Buoyed by how much I enjoyed Arthena, my first local poetry event, I was excited to see what else the poetry scene in Canterbury had to offer. I was rewarded with a new poetry slam at The Kit, to see the first in a monthly series called LicKitySpit. The Kit is the newest addition to The Marlowe Theatre, a long-awaited venue that has huge promise to fulfil a need in Canterbury for a space to hold creative events such as this. It currently has a work-in-progress rawness to it, but the high ceilings and wonky beams create a unique and atmospheric setting. With its oak-framed roof, a great hall and a labyrinth of period rooms within, it has lived through 600 years of Canterbury’s history, serving many purposes, including a hospital, an almshouse, a World War II ambulance station and a family planning clinic.
‘…But what on earth is a poetry slam?’ you are secretly asking. I was too, as I took my seat. The evening opened with a set from the wonderful Neelam Saredia, who I had seen for the first time at Arthena; her elegant style of poetry set to music was set the tone for the evening in terms of originality and creativity. The ins and outs of the slam were explained to us by host of the night and co-founder, Henry Maddicott. I had visions of a spoken word riff-off, Pitch Perfect-meets-poetry, and I was not entirely wrong! The poets are given three minutes to perform a poem on a given theme, and scored out of ten by the audience, based on the reaction of the crowd, as well as the delivery and content of their original poem.
One by one the poets took to the stage. As the evening progressed I came to appreciate what makes a slam so fascinating and enjoyable to watch: the poems are all interpretations of a single theme, which, instead of narrowing the variety of poems that are performed, just makes you appreciate the true diversity and creativity of the poets competing. This ranged from Clair Meyrick’s migration back to her childhood, to Marcus Holmes’ reflection on his migratory path growing up, that always seemed to lead back to Canterbury, to Daniela Spontak’s all-encompassing poem on humanity and prejudice.
The scores were so tight that, not only was there a second round of scoring to help narrow it down, but two poets won this first slam. The worthy winners’ poems could not have been more different, but both extremely poignant. The beauty of Helen Seymour’s poem was in its elevation of the mundane through to the painstaking specificity of everyday life. It was also haunting through describing an insular community, where the once nostalgic and familiar become more twisted, spooky and suffocating. Alice O’Shaughnessy’s poem was no less poignant, but expressed an idea most of us can only empathise with through imagination. Her poem was told from the perspective of a refugee, a voice often lost in today’s discussions of the crisis. She moving expressed the refugee identity as being both broken because of what you have suffered, but also having the deep reserves of strength necessary to carry on, having had to flee your home in the face of disaster.
The event concluded with a performance from the headline act of the evening, Chris Vernoy, a seasoned slam poet and the 2019 Beat Poet Laureate, as voted by the International Beat Council. We were treated to an extraordinary variety of poetry; varied in terms of tone and pace, some rattled through ideas and abstract imagery, strung together one after another, whilst others were much more ponderous, which perfectly matched the variety of subject matter. The ones that stuck with me were a poem set in 2022 from the point of view of a clone, full of mechanical and technical language, and one about his memories of performing in Sweden, and the instant friendships made over music and poetry. His poem on what ‘beat’ is, was one of those wonderful explanations that capture something so expressively, and yet leaves you none the wiser: Beat is life, man / Beat is life. His presence was energising, and refreshing, he wasn’t afraid to use the whole space.
LicKitySpit gave us a night of dynamic and original poetry from some of the best the local area and further afield has to offer. The intimacy of the venue and the scoring coming from the audience gave the night the great atmosphere that you hope for from a local event. I really encourage you to get behind it.
The next LicKitySpit slam is on the 21st November at The Marlowe Kit. The winner of each monthly slam will perform a set at the beginning of the following event. All the winners will be entered into a grand slam at the Wise Words Festival, Spring 2019. Look out for the LicKitySpit anthology, a collection of all the original poems from the slams.
Find out more here: www.marlowetheatre.com/shows/lickityspit