Sunday 27 May 2012

Monday 21 May 2012

Young Me (Poem)

I’m mixed Jamaican/British.
I went to school in London Fields, then Islington,
I was the only kid in class with a hearing aid,
I was the boy with the plastic ears.

The kids said I was black
because I wasn’t white like all of them,
but when I went to a school in Muswell Hill
the black kids said you can’t be black
look at your straight hair and nose.
Also, there were more deaf kids
and when they saw that I spoke
and that I didn’t know sign language,
they called me

The teachers said in class
I was always tuning out.
I remember that report,
Raymond looks like he’s a million miles away
but I was right where they saw me.

I like rap and I like writing.
I discovered a power in that
when I was six, my older sister bullied me
but said she was sorry after she read a story
I wrote about a horse that put down ponies.

My mum didn’t show me the school report
that said Raymond is incompetent at English
because she didn’t want to diminish the confidence
I had to put things into my own words.
my own words
came in the right colour.

Today its water under the bridge
but that water has been ice
its been steam
its been so much sometimes it doesn't know what it is,
sometimes it depends what someone else calls it.

Friday 18 May 2012

Hammer & Tongue UK National Slam Final (Video)

What excites me about performance poetry is it is a national as well as an international movement. I've been around Germany, Italy, US and South Africa and discovered a poetry scene, hung out with poets and been blown away by the talent. Poetry has a circuit like no other genre of literature.

Last time I checked "Fiction" didn't have a circuit... (and judging by the quality of books that sell, the PR companies are better than the writers).

Below is a poetry slam night called Hammer & Tongue which has become the main UK National Slam event... Look at all those bums on seats for poetry... They could be in Germany. (Germany The biggest Slam/Poetry scene in the world)

Also the winner of that slam Adam Kammerling was on The Huffington Post and gave Chill Pill a lovely shout out. Watch his poem/read his article here.

Monday 14 May 2012

31st May - Inja & Zena Edwards At Chill Pill

"When sanity weeps like a slick succession of roaches slipping through a rip in humanities skin, great minds coagulate round the wound of unreason" - Zena Edwards 

Another poet/musician you can't say you've experienced UK Spoken Word without seeing live. Her 2008 One Woman Show 'Security' is still talked about to this day.

Also featuring on the night are the Chill Pill poets -

Mr Gee, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, Simon Mole.
Includes OPEN MIC sign ups at 7pm.

Buy Tickets Here -

Saturday 12 May 2012

It's The Weekend But Is This Poetry? Fink vs Ed Sheeran

Second in the series... this time we look towards singer-song writers and ask... is this poetry?

A couple years ago Ed was all over the London poetry circuit and even joined a poetry collective (PiP) Here he is when he passed through Chill Pill... but is this poetry?

Friday 11 May 2012

The Father of Dub Poetry - Linton Kwesi-Johnson

LKJ article by Imogen Reed

Widely recognized as the originator of ‘Dub Poetry’, Linton Kwesi-Johnson is a performer that any young poet today should try to see live. Although it is many years since Kwesi-Johnson spoke for the poor Afro-Caribbean community in Brixton, it was the power and lyricism of his poetry in the 70’s and 80’s that led many to an interest in spoken word art forms. Fusing politics, music and poetry over a reggae beat which powerfully accents his message, no-body, as they say, does it better.


Linton Kwesi Johnson arrived in England from Jamaica in 1963 and attended Goldsmiths College in London where he studied sociology. In a Britain that was strained with racial tension he gravitated towards politics and joined the Black Panthers. Finding art to be the most effective way to express his anger at the widespread police abuse of the black community in which he lived, LKJ as he became known, joined the Race Today Collective, who published his first collection of poetry in 1974. He also worked with a collective of poets and drummers known as Rasta Love.

Kwesi-Johnson wrote in Jamaican dialect, and often performed with music, and through his creative and pioneering work ‘dub poetry’ was born. His next anthology of poems was called Dread, Beat, an’ Blood (1975), which achieved considerable success. Although he always regarded himself as a poet foremost, and a musician second, he released four albums on the Island Record label - Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980), LKJ In dub (1980) and Making History (1984). He then went on to form his own label – LKJ, selling sold over two million albums. His tracks are typically a heady fusion of reggae, dub reggae and rocksteady, almost always with strong political themes, reflecting the difficulties of growing up as a poor black kid in the UK at that time, when the Afro-Caribbean community was under great pressure from police. In Thatcher’s Britain there was smouldering tension between police and black communities in several cities. 

Kwesi-Johnson used his poetry and music to highlight the killing by police of Blair Peach at an anti-racism demonstration in 1979, to highlight the injustices of police brutality. "Writing was a political act and poetry was a cultural weapon" according to Kwesi-Johnson. And in his hands it became an extremely powerful cultural weapon. Alex Pryce, writing a critical perspective on the poet’s work for the British Council comments,

Kwesi-Johnson is a poet writing against the grand (white) traditions by using the repressed language of Britain's Black working class. For some, it is the familiar dialect of their community, for others it can seem estranging and harsh. Yet, Kwesi-Johnson's skill does not discriminate, even the 'oppressin man' is welcome to 'hear what I say if yu can' ('All Wi Doin Is Defendin', Dread, Beat An' Blood, 1975) and the phonetically astute nature of the verse rewards articulation, reinforcing its roots in performance, people and protest.
Alex Pryce 2009

Today, he still champions human rights and racial equality, seeing racism within the police as a pressing issue. He highlights the case of Stephen Lawrence and the high level of of stop and search in black communities as evidence that there is still much work to be done in this area. He works with children in schools and Universities in the UK, helping to raise consciousness about social inequality.

Kwesi-Johnson has not been overlooked by academia and the literary world. Silja J.A. Talvi of In These Times notes that, “LKJ has helped legitimize a language previously dismissed as the “pidgin” English of people too uneducated or lazy (or both) to grasp proper English, introducing it to the world in poetry.” His work is highly regarded, and in 2002 he became the first black poet to have a collection published as a Penguin Classic edition. In fact he is only the second living poet to have achieved this. He has also received numerous honorary awards. He still performs, touring in 2011. He has also tried to remain current to some degree, appearing with The Voices of Urban Renewal, but he’s now a grandfather, and will probably never be one for online banking, ipods and trainers. But the modern era still holds interest for him, politically. He is cautiously optimistic, and particularly encouraged by the emergence of collective political movements around the world at present. Let's hope his optimimism is well placed.

Reproduced here is one of his most passionate poems, to give you just a flavour of what made LKJ famous.

Mekkin Histri

now tell mi something
mistah govahment
mantell mi something
how lang yu really feel
yu coulda keep wi andah heel
wen di trute done reveal
bout how yu grab an steal
bout how yu mek yu crooked deal
well doun in Soutall
where Peach did get fall
di Asians dem faam-up a human wall
gense di fashist an dem police sheil
an dem show dat di Asians gat plenty zeal
it is noh mistri
wi mekkin histri
it is noh mistri
wi winnin victri
now tell me something
mistah police spokesman
tell mi sometinghow lang yu really tink
wi woulda tek yu batn lick
yu jackboot kick
yu dutty bag a tricks
an yu racist pallyticks
well doun in Bristal
dey ad noh pistal
but dem chase di babylan away
man yu shoulda si yu babylan
how dem really run away
yu shoulda si yu babylan dem dig-up dat dey
it is noh mistri...
now tell me something
mistah ritewing man
tell mi something
how lang yu really feel
wi woulda grovel an squeal
wen so much murdah canceal
wen wi woun cyann heal
wen wi feel di way wi feel
well dere woz Toxtethan
an dere woz Moss Side
an a lat a addah places
whey di police ad to hide
well dare woz Brixtanan
dere woz Chapeltoun
an a lat a addah place dat woz burnt to di groun
it is noh mistri
wi mekki histri
it is no noh mistri
wi winning victri
Linton Kwesi-Johnson (1983)

LKJ Website

Further Reading

Choice of YouTube Performances
 Sonny’s Lettah

If I Waz A Tap Natch Poet – at Urban Renewal Programme

Thursday 10 May 2012

Chill Pill's Deanna Rodger in New Music Video 'Baby' By Benin City

Benin City is one of my favourite bands around and Joshua Idehen one of my favourite poets...

Speaking of Chill Pill our next show is at The Albany May 31st and features Afrobear (Polarbear's Hip-Hop duo) and Zena Edwards..

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Frank Thomas 'A Fresh New Poet Explodes onto the South Wales Poetry Scene' by Imogen Reed

Frank Thomas – Amateur Grammatics

Long-haired, beardy and slightly dishevelled, Frank Thomas takes the stage with an overwhelming awkwardness. He approaches the microphone with timid unease and mumbles something, almost under his breath, to the slightly confused crowd. This South-Wales audience doesn’t quite know what to make of him.

Frank Thomas doesn’t look like a poet.

In fact, from the look of him, you’d be excused for thinking that a local drunk had bumbled onto the stage with delusions of sobriety. He looks as though he can barely stand up straight and hunches forward with all the grace and poise of a half-cut rugby fan.

You probably wouldn’t trust him to sort your laundry or collect parcels from the post office on your behalf. And you certainly wouldn’t expect him to read poetry. But there he stands, centre stage with an entire crowd fixated on him, wondering when security will inevitably drag him away.
Except they don’t.

Instead, Frank rambles some more, muttering (almost to himself) about things that bother him. He gets louder and more aggressive and the audience are visibly tense. What the hell is going on? Who is this chap? Then the penny drops.

Poet? Or Something More?

The first rhyme hits them in the face like a wet kipper. Then another confirms that he’s supposed to be there after all. The rhythmic mutterings of a man who may or may not be on the edge of sanity becomes poetry before their very eyes. And it’s entirely disarming.

The strange thing about Frank Thomas is that this intimidating volatile character that he projects on stage takes the audience through an emotional journey before they even realise what’s going on. It’s a strange way to connect with people, but by the end of his first piece, the room is electric, buzzing with excitement. The audience is left completely blown away.

It’s this weird, unsettling experience that sets Frank apart from other poets. There are plenty of brilliant performers who will happily recite their latest piece, but Frank goes one better – He lives them out on stage for all to see

‘Gritty’ Realism

The anger in his face boils up with every outspoken criticism of the world around him – a world he sometimes hates. The sorrow in his eyes paints the backdrop for his poems of lost love. To say that Frank ‘acts’ this out would be a gross misunderstanding of what he does. You can see the pain he’s experienced. You can feel it with him as he experiences it once more for your viewing pleasure. Frank opens up entirely and lets every ounce of emotion out, creating a connection with his audience that you very rarely experience.

Watching Frank perform is a strange thing indeed – not just because of his unusual style, but because he gives you no choice but to go with him on a journey through his thoughts and feelings, taking the audience hostage with his charismatic ramblings that will leave you thinking about the world in an entirely different way.

Not Your Usual Recital

The wonderful thing about Frank’s energetic, rambling style is that it’s entirely fascinating - once he’s in full swing, it’s hard to stop staring at him. Spoken Word is always more of a performance than a reading, but Frank manages to take performance poetry to an entirely new level with a sense of ungainly urgency that will bend every crowd to its knees. There’s just something so honest and natural about the way Frank performs that you have to respect. He isn’t doing this to be ‘arty’ or trying to impress… he just goes out there to make himself heard.
In his own words, “it’s more about finding a release by taking the demons from my head, putting them on a page and performing them in hope to help people who have or have had similar feelings”.
If you want to see Frank in action (and it’s highly recommended that you do), he’ll be venturing out to Birmingham on the 9th of May for ‘Speak Up!’ – a regular poetry event, held at the Hare & Hounds. Otherwise, keep an eye on Frank’s Facebook page where you’ll find regular updates about upcoming gigs. You can also check out his YouTube channel for some recent performances and his website for the latest news and updates.

Have you spotted a poet that blew you away recently? - write an article about them/interview them and I'll post it here on Shapes & Disfigurements.

Sunday 6 May 2012

It Is Sunday But Is This Poetry? - Young Savage vs Kate Tempest

Every Sunday I will be posting about two artists and asking "is this poetry?" The idea came about when I was walking past a pub and a football game was on. A team scored and I heard someone shout "THAT WAS POETRY!" and I wondered what exactly is poetry to people other than something we turn to during a ceremonial wedding/funeral? - can it relate to any display of skill?

I thought I'd start off simple with a 16 year old rapper I was told about by one of the young poets me and Dzifa Benson are coaching as part of Shake The Dust project.

Is this poetry?

Kate Tempest calls herself a rapper but calls her pieces poems... Here she is delivering something great...

Is this poetry?

Saturday 5 May 2012

Adam Kammerling Rehearsing with his band for Chill Pill This Monday

Bank Holiday Monday Special Chill Pill at Soho Theatre! (Recommended by Time Out London)

Here's one of our feature acts. Adam Kammerling with Band -

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Keats House Forum Member - Poet 'Sonority' Films Adidas/Olympic Video

How To Find Poetry Slam Events Around The World

Poetry readings have been occurring for many years in cafes, art-houses, bookstores, and universities all around the world. Around 30 years ago this art-form evolved into an entirely new permutation: the poetry slam. This is a competition in which poets perform their creations and are judged by members of the audience. Judges give a score (ranging from one to ten) based on the poet's content and performance.
Do you have some beautiful, inspirational, or thought provoking poems that you wish to share with others? Do you have the courage, desire, and competitive spirit take part in poetry competition? Are wondering where to find poetry slam event? This article will provide some suggestions for finding poetry slam events around the world. If you want to find more information for developing your skills as a poet, check out some Online Universities.

Poetry Slam Locations

There are over 2000 poetry slams, readings, events, and conferences all over the world. Some are locai events. You can find them in the following ways:
  • Look at listings at a community art center.
  • Look for postings or check the schedule at local coffee shops, bookstores, and small music venues.
  • Look online at local message boards, such as the Craigslist site for your city or area.
  • If you are very ambitious and you know other passionate poets in your area, you can organize your own poetry slam. Many small coffee shops and cafes welcome the business that a poetry slam would bring in and would be happy to help facilitate or provide a venue for such an event.

There are also many national and international poetry slams. One of the most prominent of all is the "National Poetry Slam", in which poets from all over the United States and Europe compete with one another. It is held in a different city every year. If you are interesting in attending or competing in one of national or international poetry slams, they can be found in the following ways:

  • Poetry Slam, Inc.: This is one of the most thorough sites for information on poetry slams, not only for finding poetry slam events, but also on such things as rules to follow for poetry slams and the basic "nuts and bolts" of how poetry slam events function.
  • Do a basic search for "poetry slams (location)" in search engines such as Google, Chrome, and Yahoo.
  • In addition to listing poetry events, is an all encompassing site on everything related to poetry, including a handy search feature for finding specific poems or poets.

If you have tremendous passion for poetry and want to take your poetry skills to a higher level, please find more information on degree programs at MFA Degree.

Poetry Slam, Inc.