The first instalment of a series on the spoken word scene by spoken word artist and Brick Box friend, Peter Hayhoe.
As a seasoned spoken word artist people often ask me how did I get involved in the poetry scene? Well the answer is simple, it was a mistake.
For a while I had been keeping a journal of random thoughts and ideas whilst struggling to write my debut novel. Often I would scribble frantically on tatty old notepads or bits of random paper, usually backs of dodgy nightclub flyers. You see at that stage of my life I still believed poetry was a world full of bad cravats and upper class snobs. At my secondary school all modern forms of poetry were neglected in favour of Shakespeare and Byron. Now I am not slagging off the classics, but no matter how creative and passionate a teacher is a kid will always struggle with the great works if they do not have an understanding of their contemporary equivalent. It seemed my teachers were not interested in exploring their students’ creativity but were instructed to teach their pupils’ a set of skills that would get them a passing grade. I think some of this has changed in recent years as I know a plethora of young spoken word artists who go into schools and explore poetry in new and dynamic ways.
But back to the point; I was in my late 20’s when I looked down at the piles and piles of paper stacked in my room and began to question what I was actually writing. Some had quite obvious rhythmical structure, others more obscure. It was only by chance that I heard a friend in passing mention a place called The Poetry Café in Covent Garden. I found out that every Tuesday they run an open mic night called Poetry Unplugged. Well this seemed ideal if a little daunting, well very daunting in fact, but I soon plucked up the courage and signed my name up for my first poetry reading.
I remember as I sat in that overcrowded basement my hands were shaking, and my brow was sweating, and my heart was leaping all over the place. After about 7 readers in, the compére Nial O’Sullivan, finally called my name. With heavy legs I walked up to the microphone, looked down at the piece of paper shivering in my hand and started to read.
Now no word can truly describe the feeling of that first reading, for it is about a million and one emotions tumbling around your body like a washing machine full of pebbles and stars. I remember when I finally stopped shaking and finished reading my poem the sound of applause washed over me, leaving me with a sense of relief for I had finally found a purpose for my words.
I’ve learnt over the years that it doesn’t matter how obscure or abstract you think your poetry is you’ll always find someone who can relate to your poetry if those words come from the heart. In the upcoming months you’ll hear more of my views on the poetry scene and share some bits of advice for anyone who wants to be a spoken word artist, but for now I better enjoy the sun whilst it lasts and treat myself to a well-earned Calippo.