Last night I had my first official outing into the world of spoken word. It was to be an outing that would both bore me and leave me wanting more all in a few short (if sometimes dragging) hours.
I've always been fascinated by spoken word and poetry but our creative worlds have never really crossed. Last night I found myself in a beautiful, huge, old church that now functions as an arts centre (of sorts). Tonight I'm a tag along with a group of whom this sort of performance is not unfamiliar and I'm promised the headline act is worth the journey.
The crowd at this show was a not overly inspiring group; middle aged, middle class and very middle of the road. I can only assume they were getting their monthly top-up of culture to harp on about at their next dinner party. And this, maybe unfair, assumption is proved fairly accurate as they all vocalise their approval and understanding during the first two painful acts of the night.
We kicked off the night with a black woman who sings tribal songs in a stunning voice. The location adds a lot to her singing and gives it a great religious weight. I could listen to this for a while. Unfortunately, she also writes poetry and we were treated to a series of poems she wrote while working with a dancer. Don't ask me what they were about... not dance. At times I was unsure if she even knew herself since her pre-poem explanations seemed to have no baring on the actual poems at all. I couldn't help but cringe as she unashamedly repeated "I am Human, I am an Artist" in her closing piece. The cringe turned into physical pain as we were invited to join the chant with her... because tonight we are all artists. Not today, Satan!
Next up was another lady who was very serious and a little scary. I can only assume that she is to poets what bad Shakespeare is to actors; Something most people are trying hard to prove isn't what it's all about. Once again, I'd be hard pushed to tell you what the message was. But the approving groans continued from the audience so maybe it was just me. She even got a bit of a gasp as one of her stories climaxed with her turning round and nobody being there after all. If she'd have actually turned round, I may well have left too.
By this point the interval was a welcome break; the first half was so long I'm actually about to piss myself... which at this stage would probably make for some pretty scintillating performance art. The group I'm with are not enjoying the show so far either, but still assure me that the main act is much better. Can't be much worse, I think as I chug another beer and earwig the inane conversation from the room of pony-owners.
But it's time for the main event. Luke Wright. It very quickly becomes clear that he is nothing like the other two acts. He's trendy looking, with long hair in a pony tail and a tight buzz cut on the sides. He's drinking beer and it doesn't take long for him to start swearing like a soldier either. To my surprise, the culture-hunters seem to get on board with this. His poems are sharp and witty; not about feminism and struggle but about toll booths, Essex and drunks. He'd be more at home in a rowdy pub than this venue but he's captivating to watch either way. From start to finish he's performing, not simply sharing musings in rhyme, and you really get the sense that this is how poetry started and how it's meant to be.
Storytelling with pace and rhythm. Not self indulgent at all. He made the agonising lead up very worth while. If nothing else, I would have stayed just for his one vowel poems which were impressive to say the least.
So I would urge you to take a punt on some poetry. I'd suggest to expect the worst and hope for the best. If at first you don't succeed, try again. And if Luke Wright is ever in your neighbourhood, get yourself a ticket and see poetry in a whole new light.