Review: Forget what you heard (about spoken word)

– reviewed by Lettie McKie


9th May Ryan’s Bar, Stoke Newington

Poetry in London is a bit like flat-pack …

One of the most inspiring things about performance poetry in London is that it is very DIY. New events are constantly springing up in every borough because groups of poets, in love with the scene and the diversity of talent on offer, decide they want a slice of the action.

Of course the inevitable downside of this is that there is a fair amount of competition between event organisers to attract audiences. With so many performers trying to get their name heard you often need to have some sort of unique selling point to draw a crowd. A lot of the most popular long standing events seem to have an edge, for example: Bang Said the Gun is quirky and raucous, whereas Chill Pill is, well, chilled;  poetry served up to a mellow sound track and laid back hosting style.

And Forget What You Heard‘s edge is …

Started in January 2013 by Stephanie Dogfoot and Matt Cummins monthly Forget What you Heard (about spoken word)’s USP is its friendliness. Whilst hosting, Matt grins ear to ear and hugs each performer warmly on their leaving the stage! Unless you live in the area, then making the trek to Stoke Newington’s Ryans Bar for this event could seem like too much effort for a midweek poetry night, but the welcoming atmosphere more than makes up for any stress encountered on the journey.

While, like the vast majority of open mic evenings, it inevitably started late, once the event got going it stood out for its warmth and a consistently high quality of poetry. Stephanie and Matt’s openness soon infected the audience who laughed easily and fell silent in all the right places. This meant that the first few poets to take to the open mic were greeted with enthusiasm and this enabled them to relax into their performances.

A broad spectrum of high quality poetry, starting with Rik Livermore …

Stephanie and Matt showed they understand the art of a good line up with three feature poets whose work was contrasting but complementary.  Rik LivermoreTalia Randall and Lucy Gellman are all from very different poetic backgrounds but brought together their diverse performance styles made for a varied evening, consistent and compelling.

Rik was first up with an impassioned set of largely new poems written whilst he’s been living in Switzerland for the last six months. His poetry was thought provoking and drawn from some painful experiences.  His best poem of the night was probably also the hardest to listen to, as it was an achingly honest, but ultimately positive, account of overcoming panic attacks. Some more poems with a lighter subject matter could have benefited this intense set, but with his deeply personal poetry Rik made a heartfelt connection to the audience.

Moving on to an enthusiastic and bright-eyed open mic …

The open mic was interspersed throughout the evening and dominated by a table of student regulars about to leave London for home in the States. They were a bright eyed group all with different levels of energy and confidence; sharing a buoyant enthusiasm for all the performances they made the open mic experience for everyone much less intimidating. One open mic poet who was particularly exciting to watch was Jason, a regular on the London circuit. His performance style is somewhat alarming, he shouts and leaps around, wielding the microphone like a weapon, but he’s completely unforgettable. His poetry mixes unsettling imagery with euphoric rhetoric delivered at break neck speed, he is a very unique performer.

Talia Randall: natural and evocative storyteller …

Rubix Collective member Talia Randall’s feature was the highlight of the evening. She performed several pieces from her recent EP 3 mile radius which explore themes of childhood memories, lost innocence and growing up. Talia is a natural storyteller who commands the stage with an understated delivery style, her poetry is colourful and evocative of events drawn from her own life.

And ending on a high note …

With almost three and a half hours of performances this night was slightly too long for an audience to sustain high levels of concentration  and by the start of the final third it had dwindled to a handful of stalwarts. In her late night set therefore Lucy Gellman’s had to keep the audience engaged. She was very funny and her poetry, rich in descriptive detail, with sensitive and surprising imagery did the work for her. Errol McGlashan was notable as one of the last open mic’ers of the evening, his delivery of the brilliant When Love Beckons by Kahil Gibran was affecting and he is very skilful at getting an audience to listen attentively, but it is always slightly disappointing when a poet doesn’t perform their own work.

Overall … an incredibly friendly and wide-ranging night, with consistently high quality, if a bit too long.

As Stephanie is off to travel the world on a shoe string the future of Forget What You Heard (about spoken word) is as yet undecided, but watch this space!

One thought on “Review: Forget what you heard (about spoken word)

  1. just to let you all know, the next Forget What You Heard is on June 22nd, Saturday at 3PM, Ryan’s Bar. Featuring Peter Hayhoe, Dan Holloway and Ben Norris, and more….

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