What's spoken word?
Don't tell me you've never heard. That's absurd. You know poetry, right? For one night we do it in the spotlight, rhyming lines about life, rights and fights, completely undeterred. We each take our turn to make the crowd emotionally stirred. Spoken word the opposite of that feeling of being in a group of people singing a song you've never heard.
What do people talk about?
Whatever they need to get out. You can't predict which way creativity's gonna sprout. It's not just about rocking up at your nearest pub holding a bottle of Bud and seeing what you can churn out – that's a cop out. It's about being honest and seeing who takes your hand when you hold it out. It's about getting over your self-doubt and making yourself count.
What types of people perform?
There's not really a norm. Tutors, roofers, Chief Supers, drivers, miners and skivers – everybody can get something from this art form. Come along and you might see former drug addicts explain how they reformed, grieving widows describe a loved one they desperately mourn, and dreamers talk about the moment they were spiritually reborn. Anyone can get up on stage and cook up a storm, open hidden doors and be impossible to ignore. What did you think, we all wore uniforms?
What do they sound like?
It's kind of a cross between poetry, hip hop and rap, with so many blurred lines. People tear open their wounds and make them shine. Every time you turn up you don't know what you're gonna find. Some people shout, throw their weight about and look you right in the eye – others hide behind their phones, and you wonder why, because their words are powerful enough to make you cry. You'll hear rehearsed and improvised rhymes by nervous and confident kinds going up for the first or the 50th time.
How does it make you feel?
It's unreal. Sometimes poetry's a bit of light-hearted fun, other times it's a proper ordeal. It might be politicised and open your eyes to a human rights issue, or it might plan a seed that slowly makes you feel free and inspires you. There's nothing more real than when people reveal what destroyed them and helped them heal. We're beloved, accepted and empowered in our collective ideal.
Why do you go?
At first I went there to meet girls, but at the first show I went to everyone was so old. And they were so slow, their rhymes had no flow – no one there was a pro. But that was so long ago. These days I don't come to meet girls, or bring girls, or escape girls, but to rock my world watching complete pros steal the show with poems that make you go 'woah'. And I'm distant from my family, but what I've come to know, is that spoken word is my home. When I'm low my brothers and sisters here help me grow. So I'll keep coming here 'til I'm old, get all slow and lose my flow – because it's what I owe.
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