So- what is spoken word, and how do we get some?
Spoken word is essentially performance poetry- it’s all a bit blurry round the edges, and kind of a mishmash of rap, monologues and poetry, but it’s usually one person on a stage waxing lyrical about something or other. Am I selling it well enough?
It’s quite a young medium still, so it’s not so clear cut as a play, but spoken word, or performance poetry, is on the up, it’s becoming a bit of a buzzword.
So how do you get some? Are you asking for poetry or dating tips? Either way, come to Horse’s Mouth haha. ACS also put on some great spoken word nights, with some big names, so definitely check them out. There’s also a night called Hammer and Tongue in the Old Fire Station every second Tuesday of the month and they’ve been going for over ten years and get the biggest names all over the country to come perform, I highly recommend ‘em.
If you’re in London, I’d also check out Bang! Said the Gun and Tongue Fu, really established and bloody good nights.
Also if you’re unsure about going to one on a whium, check out people on Youtube- Kate Tempest is probably the leading light (her rap album got nominated for the Mercury) along with people like Scroobius Pip, Polarbear, John Berkavitch, Holly Mcnish and others. For a whistlestop tour of the American scene, check out Mos Def’s show ‘Def Poetry’- somehow he managed to get series after series of a show that showcases the best of American spoken word, and it’s bloody awesome.
That may be a bit long for a magazine article- maybe put some bigger sizes and cap locks in there to funk it up?
And what happens in a spoken word night?
Well it depends really, but whatever happens you’ll definitely laugh, you’ll definitely have your heartstrings tugged a little and you’ll certainly go ‘hmm’ at least once. Some spoken word is about love, some is very political, some is just plain funny.
In setup at least, Horse’s Mouth is different from most spoken word nights though- usually you have a host that introduces each poet one after the other, they go off on one for fifteen-twenty minutes then they bring on the next etc. At Horse’s Mouth we like to switch things up a bit, so we have home-grown hip hop, bits of standup and most importantly a live jazz band for the poets to use as backing. What I like about having a jazz band is the atmosphere is essentially created for you (as a host, that’s an absolute gift), and there’s more of a feel of the audience joining in naturally rather than being made to shut up and listen. To quote our rap-institution-of-a-man Jaylee who gets us going each time, ‘when I say big, you say vibes’. You’ll get that with any good spoken word artist though, you’ll feel like they’re talking just to you.
Improv as well- we love a bit of improv. We feel it brings it back to the sixties and the beginnings of beat poetry, all those accounts of jazz musicians heaving and sweating in a roaring dive in Denver. That’s kind of what we aspire to, that kind of energy. Alcohol helps.