Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hammer & Tongue National Final, Fuck Yeah

They day for me was chaotic, between a lack of trains, trouble sorting babysitting, time broken by the demands of food and know how it goes, sometimes. But for all that, for what I could attend...the gig was good.

More than good. My fingers itch to take up a pen again and revisit my poetry that has had to be relegated to subconscious soup of late.

The final took place in the Royal Albert Hall's underground Loading Bay. High ceilinged, bright lights casting comforting shadows, gratified rock gods circling benevolently around a cross country, cross continental audience that awaited words and rhymes with grins and rapture. And booze, obviously. And nerves for those who watched the stage they would soon ascend.

And ascend they did, with diverse offerings, and each and every one should rest easy today with a sense of pride. Because you are all awesome.

There were about 50 poets performing from Bristol, Hackney, Cambridge, Oxford, and Camden chapters as well as Bang Said the Gun, Apples and Snakes, Outspoken and the qualifiers from the Roundhouse, Glastonbury, the Commonwealth Games, Strawberry Fair, Farrago, Word4Word and the BBC and Scotland slams. Too many to detail here.

Some of those I had the pleasure to hear, to see, and stood out in memory were Torrey Shineman, whose naked cartwheels called bullshit on supposed beauty ideals. Tom Gill's unfortunate serendipity and pop culture references melded with beats and bleak humour. David Lee Morgon's call that we all become crazy santas and fight for the rights for all children to know love and safety. Rik the Most's critique of an education system in thrall to the meanness of averages, remembering those doomed to drown in mediocrity. Tim Ledwitch's remembrance of a friend who died of cancer but was not lost to it, a pain that demanded we embrace the thunder, dance in the rain. Justina Kehinde whose brutal words wove elegantly, and without succour, the reality of female genital mutilation.

Kate Tempest enticed and awed with a guest performance. Who is, to put it quite simply, fucking amazing. Given a choice of a couple of pieces of shorter, known material or a longer, new story we called for the latter and were gifted with the a modern retelling of Tiresias. Woven with all the verve and energy and delicacy you would expect, blending the ancient and the contemporary, interspersing stabs to the heart, claws to soul with bright flashes of knowing humour and that smile.

Then, the individual slam winners. There were two this year, both wielders of vaginas...and talent and fury and wisdom.

Vanessa Kissuule, candidly sharing philosophical life hacks and an introspective critique on the infrastructure of the event and judgement.

Leyla Josephine, in conversation with Beyonce, refusing to accept domestic violence with a blase booty wiggle and a memory of her introduction to sex through the gnarly visuals of hardcore porn.

Congratulations, and thank you to all who performed or worked their asses off to put on this event.

And you? Want to try your luck, think you may be next years winner? Want to be entertained, inspired or help choose who gets to compete for the title? Then check out whats going on in your local area because the regional slams start this October.

**Edited for greek idiocies. apologies. This is why editing is a valuable tool.**

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