Reader offer: poetry showcase

Bust of the poet Novalis at his memorial in  Weißenfels (Sachsen-Anhalt)

LONDONJAZZ READER OFFER. Free entry to the SLAMbassadors poetry showcase at the 100 club.

SLAMbassadors UK is the Poetry Society’s spoken word competition for 12-18-year-olds. The eight winners will perform a showcase of their work alongside judges and mentors Dizraeli, Joelle Taylor and Chris Preddie OBE at the 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, on 1st April. The Poetry Society is offering 20 free tickets to London Jazz readers who wish to attend:

To take up the offer, send an email to marketing@poetrysociety.org.uk

Eleanor Turney writes:

The slam and spoken word poetry scene is flourishing, to judge by the 400 entries received for this year’s SLAMbassadors UK competition. The eight 2011 competition winners’ entries can be viewed on the Poetry Society’s Youtube channel.

These young people are politically engaged, highly articulate and passionate about what they do. Tamara Lawrence, an 18-year-old winner from London explains why she writes: “Poetry is a really great way of expressing your feelings without making yourself vulnerable… I get to put on a persona. The audience isn’t intruding too much – I am in control.” She goes on to describe how music influences her work: “I’ve been writing poems to music, and I’ve also written songs. I learned guitar through church so I wrote a lot of gospel stuff. I listen predominantly to gospel but I like reggae and dub step, indie, alternative – I have pretty eclectic taste.”

She believes that music influences people more than they realise, so she tries to listen to positive things: “I used to listen to grime. The way they manipulate slang is not an abuse of the language, it’s a language in itself. Now, my stuff sounds more like a rap, but I want it to be more lyrical…The kind of music I listen to influences the rhythm I have in my head when I write; I have a beat in my head that I want the words to go to, that has an impact on how I cut the lines etc. I listen to instrumental stuff for inspiration – I listen to the beats and the feelings in the melody.”

Dizraeli, one of the judges, has similar thoughts: “I listen to all kinds of music, all day long – I love hip hop, a bit of grime, some folk – anything that tells an honest story really. It most definitely affects my writing – there’s music behind everything I do, even if there isn’t a beat playing. There’s music in any speech, it’s just more obvious in some forms of spoken word than others. In the UK, dub poetry was a massive part of the birth of the spoken word culture – Linton Kwesi Johnson, Grace Nichols, Benjamin Zephaniah…”

Lawrence explains what makes her want to write: “I am inspired by the world around me – I pick up things. The microcosm of a school is really interesting, there’s political things in the essence of a school, how people treat each other….” For Lawrence, having female role models such as Joelle Taylor has been hugely important: “I thought that as a female, if I’m rapping or whatever, some guys wouldn’t take me seriously. Now I think that maybe they’re more prone to listen – people might say ‘you’re a girl’ or ‘you’re from this area and what would you know about stuff’, but SLAMbassadors isn’t about that.”

Dizraeli, who also works as a SLAMbassadors mentor, offers some advice to young spoken word artists: “READ, and absorb as much of other people’s (good) work as possible. Most famous writers are famous for a reason – do your research. Listen to loads of good lyricists, not just people in the genre you like already. I’ve listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon for lyrics, also Joni Mitchell. And of course rappers and MCs of all shapes and sizes – Pharoah Monch, Chester P, Kyza, Mos Def…”

The winners will be brought to London for weekend master class with the Poetry Society’s Joelle Taylor who runs the SLAMbassadors programme before the performance at the 100 Club on Oxford Street on 1st April. Performing with Joelle Taylor at the gig will be spoken word artists Chris Preddie OBE and Dizraeli.

Categories: miscellaneous

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