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Poetry Is Dead Good <br>Mix It Up Midlands Slam Final

9 July 15 words: Bridie Squires
We went to Nottingham Arts Theatre to watch fifteen poets battle it out in a Midlands war. A nice war. With poems
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Nottingham Arts Theatre stands proudly on George Street, sticking two fingers up to the influx of modern buildings to say “We’re staying put”. It’s a bit like being transported back in time, yet it retains its grandeur from the deep reds and glowing lighting stashed inside. So it’s always a pleasure to visit the place. Even more so when it’s for my first proper poetry slam, hosted by the young event that is Poetry is Dead Good.

After a strong start at JamCafé, packing the place wall to wall on occasion, Josh Judson has answered the call for a monthly spoken word session in the city centre. The format is simple – headline slots, an open mic, a drop of music, with a scratchy, DIY logo to boot. Taking it one step further, he decided to link up the cities in the Midlands, having noticed a thriving scene in each place but with not much communication between forces. And now he’s done it. Through the medium of slam.

As our host for the evening, Josh Judson kept the crowd warm with his signature line “Do you still give a shit?” Charmed. We were introduced to the judges – poet and lecturer Bohdan Piasecki, writer and educator Jim Hall, as well as founder and director of Mouthy Poets Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson. Kicking the poetry off was Jim Hall, with a piece about a boy "waiting for a world soft enough to swallow.” Jim has a way of delivering hard-hitting truths while breathing progression, often surrounding the need for boys and men to love freely.

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The first slam entrant was Shruti Chauhan from Leicester. Starting by describing summertime with the vivacity of “ice cubes cracking in Ribena”, her poem wound up making a point about a particular ideal of fair skin, and the importance of simply enjoying the sunshine – not worrying about catching it. Second to take the stage was Casey Bailey from Brum, who asked “What would Darwin think?” while picking apart society with dreamy musicality and staunch actuality. Third up was Mouthy Poet Daisy-Rose Nimerovski from Nottingham with an enchanting poem about the planet changing, with harsh switches from emotion to emotion, pace to pace, before landing on the rhyming fact that Earth “won’t take much more of this human crap.”

The fourth slammer to step to the microphone was Sammy Knorr from Birmingham with a poem mirroring a relationship ending with a cup of tea. Lots of rhythm, rhyme and entertaining lines, but unfortunately cut short by the three-minute time limit. Dan Webber from Derby then came with a poem about single life – a hilariously animated performance.

Leicester-based poet Andrew Lee invited us to explore the notion of feeling too deeply, lacing his words with images of teeth and raw gums. Nottingham poet Andy Szpuk read for us his Death by Shopping Bag – a story about avoiding a crash with a lady’s massive wicker shopping bag as she is distracted by her phone. Dathan Horridge from Derby brought us a rhyme-heavy instruction manual for life inclusive of “Surprise a stranger with a hug.” Lovely.

Sixth on the microphone was Jasmine Gardosi from Birmingham with a poem about a girl writing in the corner of a nightclub, the scene dotted with amazing beat arrangement and images like “Men as sticky as the floor.” An engaging and unique delivery with every line packing a punch. Nottingham writer Keith Ford brought a hilarious crowd-pleaser of a poem about young lads on the back of the Clifton bus shouting “Mate, you’re gonna get shanked.” Robbie Owen from Derby then reeled off in-depth facts about Jason Statham in a memorable and funny piece. Shub Haywood, also from Derby, used heavy metaphors with precision to explore the dynamics of a romantic relationship. Shub’s got a great voice – I look forward to hearing more.

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Next up was another comedy piece from long-haired Leicester-based poet Stephen Thomas, who spoke of his girlfriend’s fantasy about Jesus and the fact he fits the bill perfectly. From Nottingham, Robbert Van Dongen exploded with a pace-switching, well-rehearsed recital that included the scorcher “confidence is a bag of marbles with a hole in it – you have to follow where you’ve been to find it”. The final poet was Zero Pence from Leicester in an absolutely hilarious, pun-filled poem with the names of hip hop artists running throughout. Clever word play galore.

The first round was over and we were treated to a softly-spoken Bohdan Piasecki poem, riddled with puzzle pieces, scars, imperfections and intertwining stories from the past and present. Shortly after, our host Josh Judson came with a recital of his poem about Alexander the Great – an exploration of one of his quotes, pulling it apart and sticking it back together in an amalgamation of sheep, a lion, an army, green grass and deliciousness.

After a short break, the finalists were revealed – Robbert Van Dongen, Robbie Owen, Jasmine Gardosi, Andy Szpuk, Andrew Lee, Daniel Webber, Sammy Knor, and Daisy-Rose Nimerovski. The second poems were packed with starved girls in hospital wards, poetry piss-takes, female fight clubs, grands stashed in concrete mattresses, seagull kisses, Harry Potter getting bummed, retro plastic technology, and pleas from the universe. Then, it was crunch time. While the points were counted, Deborah Stevenson gave us the option of a poem about the road she grew up on, a poem about slags or a poem about raving.

Exploring the power dynamic between slags (of course) and virgins in a South London school, she told a tale of slashing a girl’s bag and watching her pick up the pieces, reflecting on the brutality – both harrowing and comforting in the same breath. By the time the poem ended, it was time to find out the winner, who was in for a slot at Mouthy Poets Say Sum Thin 9 at Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 25 July, a slot at Hit The Ode in Birmingham, and for the next year’s final to be in their city. Fourth, third and second places would win tickets to Mouthy Poets Say Sum Thin 9.

In fourth place – Robbert Van Dongen
In third place – Robbie Owen
In second place – Andrew Lee

The winner of the Poetry is Dead Good Mix it up Midlands slam was Jasmine Gardosi.
Well deserved.
Total badass.

Poetry is Dead Good takes place on the third Tuesday of every month at JamCafé.
Mouthy Poets perform at Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 25 July.


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