I Know I Wish I Will competition, and the value of spoken poetry

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As someone with a background in what seems like two opposing forces in art, i.e. music and writing, I see spoken poetry as a fascinating phenomenon. In writing, I can easily hide under the cushions of privacy and editing, not having to look anyone in the eye, no one but my own reflection in the computer. Performing on stage, on the other hand, is uncomfortably immediate, where the emotional urgency clashes with the pressure to hit the right note, and one is either completely subjected to the risks of a trance-like state or the restraints of anxiety.

Spoken poetry is bare, vulnerable, and yet straightforward, liberated from the right notes and fixed rhythmicalities. It’s purely human but strange, as we are confined to the box of the stage and our own uninterrupted stream of vocal flow. No instruments, no tapping of typing, no spectacle.

The poetry open mic night hosted at King’s on 21st November was in cooperation with Eastside Educational Trust. They are hosting a poetry competition that will result in a massive 25-hour spoken poetry event, taking place in March 2020. The theme of the competition is I Know I Wish I Will, and the performers will be aged 5-25.

The open mic night at King’s, entitled Flying Verse, was a lead-up towards the upcoming March event, and it comprised of young poets at various stages of their careers. I talked to some of the audience members who came to watch the show, and asked them a few questions about spoken poetry and its value.

One of them, H, stated that, ‘Word poetry has more relevance than ever in the highly politicised and antisocial world we live in today. Actually engaging with someone’s poetry face to face is another experience in itself, in comparison to reading it or watching a video. You really feel a sense of community when being at a poetry event.’

Another aspect reinforcing that sense of community is clicking one’s fingers when a certain line of the poem strikes a chord with certain members of the audience. H described this as ‘a truly precious experience. The thought that someone is letting their innermost thoughts become public through poetry is heartwarming, and is something that everyone should respect.’
Another member of the audience, V, described open mic nights as stimulating. ‘There is nothing that makes me want to write down my own feelings and be creative as much as having listened to other people perform their works. Spoken word poetry often seems to be a window to someone’s inner life, thoughts and dreams, and I find it incredibly fascinating.’

She also touched upon the simultaneously universal and individual nature of poetry. Poems ‘are something highly subjective, meaning that no two people can ever express the same thing in the same language, and that makes it so great.’ V did not perform at the open mic night herself, but she admitted that the event has influenced her. ‘I am often so impressed by these pieces that I cannot wait to get a pen and some paper into my hands after the performance, and be creative myself.’

The King’s event encouraged her to dabble in spoken poetry herself: ‘[Flying Verse] managed to, in fact, make me consider submitting a piece for the upcoming Eastside poetry competition, even though I am extremely afraid of speaking in front of crowds. Attending the event has therefore been truly inspiring—in more ways than just one.’

On that note, I encourage every aspiring poet to send their works to the Eastside competition here. The submission deadline is 20th December, and, if accepted, one will get a chance to perform their work on a West End stage, as well as get published in the I Know I Wish I Will poetry collection.

For any further questions about the competition, contact knowwishwill@eastside.org.uk.

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