Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Friendly Slam in the Labyrinth

What do you get when you cross poetry with horse racing? Why, SLAM poetry competitions, of course!

Claire Askew, the one-woman poetry events machinatron, organised and very successfully hosted an entertaining and vibrant night of variety from Edinburgh poets. The night took on the form of a poetry SLAM, a concept  in which poets compete for the attention of a crowd/judge. Usually. But “This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam”, as it had been dubbed, had more to promote than just high-octane delivery.

The format of the night worked as follows:
1)      Each poet performs a 2.5 minute set (no going over, a buzzer tells you to get the hell out)
2)      They are graded by all the other poets in the room based on:
·         Content (marks out of 10)
·         Delivery (marks out of 10)
·         Overall feelings (marks out of 10)
3)      Scores are collected, totted up, and those with the least points are brandished and banished
4)      Repeat the process with fewer poets until one emerges as the overlord of everything versifiable

The Winner of the evening was Young Dawkins who, we were reminded, is the Scottish Poetry Slam Champion of 2011. And it was easy to see why he had earned the title. Dawkins performed a passionate and personal set, combining a witty American charm with solid poems. He won by a fair distance though there were notable pieces worth much greater praise than they received through the voting system.  As with any reading of this kind, humour tended to get the greatest reaction, sometimes leaving more potent and potentially better poetry in its laughing gas. As such those who opted for a more serious issue or tone in the first heat quickly found themselves sat in the sin bin for their attempts. One such casualty was Andrew Phillips, whose calibre was shockingly overlooked. I, of course, took the easy “funny man” route and whored myself out with gags and meaningless tripe to score poetry points and lessen my worth as a human being.

The night was an enjoyable one, though, holding a friendly atmosphere and quick pace that kept things interesting. If you didn’t like a poet you only had to put up with them for 2.5 minutes, much like my love life. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ahahaaha. Ergh. “This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam” was thankfully (for me, at least) low on the “rap” style I’d become accustomed to in poetry SLAM scenes (see the poem posted below which details my thoughts on this kind of reading “style”. It was also the first poem I read on the night), hopefully inducing the birth of a beautiful poetry baby which casts away an emphasis on the quality of performance and emphasises the importance of meaningful words being said in a meaningful way. Come here, precious poetry babe, and suck on daddy’s milkless, putrid teat.

All in all an enjoyable evening of energy and poetry. Each finalist (Winner, Young Dawkins, 2nd place Stephen Welsh, 3rd Chris Lindores, also notably, in close 4th place, Colin McGuire) deserved their place and are no doubt poets worth watching out for in the future. "This Collection Friendly Poetry Slam" had the usual (and potentially unavoidable) temptations of gags over graft, even some rapping at times, but offered a new, refreshing direction for slamming in the city.

(I came 8th)

Russell Jones


  1. LAWL!

    you really do talk bollocks.

  2. Hi Tickle

    I've trodden on some toes here! Certain styles of reading aren't my thing, thus the blog post and poem, but I didn't want to seriously offend anyone. Making poetry more accessible to folks is a damned good thing, however it's done. My apologies to anyone (including your good self) who found this of bad taste/insulting/ill-informed

  3. contradictory is how i found it.

    you said that people rap to hide their emptiness.

    then you say you whored yourself out with gags for points.


    then you have another go at rapping implying that it can't be meaningful words said in a meaningful way.

    again this is pretty rich considering the lighweight content of your second set of poems.

    i'm not saying you should like rap type poetry, it's fair enough if you don't and it's blatantly a matter of taste.

    for my part i don't much care for feelings and flowers type poetry read too close to the mic in a weak voice from a page held in a shaking hand.

    if it seems that i'm taking it personally it's because myself and the other chemical poets are pretty much the only rap type performers in the edinburgh slam scene so your comments felt very much like a direct dig at me/us.

    and by the way if you enter yourself in a spoken word/performance poetry competition it's pretty pointless getting shitty about there being a lot of focus on the way it's spoken and performed eh no?

    by the way please don't click on my name at the top of the previous post. it's a rickroll that will crash your browser. petty, vindictive and unneccessary. i apologise.

  4. Hi Tickle

    The poem and blog posts were meant to be taken as tongue in cheek rather than being "shitty". It didn't mean to aim any ill feelings towards you specifically, so my apologies if it seemed to.

    Thanks for getting back to comment

  5. it's all good man. sorry if i've been harsh. quite hungover and emotional.

    i've encountered an awful lot of negativity in the slam and poetry scene about the way i say the words i write.

    i think it's left me quite touchy about it all.

    also have a lot of people in the hip hop scene be negative cos i'm not hip hop enough.

    rock and a hardplace...

    what i should have done first off was link you to some tasty crossover rapper/poets...

    sage francis

    talib kweli

    and from britain dizraeli

    and poets who've done their stuff over hip hop beats like sarah jones...

    with beats-

    without beats-

    spoken word and slam type performance poetry came out of the same roots as hip hop.

    people like gil scott heron-

    there's also the last poets- sort of proto hip hop

    i'm not much into page poetry tbh and i guess we've met in the middle with slamming.

    saying as i've linked to "the revolution will not be televised" and sarah jones's "your revolution" i should also link to "television will not be revolutionised" by ben mellor...

    and finally if you think rap poets talk too fast to understand check this out...

  6. fuck.

    i thought blogspot would make these links live atuomatically...

    i can't edit them to be hyperlinks either.

    i'm gonna post it on facebook too cos those links took a while to collate...

  7. There's nothing remotely unnatural in the urban jeer of Shakespeare: it's his language through and through. And Keats, of course, was the "cockney poet".