Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method…
In fact, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time – the Dice Slam was hosted by the enigmatic Amerah Saleh, who had us drum-rolling and falling about, as we awaited the judgement of the dice roll after each performance – the three judges (Luke Kennard, Anna Freeman and Dan Simpson) then gave us their reasoning for the scores, which often involved the docking of points for being far too moving or hilarious, and a random quote or two from Terry Eagleton’s The Event of Literature.
My highlight of the evening was a poem by Toby Campion (from Leicester) which began with the words, “Hi. I’m the Midlands”, describing himself as the middle child between the North: “eldest child – had it the worst, and don’t we all know it!” and the South – “spoiled younger sibling”.
We had a deliciously intoxicating poem about cake from Kareem Parker-Brown, and another of his contained the memorable line, “I’ve got more grooves than communal butter”. We heard a hilarious set of poems from Vanessa Kisuule, including one about Rosé, Calpol and getting older, and a laugh-out-loud performance involving My Little Pony’s, vegan hummus and the evils of branding from judge Anna Freeman. Sky Hawkins gave us some dark poems (to match her dark outfit) from the wilds of Newcastle, and we had some fiery verse from Charley Genever.
The previous event involved less drama and drum rolls but plenty of quality poetry and humour. Mona Arshi read us some poems written using a traditional Arabic form (a Ghazal) which I really enjoyed, particularly lines such as “I want to commune with rain and for the rain to be merciful, a million tiny pressures on my flesh” (click here for the whole poem). I really enjoyed Kim Moore’s poems, especially ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’, and ‘The Trumpet Teacher’s Curse’, though I’ve heard her read before.
We then had a discussion, and it was interesting to hear the poets describe how they got into writing poetry. Katrina Naomi found poetry “crap and boring at school” but was amazed when someone read her a Sharon Olds poem (‘I go back to May 1937’) and “that was that”. Kim Moore began an MA in Creative Writing whilst also teaching full time, and gradually the poetry took over from the music. Mona Arshi began to read poetry whilst she was unwell during her pregnancy.
It was an epic evening of insightful poetry, hilarity and fun. The festival continues over the weekend, with more events today and tomorrow, including workshops, readings and some events for youngsters. See more photos on my Facebook page, or visit the Verve Poetry Festival website for event details…