On Thursday after work, I caught the train down to London to take part in the open mic at Rhymes with Orange, one of the many glorious and diverse spoken word nights in the capital.
I was a little bit nervous about this one because (a) I’m always nervous about new crowds and (b) this gig was in London’s fashionable Shoreditch, a place filled to the brim with beard-wearing, ironically tattooed hipsters, and I wasn't sure if they'd like my silly, rhyming poems.
Luckily, Rhymes with Orange is a night that very much embraces the silliness! The performers did poems about Cthulhu, haunted fairgrounds, battle-rapping political leaders and a horse taking a shit in a watering can. Yes, really.
As you can imagine, the whole thing was heavy on the irreverence and it was brilliant fun!
The Bedroom Bar is a really nice venue, and it was completely packed with people too, which was very heartening indeed! The audience was very friendly, and the Rhymes with Orange team even provide shakers filled with dry rice, so the crowds can make as much noise as possible in between performers!
With eight featured poets, a limerick competition and a full open mic list, it was a pretty long evening and the open mic was right at the end of the night, but it was definitely worth the wait, because the open mic performers were just as good as the featured acts!
Of course, I was picked to go on last and – with one nervous eye on the time and the possibility of missing my train – I popped up on stage to give the assembled crowd my best body-hair related poetry!
I as really surprised to win the open mic, but very grateful to be presented with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and the chance to perform again at a future Rhymes with Orange event!
The whole evening had a really relaxed and fun vibe to it, and all the performers and spectators all seemed like they were having a fab time the whole way through. It’s definitely one to visit if you live in or around London and fancy a good alternative night out!
Then, on Friday I went down to the Wisbech and Fenland Museum for the launch of the Poems for Peace poetry anthology. Organised and edited by former Fenland Poet Laureate Poppy Kleiser, with foreword by Benjamin Zephaniah (Yes, that Benjamin Zephaniah!), Poems for Peace is a collection of poems discussing the futility of war, both in the past and in the modern era.
The book launch event was brilliant, with some fantastic performance from some of the poets featured in the anthology, plus great food and drink, and lots of interesting people to chat to! What more could you want from a book launch?
Benjamin Zephaniah also stopped by in person to congratulate Poppy on a job well done, and to chat to all the contributors and tuck in to the home made vegan quiche at the refreshments table.
So that was quite exciting!
I didn’t get a chance to chat with Benjamin in the end (This was probably for the best, given that I’m prone to talking crap when meeting people I admire. We all remember the Scroobious Pip incident, don’t we?) but I did get a chance to speak to the artist who designed the cover of the anthology, and many of the other contributors too.
I also performed the poem that I wrote for this collection – an exploration of WWI desertion called ‘Witness’ – and I was lucky enough to hear other poets perform their work too.
All in all, it was a fantastic night, and the anthology itself is a cracking read! If you would like to get your hands on a copy, please email Poppy Kleiser – email@example.com.
|Copies of the anthology|
|Wine and nibbles in the Wisbech Museum|
|What's the collective noun for poets?|
|Actual Benjamin Zephaniah talking to Jenni and Rohun|
|Helen Pletts reading her poem from the collection|
Tomorrow, I’m going across to Stony Stratford (near Milton Keynes) to do a featured set at this month’s Scribal Gathering. Then on Wednesday night, we’ll be at the Babylon Gallery in Ely for another Fen Speak Open Mic Night. Doors open at 7pm and the whole thing kicks off at 7:30pm.
Finally, this weekend I’ll be part of the Poetry To Go team, writing bespoke poetry for the punters at the Cambridge Literary Festival. We’ll be raising money for the Cambridge Bardic competition, and for this year’s summer poetry fringe, so if you fancy your very own poem to go, we’ll be outside the University of Cambridge Student Union (just next to the round church). See you then!