Poetry, Swindon Slam-style – Swindon Festival of Literature

12 May

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The decision of the judges was final. The decision of the referees were even more final. We gave orgasmistically abandoned appreciation. Yes, it was the 19th Swindon Slam!, a poetic performance of epic proportions.

Round one threw me with its considered poetry well delivered. Mostly Slam audiences expect sex, hot beverages and cupcakes (as poetic themes, obviously, though there was real chocolate for the contestants). This time we had philosophical thoughts of what makes us, us (Katharine T Owen), a soldier in the Iraq war (Nick Lovell), and the inner embers of optimism (Rob Carney).

There was some soft porn from Alan Win Davis but he guessed the mood of the crowd when he described his poem as not politically correct. Rhyme about sex all you want but, in this competition, it still has to be right on. His last words (whilst scrabbling for more more crowd-pleasing material before compere Sarah Jane Arbury’s whistle blew): ‘What else?’

In the next round, Olivia Tan gave a emotive performance of a poem about love bordering on the obsessive. Miserable Malcolm returned us to proper performance poetry territory with gallows humour: ‘Things will be better in the grave’ and a doleful cry to a lost love: ‘Mavis, Mavis, where are you Mavis? / I know you are, wherever Dave is’. Miles Deacon treated us to a woman with the hands of a navi and the voice to match, and very-tall-poet Jonathan Muirhead went somewhere he probably shouldn’t: sex with a stuffed tiger – from the tiger’s perspective.

Fellow compere Jonny Fluffypunk, threw in a number about his recently deceased controlling mother, ‘Towels’: ‘I fetched a towel from the airing cupboard without assistance.’ I related to it in some degree but also felt sad so probably mission accomplished.

The final round saw a dual language performance of English and sign from Michael Wilson, titled Entropy. Mark Neil gave us three poems delivered with high theatrics but of total fluff, the poetic equivalent to Mrs Brown’s Boys. Al Brunker anthropomorphised a cup of tea.

The semi-final had Nick falling in love with his Sat Nav but became lost at the end. Malcolm continued to make the most of misery with his poem for children, ‘This is the way that sparrows die.’ Miles found himself scuppered by a robin and twiggy facial hair and Jonny suggested we let ‘the philosophical import of that sink in’.

Mark, in a slightly hysterical fashion, took sex into a new direction, even more uncomfortable than sleeping with taxidermy, proclaiming – whilst stripping off – he was sexually addicted to audiences. Yikes. Afterwards, Rob was a welcome contrast, quiet verse on an environmental theme: ‘Nature is the oldest truth to be told.’ Or was that ‘sold’? Then back to to Michael with ‘Breakpoint’, just one language this time, extolling the suicidal not to do it, life is always better.

Never let it be said Slams don’t give good variety.

Jonny upped the quota of drink-related verse with his ‘Love Poem to Coffee’, an interactive number, where we were asked to improve on the line that an Oxford audience suggested: ‘Fuck Tea’. I think Jonny knows what Swindon likes to hear and the chance to scoff at rubbish lines given by the ‘city of gleaming spires’ was spot on.

The final saw more darkness to light from Michael with Angel: ‘I’d like to see how the rest of these turn out.’

But the night was Mark’s from Milton Keynes, leading throughout the competition. Spirited like a bucking bronco, but this time fully clothed, he shared with us his ‘First Kiss’ and the lesson learned from it: ‘Live everyday like you had your first kiss.’

Swindon Slam! was held at Swindon Arts Centre as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature, 9 May 2015.

Words by Louisa Davison. Photos (c) Calyx Pictures

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