The 2019 Glastonbury Poetry Slam!

Hosted by Brian McMahon Gallagher and Thunderclap Murphy,  the Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam kicks off as the final event of the weekend. And it’s clear from the get-go that we’re in experienced hands with the hosts.

They divide those who’ve signed up (and turned up) into two groups of six.

Group 1

Lisa Goodwin (“Runner up last time. Bard of Glastonbury”) lambasts those who leave plenties of trace at Glastonbury, gets straight into it: “someone will pick up the bits”. It’s feisty and crafted – I can see why she got so far last time. The crowd love it.

Liam Young (“I’m speechless”) – Liam Young of the Deviated Septums, never intended to do it, but some Glastonbury magic happened. It’s put out to all the people who never believed in him, hip-hop inflected but slower than that implies. Crowd more subdued, but still enthused

Sunny Jim (@_SunnyJim) (“Environmental Spoken Word”) reads from his phone – something he wrote specially for the occasion. Like Lisa’s, it’s an ode to the magic (and possibly the hypocrisy) of the Glastonbury culture and the possibility – not always picked up – to let go of the frantic nature of everyday life.

Amy Rainbow (“Very happy to be at Glastonbury”) – sharing a poem about one woman’s search for love. It’s clever, gentle, and manages to have an -ate rhyme at the end of every line – well, except the last one. I’m still chuckling (as are the rest of the crowd)… 🙂

Andria Walton (@AndrianaWalton1) (“Lergy (seriously?! poets have interesting writing!) sharing poetry and diversity”) – there’s always a war, and she talks about the history of man’s greed and pillaging, and a call to renew, regenerate, revive, and become sustainable (there’s a theme developing in this slam!)

While the judges are totting up scores, Brian reminds us that, “when great British institutions need hosts, they go Irish – Graham Norton, Terry Wogan, Dara O’Briain,” then gives us a poem about Dublin and toxic masculine culture, homophobia (internalised as well as more broadly cultural).

Aidan “Thunderclap” Murphy comes to the stage with “the all important scores from Group 1”: Liam Young in 2nd place and Lisa Goodwin in 1st place go through to the next round. The audience can vote for the audience prize for someone who should have gone further, in their opinion…

Martin Grey (@martin_grey_poet) (“Nottingham’s best poet from Guildford”) – gives us Dancefloor, an terpsichorean ode to the magic of a favourite nightclub and music and friends and how memories stay etched in sweat and chord progressions.

Torrey Shineman (@TorreyShine) (“Witty wordsmith from across the pond.”) – launches into “If you can’t be comfortable doing naked handstands in front of me, I don’t think this is going to work…” and it talks about body shame and pride and makes the most of gestures and body language (heh). The crowd very much dig it!

Sophie Shepherd (@sophherdpoem) – The A5204 – a tale of being run over by a commuter on a scooter in London, imagining that the commuter has worked hard and worked out that she’s a poet and his bitterness at not being able to get his drama out of his system with, you know, actual drama, leads him to only being able to express himself with rage.

Jason Butler (“Lyrical [indecipherable] lurid” – poets, please learn a wee bit penmanship!) – “Excuse the voice, I’ve been having it quite large this weekend!” and then sets into a poem about his dog chasing a bird. This seemingly innocuous tale (“know your limitations, dog, you can’t fly!”), turns out to be him talking to himself, stifling his own dreams. Metaphor, kids! Ooh, the crowd love that!

Carl Burkitt (@carlburkitt) – “This is, er, this is a breakup poem…” and it starts exactly like a classic “my heart is a brick made of pain” (that’s me, not him, by the way) poem, both in words and delivery and then it turns out it’s an ode of farewell for… his foreskin… I literally shriek with laughter, then continue to lose it (like the crowd) as he then takes us through his pain and then his happiness at discovering that foreskins aren’t all that. I couldn’t tell you any of the allusions as I was too busy losing any shred of cool I once possessed, a mess of sniggers.

Bertram: That Geezabird (“70% Skittles”) launches into their dancey rap Confusion, concluding that not only are they confused, but so is everyone they know and so are we. Fair point. Magically, the bass beat outside synchronises briefly with them. People start bopping to their driving rhythm, and send them off with cheer.

Now Brian gives us a poem about the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland. It’s heartfelt and important, and – luckily – reflected in the reality of the good decision that Ireland made.

Aidan brings us the scores from Group 2 – 2nd place Carl Burkitt and 1st place Torrey Shineman go through to the final.

Oooooooh…! It’s all to play for! They now hand out sheets of paper so that the audience can write down who they liked who didn’t get through and why they should be given a special mention. It’s genial chaos and very Glastonbury. Paper there is aplenty, but few scribbling sticks. Brian has my pen; I’m keeping an eye on it…

Torrey Shineman kicks off the final with a dismissal of the dismissal of #MeToo conflating “serious and childish” events. She makes sure we know it’s all part of the same spectrum. It’s visceral and terrifying and “If you can’t feel the heat, maybe you’ve been in the kitchen too long and you think this warmth is normal” it grabs you in the chest and every inner part. The crowd love it.

Liam Young is next with an introduction that tells us that his parents encouraged him to join the RAF, and his dallying with student (drugs) culture, the poem is called Dropping Bombs Is Not The Answer. It’s about refugees, empathy, hypocrisy, and institutional lies – “Dropping bombs is not the answer, it’s like curing AIDS by spreading cancer.” The crowd love this too!

Carl Burkitt is next with a tribute to line in a Paul Simon song “he sees angels in the architecture” It’s called Forty-Nine Rubbish Lines I Would Probably Have Written Without Ever Getting To That Line If I’d Tried to Write You Can Call Me Al – I mean, probably; I lost it by then. It’s a litany of dreadful puns and alliteration combined. I’m weak again, as are the hosts and audience.

Lisa Goodwin finishes us off with a true story about a educational seminar talking about the trouble with children, lambasting the idea that we can ram people into boxes, cut off the bits that don’t fit from early on off “those opting out of the prospectus of correctness”. The crowd shriek for the joy of identifying with “children in chaos” and all the potential they bring.

Brian now takes to the stage to read out the reasons people listed as to why they wanted to hear more from/ particularly liked the performers. It turns out lots of people have terrible writing – not just poets. I’m going to see how many of them I can grab and post on here (on a later post – I’m keen to get on with my Festival!).

We’re running under time. Somehow. Again. So Brian draws some names of the people who didn’t get through to the final to read a second poem. We get Bertram: That Geezabird (a track about being a starving artist: Art), Amy Rainbow (a piece about being vegan, despite her clearly massive love for cheese: Intolerance), Jason Butler (a piece about love at first sight: The Penny Dropped), Martin Grey (a found poem from the website sponsorthisroundabout.com), Sophie Shepherd (a poem about her hairy legs: Your Beautiful Legs). Then they invite Scott to the stage to give a poem about his son, Toby (the lovely one about the doll: Snapping Back).

Talking of Toby, the hosts ask him to announce the prizes (which he does with extraordinary aplomb!) while Helen hands them over.

Joint 3rd are Carl Burkitt and Liam Young, which gets awkward, as the prize is a rosette, which is pinned to the pair of them…

2nd is Torrey Shineman

And the 2019 Glastonbury Poetry&Words Slam Champion, returning to the Festival next year, and taking away a gorgeous trophy, is Lisa Goodwin, who gives us a victory lap in the form of a piece outlining the transformation from a poet to a bard with the story of Gwion Bach (and, of course, Taliesin).

And that’s it! We’re done and dusted for the year, with a new Slam Champion, new friends, new memories, and some new life skills…!

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Sunday Part 2

I miss compere Dominic Berry’s final first entrance of the day (look, it makes sense to me, shh) while I’m picking out the slices of bread that don’t have (visible) mould for my sandwich (nearly typed sadwich; interesting parapraxis).

Gecko takes to the stage immediately making his guitar singing like a harp. It’s his tenth performance at Glastonbury Festival 2019. “Round of applause for me still having some kind of voice!” It’s an excellent voice – all down to Vocalzones, apparently, though I suspect good rehearsal and technique, but what do I know? He’s ludicrously talented, and I don’t have the guitar vocabulary to convey it. Like all the amazing guitarists I know, his fingers tease out sounds almost unconsciously, even while he’s talking to us (I’m trying to avoid cliché here about his instrument being an extension of him; how did I do?). He’s able to switch up between performance and very spontaneous audience banter, the wit and compassion in the songs bleeding straight out into other interactions (example: the wind blows a heavy barrier over at the side and he immediately breaks off to ask: “Is everyone okay?” – seems small, but it’s classy as hell, to my mind; then goes on to make a joke about how it’s his low-tech equivalent of Stormzy’s fireworks). His songs veer between silly, passionate, meaningful, sweet, and witty, and reflect all sorts of genres (which is pretty miraculous considering he’s just one dude with a guitar. One well-engineered encore later, he leaps off the stage to perfect timing.

Dominic sits cross-legged on the stage to give us a small poem while the technicians set up for Joe around him. It’s different from his usual stuff, in metre and subject – Glastonbury and new friends. It’s just lush, and I want a copy.

Bringing us the Sunday showcase – Monster – is Joe Sellman-Leava. He enters to a slowed version of the Friends theme, and a blatter of the slogans of toxic masculinity. It’s a story about a boy and a girl, and the boy (Joe) learning something from the girl (who he won’t name), and a play (Troilus and Cressida), and confusion and violence… He immediately switches up voices quickly, which helps later with the placement of the first conversation. It’s rapid-fire and a clearly not chaotic, but definitely disorientating. Joe is talking to his girlfriend as he tries to learn lines for the play, researching male (specifically inter-gender) violence, and he switches between the conversations, the play, reminiscence of their first meeting, the research (Patrick Stewart talking about his father’s violence against his mother, Mike Tyson talking about his relationship with various women), the rehearsals, showing us how violence can underpin even the smallest of interactions (mother and father, son and mother, boyfriend and girlfriend, male director and (virtually) silent actress), and – arguably – the limitations of Method.

And then it takes a left turn into the director and Sally talking about something that appears to be this play itself, and we slalom even quicker between reminiscence, quotes/ impersonations, conversations (arguments?), Shakespearean soliloquising, rehearsal, domestic interactions, but his voicing and placement with the spare set of two fold-out chairs assist us to see it, hear it, follow it, live it. And slowly, my own fear builds until I’m catapulted out of the tent just as the insidious voice of the director pushes for Joe to do unspeakable – yet spoken, here – things to the actress? The character?

“There is a fascist, a rapist, and a monster inside all of us, because no-one is innately good.”

“I’ve lost myself, and what remains is bestial.”

The inevitable course of this series of dilemmas and conflicts spirals into a break-up.

Patrick Stewart’s story is my story. And Joe’s story is my story. And fulminating, seemingly irresistible rage doesn’t just happen to men. But they’re both right – while anger isn’t, violence is a choice. Making that choice is important, and has to be made every day if the toxic legacy is to be left behind. This is a spoken word show. It’s all true. It may not be factual but, like all good art, it’s true.

Dominic gives us another of his Glastonbury poems from his time as Poet in Residence 2017: We Are Mud. It’s glorious and fun and loving, and a perfect come-down after the intensity that’s just gone before, after he walks us through some Toby Campion-inspired deep breaths in chorus.

Poet in Residence Vanessa Kisuule takes to the stage in… well, basically, yet another fabulous, glamorous outfit. How? How?! She always looks extraordinary, and it’s, as ever, a lesson in attitude and joy in yourself making a person look magnetic. ANYWAY, she starts with one of her recent favourites: Not Worth Shaving Your Arsehole For, complete with intricate introduction. Increasingly hoarsely, she gives us a touching ode to motherhood, then one to octopodes (I love them even more now). Her grandmother puts in an appearance now, divided by speech, Vanessa not having the language of her family, but loving her through the tales and fables told. And finally, laryngitis just about failing to throttle her, a list love poem to female camaraderie – proper friends and club friends (“babes, love, and pumpkin… don’t text back, babes!”). She tells such spare, vivid stories with her gorgeously textured lyricism – this is the perfect efficiency of poetry spun by an absolute master.

2017 Glastonbury Poetry&Words Slam Winner, multiple slam-winner, and Bard of Exeter Jackie Juno floats to the stage in layers of frilly white, resembling a very happy, earthly cloud, explaining that she’s from Totness, where you’re never more than a few feet from a homeopath. She starts with a terrible tale of fluffy white lighters. This woman who advertises tarot readings in the poetry campsite and professes a great love for trees (lovely poem), calling out to Lord and Lady during it, inducing the audience into evoking the spirits of thirteen British trees, she has the older pagan’s mild disdain for modern hippy culture, especially the consumerist element. I want to ask her how she feels about Glastonbury and its many, many stalls. Maybe I will later… She gets us one-two’ing to complete her poem, complete with many terrible puns. Her enjoyment is infectious, and the audience are chuckling along, especially to her anecdote about being booked for a “mini Glyndebourne”. The rhymes that follow are a fabulous send-up of the mangled diction of the intensely upper classes.

 

Sunday Part 1


One last time for pre-show act The Antipoet, kicking us off with typical bombast, then, three tracks in, they announce a Serious Poem – It’s Not Guns That Kill People. They ask if they should try doing more serious stuff, and the crowd absolutely concur. The moody bass rumble and the backing track add to the atmosphere of the rant against the NRA their ilk. Next comes their tribute to their sadly departed mate Tony, who they met at Glastonbury (Martial Artist Physiotherapist). By the time that’s done, the swelling crowd lap it up, chuckling and cheering. While Ian has finally donned his spiky, patent high-heels boots and basque on in this tent, Paul strips off for They’ve Got To Learn, an enthusiastic defence of the power of profanity. The lads’ partners join them to help the audience out with a set of cue cards with the extraordinary words written on them. The audience manage very well to chime in at the right time. Then crowd favourite I Like Girls kicks off (and I’m invited to grant the audience a alternative (queer, non-binary) perspective, as has become traditional over the years). They finish with a round of thanks to everyone, the flourish of new album title track Punk Uncle, and a roar of glorious cheers.

Compere Rosy Carrick takes to the stage in dungarees and revelations about her morning ablutions. She then gives a rousing, touching introduction to… oh, wait, it’s me…

Blogger Fay Roberts takes to the stage. To say I’m nervous would be understating this tremendously… And then I do my usual opening piece, Blissful Chance, and it turns out I do know what I’m doing, and the smallness and passivity of the audience and the loud drag yoga on the Sensation Seekers stage doesn’t phase me (though that’s quite the leotard!), and I’m grateful, in retrospect that my first appearance on the stage was with The Antipoet, because it’s only another festival stage and I know how to do this, and the key thing is not to let people know you’re bricking it.

The beautiful soul that’s Dominic Berry took some lovely photos and videos, and here they are (well, one of them – we’re experiencing a small problem with videos… they’ll come later)

We have a surprise guest (for complicated reasons – I won’t bore you), Australian artist Omar Mousa. His bars glitters across the beat of the outside, tackling Australian culture and toxic masculinity. I am in an adrenalin come-down, and busy signing the one book I’ve sold, so I don’t take in much, but I am going to look him up later, not least for stepping in at the last minute for reasons that… well…

Shama Rahman takes to the stage amidst a tangle of technicians and wires and instruments and cases and musicians and busy-ness (an audience member tells us he’d “rather be warm than Wu-Tang” in response to Rosy’s request for expansion on why he didn’t like their “mostly karaoke” set last night. I was busy having a loneliness and exhaustion melt-down, but I heard their chants and oddly congruent backing tracks while trying to settle down). Rosy performs her Arnold Schwarzenegger poem from Friday, then, the musicians being unready, another one I’ve not heard before, about the awkwardness of holding hands (called, oddly enough, Holding Hands).

The band launch as swiftly as possible into their truncated set with Ships In The Night, which passes through at least three different musical genres that I can count in dizzying profusion. Shama tells us that all her songs start as poems, and the next one is another person’s poem, which translates as Matchstick – “It’s a revolution song… don’t underestimate the power of a single matchstick – it could burn your whole house down…” I assume it’s in an Indian dialect (I’ll check later). She then gives us the title track from her latest album: Truth Be Told, the one with the glorious dance (the one I had in my head as (I Sing To Myself) Song To The Sea, as that’s a repeated refrain). And the synaesthesia shivers kick off for me with the beautifully dissonant ripples of instrumentation, and her voice dances between ribbons of mystical shimmers with an almost forceful, rock-inflected delivery. (I find myself forgiving her for sitting on my beloved cajon, which I unwisely left on the stage after its brief appearance with The Antipoet). The final track (All In Your Mind?) is yet another genre, the sitar and bass snarling under her chanted, almost rapped lyrics. The sound technician outdoes himself, giving her almost more reverb than is decent (almost!), and the growl of poem-song draws more intrigued audience members. Let’s hope they stay through the inevitable disentangling (and me retrieving my drum) to watch the next act!

Murray Lachlan Young takes to the stage, introduced as “the suavest man in existence”, which he grins at (and somehow manages that with faded, black jeans, a nondescript top, and flip-flops – it’s probably partly the voice, and partly really suiting silvering hair), asking us to bring the energy up with applause for ancient nomadic structure, recently emptied compost toilets, the benevolent part of Universal Consciousness, then a series of things that no-one likes or wants to applause. Then bongos. “Tippy-tappy-tip-tap-tap” he demands from the audience, which they’re, well, a little too listless to engage with. It melds into a series of rhythmic portraits of festival clichés, followed by a query: should we have a national referendum about the thong (men, wearing thongs, specifically). Young men flee towards to the end, and he weaves that into his outro. According to his recent reading, the tipping point has come: Britain has more famous people than normal people. He gives us a poems mostly using the words known and unknown, which growls and keen through the full range of his amazing voice. Honestly, his voice has only got more theatrical and astonishing over the years since my brother and I first stared at him on late night 90s TV. He goes on to rhythmically pillory one of P Diddy’s more outrageous antics in something uncomfortably close to an impersonation of a stereotyped, young person of colour. Avoiding going to the loo has apparently reached new, dark levels (eating charcoal tablets to avoid defecation until the person takes a laxative). The toilet talk continues. Horrific mentions of despair and death concerning Glastonbury history… with regard to defecation. Again, I’m struck with the phenomenon of headliners talking more between pieces than doing pieces. The Voice of a Portaloo follows, almost inevitably.

Someone tried to crash out in his tent, which is near the naked male sauna, where he did a naked gig, including the next piece: Tae A Scrotum (yes, in the style – and accent – of Rabbie Burn). I snigger helplessly. I won’t lie. We finish with the “erotic folk song poem” Dogging – what folk songs aren’t singing about, apparently, but should. “You’ll be pleased to know there’s a singalong chorus: And a-dogging I will go/ Oh, a-dogging I will go”). It’s a tour of the UK as seen through the medium of carparks.

(Yes, I got a selfie. What?!)

Courtney Conrad takes to the stage in a floaty, open black dress combo with big, pale flowers interweaving on it (yes, I’m still noticing clothes – don’t @ me, as they say). Her delivery is even stronger than her first performance on Friday. It’s a very similar set to that one, but with some I didn’t hear last time, and the usual enjoyment of summoning up other moments I’d not captured then. Maybe I’m in a different place myself today, but I hear more strongly the intensity of both her love and despair for her family and cultures, the difficulties of language and translation of Otherness within Otherness. It’s brave and quiet and a gritted teeth sharing of brutal, beautiful truths.

(I missed taking a photo of her. Sorry!)

Jonny Fluffypunk is greeted with an “Edinburgh Fringe size of audience” so, to the sound technician’s mild disquiet, he drags the mic and stand into the auditorium, but luckily he knows what he’s doing when it comes to sound equipment and feedback, so no horrific feedback ensues. “If you were here yesterday, you’ll learn a valuable lesson about the craft of seemingly spontaneous banter.” And then goes on to start with a very similar rant, minus the rock ’n’ roll bit, then a different kick-off poem – his ode to coffee, which breaks the fourth wall at nearly every other line, asking for audience participation to better complete the fourth line in the spelling section gifted to him by Oxford: “F – Fuck Tea!” (we end up with “Filtered, frothy, fumigates my brain…”). It’s reached that point of the festival where nearly everyone references the toilets… To be fair, they get emptied halfway through JFP’s set, adding a distinctive fragrance to proceedings. And, like the drifting whiff of human marsh gas, I wander out of the tent to make myself a sandwich. I’m sure the set ended well, though.

Saturday Part 1

WInston Plowes with his magical contraption is set to capture words

And we’re off! pre-show act The Antipoet kick us off with their classic Glastonbury track We Are The Warm-Up – to an audience of about 40 (which is, for a poetry gig, frankly bloody amazing, let alone on a Saturday morning at a festival). By track three they’re up to 50 (Paul informs me that there are 53 and I should also count the 40 who walked away earlier – duly noted). Clearly ranty poetry in eyeliner and bondage kilts is the way of the future. The set is different, leaning into the swearier stuff they avoided yesterday, summoning a harder laughter from the audience.

Compere Dominic Berry bounds onto the stage to give a poem on the Myth of Protein. Vegans in the audience particularly love it, cackling along.

Ana Paz takes to the stage to Move On Up. She stands, silent, for a deliberately, dramatically uncomfortable while, gazes at the audience, collects herself and the witnesses, gives an impassioned piece about the martyrdom of a queer activist of colour (“When I see you, I see me.”), how activism expands into community and history, and how much we still have to fight against, in the memory of Mariana Franco (an assassinated councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro). The rest of her set echoes this, as yesterday – an articulate rage against hypocrisy, the long history of explicit and – more dangerously – implicit messages from society about structural inequity (“I paid attention when my mother told me how to season/ But when a man told me that’s where I belonged, I didn’t listen”). The audience (yes, bigger than yesterday) lap it up, and she encourages hmms and fingerclicks for the next poem where she jumps off the stage to ramp up the intimacy on the topic of truth. She explicitly engineers her set on the fly to match the energy. They are loving the darker, more contemplative stuff, so she leans into that, holding the growing numbers of in the palm of her hand.

Dominic gives us another barnstormer about veganism, with so bloody many puns about food and masculinity that we’re broadsided when it gets serious and hands us uncomfortable facts about strength and animals.

Eve Piper takes to the stage in a gloriously bright dress. Yeah, I’ve no idea how to talk about clothes, but it’s such a dramatic contrast to yesterday even I notice these things. Right, words then. She starts as before, with a query: who here is single? And who’s keeping their options open? Who’s got their eye on a potential Glastonbury mate? Someone shouts “You, Eve! It’s you!” The set is the same as before, but sounds as fresh and well-crafted as yesterday, and the audience are as hooked, while I tug new favourite moments from the welter of words.

Liv Torc is now hosting the Open mic, kicking us off with verve, and a well-honed delivery of the guidelines (one poem only, don’t go over time or the kazoo and shakers will interrupt you), enthuses and draws people in like the best of hosts. I knew she’d be good! ☺

Dominic had to write out the bio of someone who declared themself too high to do it…

(Apologies for the paucity of photo quality from here on out – my phone was suffering from the heat something awful…)

Josie Alford (@josiealfordpoet) gives us the poem she used to propose to her boyfriend (he said yes). She is performing so she can tell her mum she’s performed at Glastonbury.

Mark McGivern gives us a poem for one of his oldest friend with a meditation on how to be a fixed point of stability in someone else’s life in all the small gestures. He runs his own spoken word and music events in Cambridge (and I’m so proud to see him on this stage).

Torrey Shineman (@TorreyShine) (surname rhymes with Cinnamon, if you were wondering) gives us a poem giving us the history of vulva epilation (terrifying – look it up, also merkins) in response to current fashion (especially in her native US).

John Row (a refugee from the 70s spoken word scene and famous back in Cambridge as a storyteller in every festival within a 50 mile radius) has escaped the Kids’ Field to rant about the shame of the racist basis of migration policies. The crowd erupts!

Chip Colquhoun (@creatorchip) is another professional storyteller from Cambridge, who was put down for this by John Row, and he brings us the one poem he’s got on his phone – a children’s version of Beowulf. He’s the first person to go over time, but curves it into a deft twist of finish (“If you want to know how it finishes, I think there’s a book about it somewhere…”)

Loudspeka (@loudspeka) is a political, pacifist activist (“break the code, write an ode”) who rants a colourful exposé of big business, a confrontation that has the crowd whooping. Due to struggling with the technology (which hates the heat even more than I do), I missed getting a photo of her. Gah. Sorry! Check her out online anyway!

Bertram: That Geezerbird (“70% Skittles. Too excitable properly. Definitely at least the prettiest one here”) gives us a rousing rap about confusion that gets the crowd clapping in time as they bounce, skipping about the stage, then roaring as they leap from it.

Robin Lawley, who came third in the last Glastonbury Poetry&Words slam, absolutely changes the atmosphere (the proper joy of open mic, folks!) with an ode to a departed cat, gentle and personal and absolutely in the spirit of Jeremy Hardy who he’s just been a part of memorialising.

Jason Butler (@oldmanvegas) gives us a rapidly rhyming anecdote about an escaped crab. The crowd love this tale of late night seaside vengeance. Sadly, didn’t capture him either!

Ross Wallis gives us An Epistle, conceived a few weeks ago, and written while waiting in the huge queue to get into the Festival, an articulate, heartfelt apology to the next generation, fitting for an Extinction Rebel.

Ade Ogonboor DJ’d at Glastonbury a few years ago, got home, got cancer, beat cancer, and is back here, now, in the Poetry&Words tent talking with great, quiet articulacy about austerity and Brexit. He then continues to barrack various of the performers, including commenting on Rosy’s legs (she bats him down with superb poise).

Elise Wouters (@eliserebelfox) is a Belgian poet living in London who writes erotic Brexit poetry (“There’s the niche we didn’t know we needed!” cries Liv), and it’s as filthy as you’d imagine and witty with rage to boot, beautifully delivered.

Sunny Jim (@_SunnyJim) gives us Plastic (W)Rap – an environmental activist with a hip-hop inflected angry gesture to the sea of plastic and its source, literally heat-stroked and (figuratively) erupting with ire.

Rosie Solomon (@rosiees7) is a surprise finish to the open mic (again: we’re under-running, somehow!) with a rant about working in a bar – Don’t Tell Me How To Pour A Fucking Pint. It’s exactly what you’d imagine, and really, really good – a rallying cry to service workers and female-presenting people everywhere.

Festival veteran Jonny Fluffypunk roars onto the stage (yet another pair of dungarees*, this time looking like they were part of the previous wave of dungaree-wearing; authenticity in every thread) and shortly thereafter plunges into the audience to shriek at them about their place in proceedings (giving the poets the attention and validity they crave, obviously). He gulders about the foolishness of “poetry being the new rock ’n’ roll,” and entirely blows his own theory by being the punkest thing on stage (with the possible exception of Paul Eccentric) so far. As ever, it’s somewhere between the most cynical of stand-up, almost more time spent on the between-poem ranting and banter, and break-outs from the pieces to address the audience in a fourth-wall-smashing series of pithy jabs and bon mots about his good words. The audience are quiet but intent, absolutely with him in every line, cackling and whooping, sniggering and raising hands, lobbing ripostes every so often. I’ve seen him do this very set several times, and it’s still delicious, and I’m glad I’m here to witness it in its natural environment.

*My memory is made faulty by unwitting dehydration – photographic evidence has him in practical combat shorts. Can you even believe anything I write here? Probably…

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Demi Anter sashays onto the stage through the batwings, bogling with Dominic to the fantastic music she’s gifted by the technician and resplendent in a yellow dress that’s perfect for the shimmy. She reveals later that she’s a daughter of desert – despite her Celtic colouring, this heat just bounces off her. And so this leads us into a poem about her mother, and today’s set continues to be more about family and travel that yesterday’s. Still hypnotic, personal, anecdotal, deeply emotional where anecdotal poetry sometimes puts a barrier, a safer distance between the performer and their truth. But her courage is “seemingly unending”, and this theatre turns into a polemic about how to be truthful in the world of spirit and heart. She finishes with the same end dating site-like piece as last yesterday, but – in a tribute to Ana Paz’s “amazing use of space” – she unhitches the microphone and strolls around and bends into the space and suddenly it’s even more theatrical and, somehow, funnier (and more terrifying).

Illustrator Scott Tyrrell takes to the stage after Dominic gets the crowd screaming “as though Boris Johnson had left politics” to a classic rock track. He opens with the title track to his book (“(If We’re Being) Honest”), something that is, essentially, a list poem, but a superior example of the species, uncomfortable and hilarious, and waaay too intimate (I know a lot more about his masturbatory habits and his relationship with his cat now). It’s followed by one of my favourites of his: Bad Dad, swiftly seguing into Gabriel, which starts with a kind of “kids say the funniest things” intro and turns to a paean to platonic male love. Scott excels in awkward emotions and the kind of social observations that any high-flying postmodern author would be proud to display with this level of skill, plus any number of killer last lines. Wonderfully, with his intro to the famous (awkwardly, gleefully, hilariously erotic) Coitus Interruptus, he even manages to embarrass himself, charming, blushing even further than the heat (“Hello! I’M DYING! I’m not from the desert – I’m from the North-East!”). He moves onto the tender Blue Badge of Honour about his beloved, disabled wife which is the one that made me drop my pen and wipe my eye when I first heard it. It’s still powerful, still delivered with loving rage (“I am the feather to her fortress…”).

<img src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/sLOTadBuhIv6U6IERCVNObjU_0kQddd8pMMB0yIiwFAfdxEX1CadmIQv5uSeJ959BK_URUhCDdARFwx52rNF5ZROEvLYpCep7Vh3qMP-iyS4dCZNtULP1G_0sRqHo0k_mdnmrGbnJgKA9rYewxjD9RjxXiEIBGo13mrFMPgGpfKzFDcHWxlnVf6EbCdKY0ccUNxvkNzIxU-P-lLu2m5S-D_lWb0dLDCQsSefEmortaWkTOoOf6f5ZKjkJ-Zj9YuVC2EhDoxhZ7gfHoWZuIf8wP2Q7StyGKKtYHql826QRcdZTRqGdBj_1XnGvSzpAUKYzuXp28-72WhuSD27rU77gVLmMaqUfQiozNw1bBQdsZWeTuFNtwuT0yBTz3vPYjdFZio00GbvnD8rRi0xsuCeVBXygkry024K8iKsGuuj3o9-XlWkVlb9dJYY0ivBUFT9zPFI6spLhoy-GvgJITokGcIsht5BWWdz-1X8j3XNfDq757nbm1clapaMeHfmx5f-wRvwVlq_DqdjybX0ncuq-rOaeWd8teX2sSdMK2eSvgZuyfxLhOWg8uvtZdW3bA074yeeG6cvd0CyMfa3zIVNsjil0pLldoicWfWUv7jHU5S2YdIrGNbC9b6Ah9XFIvXl4xVK5wx7xeVjhPWj_BmgbAKSL42Osb53WMUTVgXNUKhi5bs3iRBByUMy6gzSWh2h3OGv8k4FOZBek0V4Ju_j9wxIag=w509-h904-no”&gt;

Img src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/07L4U7eRx7TdZQYDxZKYPKyBakU3of4UsbjcXPIrGzVZez0DBezO3H5579FMoo-zAOiIHcgVI4RFVYWPFSuHFFZIBc3WIdaIChRJDpjFZ-bM2TX3n8YBSmi17fC_kw7m-piOtJd4H-cPN0DUiF6YLz0SAwKTHui4MmjK8VmaY1wZGE8beP9saTnSXRqwYc9H0RbieNE06ZQECq7oSQzI6ot29o1I-ayAGxNt-0RRVyjhhy5AL7KQ-keT6l_tFleZfFaIRt41wc-FVGyfWqG0fFNXbmrJkvUmh8aUONw3-ttyvyAb4Uj3CwduOtHXvJkFCa707yR0aqjaYmNNHlCzdOf-Z8GLOv5a3n4hqlQC0yL-pIuCLpzPeOVW_aP8Bt-3mYA3MK9bJHwKEPdgNX5HX0-OfIJ6lqWdsK3u3j-x9j0UXAEuCJLhw3zpLJf2gkxJY79hko_DGn3lKxI8msPAkHG9tKazF4WqjZi6Ug_4a6tA8GKW3v5Ey1OVMs2dzcZ2-CnslNAuXpwYDpCUYIgfwzIwB1aMenLOuQgsh-jgec7_I6GuQsnnapImmLZbMr7BrnR2YoXByYzcd1gPUTe9zm_C0uisNH-cet1ZjHlB-h2C3heGHDKFORUx4jQtY9Xv0YLDKPZmCsene8hybTvM1QlVjyhEGHH3S1KG_lRvNZ-wZ_9U3Y8j8X0LyeR7pGxVuIxYAnCsyrJeiTjdeDxsEsOZ7w=w509-h904-no”&gt;

 

Spoke-n-Word Day 1 (Thursday)

Winston Plowes is already out and about, summoning up poetry from unsuspecting members of the public. Transcript of the poem at the end of the post.

Transcript:

The Spoke-n-Word

Poem 1 – Thu

Mr Greedy meets Mr Skinny
At the market
a big man in a tie_dye
meets red feathers
and a neon pink turtle neck

In this hot summer
cool and colourful
warm with laughter
where cider drinkers
don’t need tickets
to make music stylish

Whether you’re fine
wavy and brown
buttoned and bright
may your friends
always be helpful X

By… The Mears Family / Chris B / Ben / Meg / Tori / Sophie / Rusty / Sara / Rhiannon, Hugo & Adam

Magical, Musical Poetry Preview

We were invited to join Tongue Fu at The Ancient Futures stage in the Tipi Field tonight. Fronted and formed into gloriously chaotic improvisational poetry goodness by Chris Redmond, a band makes magic out of already magnificent poetry. It’s never sounded like this, and it will never be the same again.First up of our poets: Paula Varjack, with typically cabaret-vibe élan, two pieces about the dangers of dating artists, and the perilous duality of bisexual, femme identity.Next up: our illustrator Scott Tyrrell with a cautionary tale about intimacy in the context of family life (the piece that, incidentally, got him into the final round of the BBC EdFringe Slam final (which he the won, obviously). Brace yourselves.Then, after an anecdote-song by the host about cannibalistic children (don’t ask), I got up to do my bilingual poem Stroke, but I have no evidence, so you’ll have to take my word for it.Next up the pugilistic compassion of our Poet-in-Residence Vanessa Kisuule, giving us her Malleable Manifesto – a way to live, or not, recognising your own divinity.The band expands, shimmying from Vanessa’s instruction to emulate James Brown looking out of the window into an extended riff as as a trumpet joins the line-up, beckoning our current slam champion Jackie Juno to the stage with a poem about how the universe birthed the world with a word – fitting the particular décor of the yurt and elevating it into magic.Chris then summons long-time co-creative-conspirator Liv Torc to deliver that extraordinary piece about three generations and the impact of truth and hope (as if accompanied by the band on the Titanic).Chris exhorts the crowd to our feet so we can join in the chorus to his song about us all rowing the same boat, along a similar theme of environmental responsibility, dedicated to Liv, then keeping us there for one more song, decrying the spying capabilities of social media (we all chant “Who’s telling me what?!”). A banging evening, a chance to get to know – and watch live finally – some of the other poets, and a great warm-up for the rest of the weekend!