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Guest Blog: ‘Slamming’ poetry style

By Mab Jones

Award winning comic and poet Mab Jones is hosting a ‘Poetry-off’ competition in Cardiff this weekend. In a guest blog on ITV Wales – she explains exactly what that means:

Poet and comic Mab Jones explains what a poetry slam is

This Sunday sees the first ever Welsh heat of the UK SLAM! Championships taking place at 10 Feet Tall in Cardiff.

The UK SLAM! is run by Farrago poetry, one of the country’s top spoken word event organisers, and has been taking place since 1994 when Farrago head honcho John Paul O’Neill – a clever and charismatic poet who has won awards all over the face of the earth for his verbal virtuosity – introduced the slam to the UK.

John Paul, who is more used to displaying his “genuine talent” (Time Out) hosting at events in New York and London, will also be the guest emcee at this Cardiff happening.

What is a slam? Basically, it’s a competition of words – a little bit like that ‘face-off’ at the end of ‘Eight Mile’, but less vicious.

The poets address the audience instead of each other, and are awarded points from random judges chosen on the night. Each poet gets 3 minutes to impress with any number of poems in that time, in any style, and on any subject matter – from the serious to the silly, the scandalous to the sublime.

I’ve seen poets win with traditional terza rima, spectacularly saucy sonnets, rhyming couplets about two-timing triplets, free-verse, weird verse, poems about button badges, golfing dolphins (!), from he point of view of a piece of blu-tac… Literally, anything goes!

I myself have won slams, and come last in them. A poem that had one audience enthralled, has the next one appalled.

Slams are a moody, broody affair, and poets are advised to take heart. Since only one poet ‘wins’, it can’t be about the winning… I myself work for the applause, for the chance to meet other poets, for the fun of it, and I advise other wannabe spoken wordsters to do the same.

Sunday’s slam promises a v e r y talented range of poetic personages, in any case.

Slams see a variety of poets wooing the audience with verse

We have poets who’ve won slams before or been highly placed in them; we have poets who’ve been published, who’ve won great praise for their writing; we have absolute newbies, who’ve never performed before (‘slam virgins’, as they’re known); and, really, any one of these poets could win.

In the last Jam Bones slam, first place went to Sue Hamblen, a poet from Cardigan who’d never won a slam before; third place went to Deiann Timms, a student who’d never even performed before.

Second place went to Nick Fisk, editor of Square Magazine, who is one of our supporters for the slam, along with Academi, the literature promotion agency for Wales.

So – come one, come all! Whether you want to read, watch, listen, judge, or merely peep inside. Come and watch poetic history happen! Come and watch those verbal sparks F L Y. Welsh heat? Why, yes indeed.

The UK SLAM! Chsapionship Welsh Heat takes place this Sunday at 10 Feet Tall from 19:30. Entry is £3, anyone wanting to take part should contact jambonesevents@gmail.com or see www.jambones.webs.com

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