Ben Norris is a slam poet. Confession. I had to look it up in the Oxford Dictionary: a slam is “a poetry contest in which competitors recite their entries and are judged by members of the audience, the winner being elected after several elimination rounds”, (it sounds for all the world like a Camden Town version of welly-throwing). So a slam poet must be someone who keeps winning them, which is what Ben Norris seems to do quite regularly. On the evidence of Friday night’s show, one can understand why.
The topics in his poems are university life (at Birmingham University) and the complexities of making the transition from uiversity into a distinctly unappealing place often referred to as the “real world.” He has a vivid imagination, and provides a convincing voice for a generation with a lot of cards stacked against it.
The Proms Plus Late in the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room on Friday featured a set from Misha Mullov-Abbado‘s Quintet. We reviewed them a few months ago, and it was essentially the same but stronger and more convinced, and more convincing.
The music was interspersed with poetry reading and reciting from Ben Norris. And then there was the unexpected bit, for both the poet and the musicians a case of jumping into the unknown, with the additional buzz/adrenalin/pressure of doing it for national radio. The trio of Mullov-Abbado, Jacob Collier sitting at the Elgar Room’s bright red piano, and Scott Chapman at the drum kit interwove music to work around the poems. The poems got more space around them with music as background and mood-setter and sparring partner. Norris was able to dig deeper into the strong speech-rhythms of his poetry. For a first, competely untried and experimental outing, it was VERY impressive.
There were two sections of it, and I hope the radio transmission picks up both of them.
This session will be broadcast – edited – on Wednesday 20th August at 10pm. LINK.
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