Tag Archives: Apples and Snakes

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 2: Dice Slam with Apples & Snakes

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What Verve did really well and the secret behind the magic of the festival was the fusion between Spoken Word and Poetry. I always knew this was possible and the team proved it. What I really loved was people’s reaction to Spoken Word – those who had not experienced it before or wouldn’t brave a city event, found that they loved it.

There was plenty of talk over the weekend of the age demographics for both types of event but by the end of the weekend the spaces were filled with a wide range and people began to understand that it doesn’t matter. They stopped seeing it. If poetry is to thrive we need to have this commitment and enthusiasm for bridging a gap that technically doesn’t have to exist. It of course depends on what you like and I am just happy that I immerse in both forms comfortably.

To come from the relative quiet of the 2nd floor Festival Marquee to the loud, riotous mouth of the 1st floor Bar Stage and immerse ourselves in foot stamping, witness the clicking of appreciate and the howls after every poem performed was, even for a veteran of the spoken word scene, a bit of a culture shock. Like hitting London after a long weekend in the Isle of Wight!

I have been to slams, I have even braved one as a contestant. Now that I know work by heart I may brave some in the future. I had never been to a Dice Slam and I appreciate the Dadaism of scoring through chance, a roll of the dice. It made me feel sorry for the contestants with scores as low as 3 when their performances were clearly double figures, but on the other hand it took away that horrible scoring process that is always subjective at such events.

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Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown were the contestants and I looked forward to every performance as none are names I know. My experience of Spoken Word is bound to the city and some of the big names who headline throughout Poetryville. I love festivals for the potential of meeting and watching new to me poets.

This was an incredibly lively event, hosted by Amerah Saleh, who is a poet I know from her days with Beatfreaks and on the circuit of Birmingham. I first saw her perform at Mouth & Music on home turf. She was also one of four Podium Poets at this year’s festival. The others were Helen Calcutt, Jasmine Gardosi & Geraldine Clarkson.

THE JUDGES

We were introduced to the judges who all performed. Anna Freeman, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she is also a multi-winning slam poet and if that wasn’t enough she is also a novelist. http://www.annafreemanwriter.com/

verve-goodreads-anna-freeman © 2017 Goodreads

I loved her ‘My Little Pony Poem’… ‘My Unicorn Friend, branding is a capitalist concept – so I explain this to the other six year olds…’

Dan Simpson is a poet and a producer and has a Doppelgänger working behind the café/bar in Waterstones and is published by Burning Eye. http://www.dansimpsonpoet.co.uk/verve-2-dan-simpson

© 2017 Dan Simpson (I presume)

In a peak of genius which was in keeping with the Dadaism of Dice Slamming, Dan brought this book along with him to use as a judging tool. requesting page numbers from the audience before scanning the page for relevance or reading non-relevance to justify the scores. Sometimes the universe worked and the reading was as apt as a fortune cookie fortune… other times more of a Christmas cracker joke.

Memorable, surrealistic performance… ‘what kind of 90s feminist, Disney character sandwich filler are you?’

Luke Kennard

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Who after years of not getting to see seems to be in my life right now as much as full meals. (Yesterday I had my first proper dinner for a week, so I am suggesting Luke pops up in my schedule weekly/monthly and not everyday… his family would have something to say about that I am sure!) If you haven’t discovered Luke yet, please do.

He is the new canal laureate and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birmingham University. He has published collections for more than 10 years, the most recent ‘Cain’ published by Penned in the Margins and has also just published a novel ‘The Transition’. transition-topping-books© 2017 Topping Books

https://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/events/bath/novelist-luke-kennard/

They had the tough job of validating dice scores and they did so with hilarious monologues/comments of worth and woe. As entertaining as the performers, although the performers threw us some very serious poem curve balls too.


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The five featured poets are all ridiculously talented writers and performers, and will converge on Birmingham from every corner of the country. It will be the first time Sky Hawkins (the North), Toby Campion (the Midlands), Kareem Parkins-Brown (London), Charley Genever (the South East), and Vanessa Kisuule (the South West) share the same stage. You may have seen some of them individually, of course, but the Dice Slam at Verve Festival really is a rare opportunity to check the pulse of poetry on a national scale at a single event. And to stop you feeling homesick, the local touch will be provided by our host, Birmingham’s own poetry powerhouse Amerah Saleh.

© 2017 Verve Team

Toby Campion reminded me of my time living in Leicester, he was very excited to be part of the Slam and grabbed hearts with his Midlands Poem. A conversation with the North and South… ‘you never acknowledge the Midlands, despite having been attached for thousands of years!’

Sky Hawkins opened the night with spectacularly hard hitting poetry. ‘Do not let the wolves teach your sons… especially if your sons are half wolves themselves.’ She was the overall winner. Receiving a massive 11 points from the dice.

Charley Genever stormed it- her Meal Deal poem went down particularly well. I liked the darkness of her poetry and that stunning flame/net mesh dress. (I know we shouldn’t belittle women by commenting on their fashion. I will mention Kareem’s bright orangey puffer jacket for balance here.) ‘A woman consumes in shades…’

Kareem Parkins-Brown performed his cake poem to great response. ‘I’d risk it for some lemon drizzle..’ and of course it opened the debate over Jaffa Cakes (biscuit)! Listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/kareempb/cake (WARNING: Contains swearing, but you will hear how much the audience enjoyed his set).

Vanessa Kissule also pulled incredible set out of the bag having already enjoyed all other performances. I was immersed in the moment and was delighted to get to meet her briefly after the show. ‘Youth is made for bright colours and hemlines that hug upper thighs’

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It was a fantastic second night at the festival.


Dice Slam originated in the Netherlands when Bernhard Christianssen tried the format for the first time. There has only ever been one in the UK before and that was 6 years ago. (Before I hit the poetry scene or even started writing again.) No doubt it was brought to you by Apples & Snakes/ Bohdan Piasecki.

Photography unless otherwise stated © 2017 Waterstones/ Verve Team

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Poetry for Tea – Hit The Ode – Thursday 17th April

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Hit the Ode

The guest list this week was phenomenal – the event is run by Bodhan Piasecki, who works as the west Midlands Programme Co-ordinator for Apples & Snakes and is a lively. energetic and entertaining host. The formula is 6 open mic spots (usually pre-booked) and then 3 headliners – guest poets, a local, national and international act.

This month; hit 1

Hit the Ode is a spoken word poetry night which brings the most exciting poets from the region, the country, and the world to the heart of Birmingham. Each edition features three guest acts: one from the North West, one from elsewhere in the UK, and one international guest. 

We have poems. Poems which crunch when you bite into them; poems you’ve been meaning to call for ages; poems buzzing like wires strung between pylons.

Good poems. Come and get them.

FEATURING:

SHANE KOYCZAN
Winner of the US Slam Poetry Championship and the Canadian Spoken Word Olympics, Koyczan is truly an extraordinary talent that has blown the dust off of the designation “poet”. Engaging and authentic in attitude, Koyczan emerges in a new wave of 21st century poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them in their own voice.

JASMINE COORAY
Jasmine Ann Cooray is a poet and spoken word artist and workshop facilitator from London, of British and Sri Lankan heritage. She is known for vivid imagery, attention to detail and storytelling through personal experience. Jasmine has just returned from her stint as International Writer in Residence at The National University of Singapore.

JODI ANN BICKLEY
One of Brum’s best loved authors, poet and best-selling author of One Million Lovely Letters Jodi Ann Bickley returns to Hit the Ode for her very first full set. It’s high time: since her victory at the 2009 Roundhouse slam, Jodi has performed all over the UK, including festivals such as Bestival and Glastonbury. She was a speaker at TEDxBrum in 2013.

 

Many people wanted the open mic slots for the honour of performing in front of Shane. I asked back in March but was already too late. I was put on the reserve list. I hadn’t given this a thought all day. I got there in time to mingle and chat to poets I haven’t seen in a while and some that were at PFL as well, then took my seat (which was a bit of luck) I think there were 80 people there it was standing room only!

 

A Surprise Performance!

do415com open mic Bohdan came up and told me there had been a no-show and that he was giving the slot to me. I accepted eagerly and then went into shock! The event was about to start and I hadn’t prepared anything, fortunately in my hurry to leave for the train I had grabbed some extra poems, sorted my PFL poems out on the train, then resorted them at the library – when I arrived I had forgotten what it was I was going to perform!

I frantically looked through and chose 3 suitable poems.

All the open mics were brilliant and I think I was the only one with words on the stage – it made me feel better when all 3 headline acts (including Shane) used screens, books and prompt notes to read some of their sets from. They like me didn’t just stand there and read – it is a glance down for feeder lines performance.

I still like to take a new set to every show – 20+% of the audience has usually been to other events – there are some poems – much as I love them – that I have heard every month so far this year more or less, although this is the done thing professionally – of course it is – who wants to learn 100 poems! I go to so many events that on occasion I have already seen the main act elsewhere, they usually throw in 1 or 2 different poems but the rest of their 20 minutes is the same show. I like to mix it up and because of this still only know a couple by heart!

Despite having the paper (which if you remember I REALLY needed) inkspill open mind last time I was lucky enough to perform at Hit the Ode (back in Feb) I lost my focus and the already rehearsed and perfected poems slipped out of my head and I died on stage, had to jump off, empty my bag (literally tipped it upside down) and then jump back on the mic and perform from the page!

This time I performed well and lots of people spoke to me about my poems. One of which I wrote when I was 17. (It was published – I didn’t tell many people that!)

 

Main Acts

JODI ANN BICKLEY – was brilliant! I hadn’t realised it was her 1st long performance – it was fabulous, funny, heart wrenchingly truthful and we all wanted at least another 20 minutes, she informed us that we wouldn’t want to see her turn, which usually happens around the 4th poem, one to watch out for, she was great!

JASMINE COORAY – Owned the stage, composed and full of life’s experiences she wrote about her life, memories, people and brought them all to life on the stage in front of us. A stunning set and someone I could also have spent the whole night listening to. She was selling some hand-made pamphlets (between publications) and I regret that I didn’t have enough spare cash after the afternoon in Birmingham to buy one.

SHANE KOYCZAN – A M A Z I N G! And lacks ego – the crowd went wild and his 1st words were ‘I didn’t save anyone!’ A true heroes welcome, a true hero, but a humble man. He made me feel like we were right there alongside him, all equal – despite the standing ovation at the end and ENCORE, 2 things I have NEVER witnessed at a poetry night – including Hit the Ode! WOW! EVERYONE! Even the people lucky enough to have chairs! It was a powerful, energetic performance, full of raw emotion, life stories and some jokes about numbers that we will never forget! If there were any men preparing best man speeches in the room then Shane set would be a dream! It is beyond words really! Incredible. Loved it! Go on, go…. You Tube!

 

Post Gig

After the gig I was able to talk to people again and I went to meet Shane who performed an amazingly, open, emotive, energetic set, how he remembers all his words I don’t know. He signed my every-writer-should-have-one-handbag-notebook, which is currently fairly empty as I have just finished the one I used when this poetry mission started, last October. I have a lovely message now to inspire me every time I open the book.  beach

After an adrenalin packed day I headed home by train and car and resisted the temptation to stay up all night and dance around in happy circles! (Although my performance photos are not something I enjoy looking at or sharing at the moment, I think ZUMBA might be the best post-gig adrenaline plan!)

 

LINKS

Shane Koyczan  (language content)

Jasmine Cooray

Jodi Ann Bickley