Discovering Patrick Roche’s poetry almost three years ago revolutionised the way I thought about poetry – where’s the rhyme, the imagery, the tropes? In a high school education of Wordsworth and Yeats I had never before experienced a poet who wrote about issues I recognised and experienced: race, gender, class and mental health, all without the flowery embellishment so often found in poetry, especially the kind we become accustomed to throughout our education.
The roots of the modern spoken word tradition are often linked to the iconic speeches of Martin Luther King and the Civil Right’s movement in America. A growing emphasis was put on the idea that the individual voice matters and in the right circumstances can change the world. Political discontent then is arguably an essential element of what has made the spoken word genre so appealing and engaging.
Typically spoken word writers favour free verse as it frees them from the restrictions of formal structure. The natural subversiveness of spoken word as a genre has often appealed to a disenfranchised youth alarmed at the political and economic climate they find themselves in. In that respect spoken word or performance poetry, is as relevant as it was in the late 1960’s early 1970’s when spoken word nights and the first poetry slams began to appear.
Aloud is one of Glasgow’s youngest poetry nights but also one of it’s freshest and most vibrant; every second Monday students gather in QMU’s Jim’s bar to express themselves through the medium of poetry and prose. One of the most immediately striking aspects of Aloud for those unfamiliar with spoken word nights is the supportive and inclusive atmosphere of the event. A great deal of effort has been put by the organisers to not only facilitate but encourage performers with varying levels of experience to perform and as such it should be. It’s often the first stop for students looking to debut their work and connect with like-minded poets.
Aloud is known for its themed nights, for instance their Halloween Edition as well as “Poems in the face of Brexit.” Those interested in seeing (or performing in!) a poetry slam should also note that they are hosting a poetry slam on the 21st November starting at 19:30, each contestant is limited to 2 and a half minutes of poetry and the winner will be invited to the Scottish Poetry Slam held in the Tron Theatre. Last year’s winner was Iona Lee with a poem entitled “Bad Blood” which explored the physical realities of being a woman.
Last Monday at Rio
West End’s older poetry nights “Last Monday at Rio” at the Rio Cafe in Patrick, presents a more diverse age range. Robin Cairn, an influential member of the Scottish poetry scene and a published poet in his own right, selects a monthly headliner, usually published poets on tour, a great source of inspiration for working poets.
The headliner has an hour to perform, with a couple more performers to follow as the night progresses. This is an excellent choice for those looking to branch out into the wider slam poetry scene in Glasgow.
Inn Deep hosts possibly the West End’s best known poetry night on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Here, performers are offered the longest running time – ten minutes compared to Rio Cafe’s five and Aloud’s strict three. The diverse range of themes found in the pieces provide an entertaining and stimulating atmosphere.
Those keen on performing need to sign up through the venue’s Facebook page and slam poetry enthusiasts should make sure they show up early as Inn Deep’s poetry nights have grown in popularity. Despite the abundance of entertainment in Glasgow, spoken word events attract audiences willing to experience the raw energy of spoken word.