded – who wouldn’t in this type of highly prized, camerardiac competition.
‘You’re Fired’ but we’ll help you pack your case and pay for your taxi home after a Tuppenny drink with you.
It was not an easy ride. It was exhilarating. The sheer power of words performed under pressure. Note a distinct lack of pastoral poetry. We did not, last night at the Swindon Arts Centre wander lonely as clouds. We foot-stomped, whistled and danced in the aisles.
Tony Hillier for the Swindonian at Swindon Literature Festival’s Poetry Slam 6 May 2017.