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.
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…!