Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Deanna Rodger’

Interview: Come Rhyme With Me

In Interview, Saboteur Awards on May 16, 2013 at 9:30 am

interviewed by James Webster 

come rhyme

With the Saboteur Awards results to be announced at the Awards Party in just two weeks, we interview Best Regular Spoken Word Night nominees Come Rhyme With Me about their event and its unique food-themed format.

Let’s start with the basics: how long has Come Rhyme with Me been running and when/where does it take place?

Come Rhyme With Me will have been running for 3 years in July. Come Rhyme With Me takes place twice a month.

On the 3rd Friday of each month we travel to The Writers Place (9-10 Jew St) in Brighton and on the last Friday of each month we are based at Cottons Islington (70 Exmouth Market) in London.

How did Come Rhyme with Me come into being? Was it done with a particular ethos or mission statement in mind?

In 2010, Naomi Woddis put out a call for an event to take place at Cottons Islington. Dean and Deanna had previously curated events together at Lyric Hammersmith and were keen to establish their own independent event, one that promoted quality spoken word and poetry. They wanted to create an event they would pay to go to.

Come Rhyme With Me has a really unique spin on it with its “set menu of performers” and focus on food. What led to that decision?

Upon seeing the space and the restaurant the idea for a food and poetry night was formed. They pitched the idea to the owners (Beverley and Andrew) and Come Rhyme With Me was conceived!

You run nights in London and Brighton, do you find there’s difference in style/flavour between the events in different areas?

In 2011 Dean was invited to curate an event for New Writing South, an organisation that promotes writing and writers of all types in the South East of the country. Dean decided to bring Come Rhyme With Me, the event was a part of Brighton Fringe Festival and was a success. New Writing South invited Dean and Deanna to launch a regular Come Rhyme With Me at The Writers Place and so Come Rhyme With Me Brighton was launched!

Who have been your favourite performers that you’ve had at Come Rhyme with Us? What have been the other highlights?

There have been so many amazing performers at Come Rhyme With Me not to mention the performers that come through the appetiser (open mic) section. The Christmas party where we had an array of performers has been a highlight. Not to mention the successful collaborations between Come Rhyme With Me and Oval House Theatre and London Liming at Rich Mix.

What do you look for when you book performers for your “set menu?

The menu is chosen with flavours in mind. What style the performer is and how they would fit in a holistic sense. Very few acts are rebooked though Starters are brought back as Mains or Desserts.

What have been the challenges of running a regular spoken word event?

Not so much challenges as standards. Come Rhyme With Me is all about quality of experience.

What is your opinion of the state of spoken word and performance poetry in London and the UK?

It’s strong and getting stronger each year. Events such as Come Rhyme With Me, Bang Said The Gun and Chill Pill are constantly bringing in new audiences and showcasing emerging talent.

If you’re trying to convince someone who’s never heard of Come Rhyme with Me to come to your events then what do you say?

The food element is a massive draw as are the unique line ups and open mic aspect. Dean and Deanna have also been praised for their ability to create a warm and welcoming environment for all audiences. Why don’t you Come and Rhyme With Us!?

And finally, have you heard of Sabotage before (if so, what?) and are you pleased to be nominated for a Saboteur award?

Come Rhyme With Me is very pleased to be nominated for a Saboteur award. It’s a first of hopefully many. Massive thanks to all those who nominated and have voted.

Come Rhyme With Me is run by Dean Atta and Deanna Rodger. They’re cool, check them out.


‘Rhyming Thunder’ ed. by James Bunting and Jack Dean

In anthology, Saboteur Awards on May 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

-Reviewed by Billy Mills


It has long been my opinion that editor introductions to anthologies should consist of a single sentence, something along the lines of ‘here are some poems I like’. However, it seems that this is not an acceptable option; publishers need to sell books and editors to justify their inclusions and exclusions, so claims have to be made and cases put forward. When the anthology presents a new generation of young poets, these claims and cases tend to revolve about the sins of their elders and the new thing the poets bring to the art of verse. It’s a tendency as old as poetry itself, I suppose.

In James Bunting’s introduction to Rhyming Thunder, the elders are identified as ‘Oxbridge professors with elbow patches’ and editors of anthologies of young poets where young means ‘born since 1970’ (the poets in this anthology appear to have been born after 1985, and many post 1990). It’s not difficult to sympathise with these complaints; far too may anthologies you pick up nowadays read like the products of university staffrooms, down to biographies of the poets that amount to lists of the prizes they have been shortlisted for, the MFA programmes they graduated from and the colleges they have taught at. It’s almost as if the editors and poets lack the confidence required to allow the writing to stand by itself without this kind of supportive scaffolding. In Rhyming Thunder, on the other hand, the bios list Slams won, festivals read at and TV and radio broadcasts featuring the poet in question. There are even some references to distinctly non-radical readings in Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. Why, it’s almost as if…

These biographical notes also point towards the ‘new thing’ that is being claimed for this generation; they are all oral or performance poets. They represent, again according to Bunting’s introduction, ‘a surge in poets getting up onto stages and reciting poems like monologues’.  Jack Dean then goes on to claim that ‘by saying them out loud’ these poets ‘tried to make words exciting for their own sakes again’. As the blurb says, Bunting and Dean ‘made them write down the poems they were making with their mouths’. This is an anthology of oral poetry which, we are asked to believe, has been translated to the almost alien medium of print.

Now, call me out of touch if you like, but I seem to have missed the day when words stopped being exciting for their own sakes; nobody takes up poetry because they find language dull. More seriously, the claim that performance is a new poetic device that the Slam generation invented is about as reasonable as the notion that teenagers invented sex. There is no question that live events have helped poetry reach a new audience in recent years. However, few Slams have matched the scale of the 1965 International Poetry Incarnation in the Royal Albert Hall. I can’t but wonder how many of today’s oral poets will ever reach the kind of audiences the Mersey Sound gang touched through their books, performances and musical annexes The Scaffold and Grimms. I’m also inclined to wonder how many Oxbridge professors were in the Royal Albert Hall audience or cut their poetic teeth on organiser Michael Horovitz’s Children of Albion anthology. To be fair, Horovitz does get a name-check in one of the bios in Rhyming Thunder and festival ‘star’ Allen Ginsberg is mentioned a couple of times, so the poets at least seem aware of this heritage.

It seems a pity to spend so much of this review discussing the presentation of the work rather than the work itself, but the paradox of the poetry anthology as a genre is that it both points to and distracts from a body of poetry. And with Rhyming Thunder it’s a shame that the distractions are so blatant because there is some very interesting poetry hidden away between the somewhat overstated claims of introductions and blurb.

For those readers who are not familiar with the rules and conventions of Slam poetry there are certain surface textures that have to be assimilated before the words on the page can be enjoyed for themselves. There can be a certain verbosity to some of the writing that probably reflects the different requirements of the ear and the eye when confronted with information-rich text. Also, the facility to rhyme, that most dangerous of gifts for the young poet to be cursed with, is positively encouraged by the need to grab the ears of an easily-distracted audience. Ultimately, however, these are neither more artificial nor more natural than the conventions of the sonnet or the haiku.

There isn’t space in a review to give full attention to all the twenty one poets included, so what follows is a very subjective list of highlights. Rob Auton writes shortish poems with the wit and charm of a young Roger McGough.


Francis Bacon and Kevin Bacon are rashers from a very talented pig
The pig could paint
The pig could act
The pig was a genius as a matter of fact

Deanna Rodger’s 22NOW captures the romance of the Routemaster bus and the breathless excitement of teenage nights on the town with acuity.

We move in a cloud of impulse
Wearing inside out blazers
Because we are fresh princesses free from an all lady posh school

Jodi Ann Bickley’s prose poems represent an interesting contrast to the rap-inspired rhythms and occasionally over-easy rhyming of some of the other work here.

We sat in silence. Not because we had nothing to say – we both had so much to say but we knew anything we said – nothing could change.

Zaru Jonson’s PAINTBRUSH is Beat fun.

“my PAINTbrush AINT
crushed nobody’s soul”
he said;
dustbin lid

The three poems by Raymond Antrobus seem to me to be the most fully achieved body of work in the book, as exemplified by these lines from his INTERROGATING DEPRESSION.

Before you hit the garden party
consider your mood –
is it a water can
or a bad cloud?
You’re doing your best
to feel like the right weather.

In fact, I found things to enjoy and admire in all of the poets in Rhyming Thunder, to one degree or another, and at the end I was left with a definite sense of a common or shared approach to writing that unifies the very individual voices of these twenty one poets. Once you start reading the work carefully it becomes evident that the primary motivations are narrative and subjective. The majority of the poems in the book are autobiographical, with unproblematic first-person narrators presenting personal anecdotes about relationships and the facts of the quotidian lives of sensitive young urban Britons. In this, at least, they are not too far removed from much of the poetry you might find in an Oxbridge professor’s anthology, once you allow for the different worlds the two groups inhabit. However, the Rhyming Thunder poets write with far greater energy and commitment than most of their better-reared academic cousins, and their poetry, while perhaps not signalling the kind of revolution that the editors might wish for, certainly represents a clear alternative to the dreary conformity that characterises far too much contemporary verse.

It’s nice for a change to read poetry by young writers who aren’t trying to be old before their time. And despite this old man’s cynicism it is, of course, important that young writers continue to get excited about poetry’s possibilities as an art form. It is clear that these poets are and their excitement is infectious. It is a pity that the book isn’t accompanied by a CD of their performances so that readers like the present reviewer, who are not in a position to attend events in the UK on a regular basis, might get some idea of the full range of their gifts. As it is, Rhyming Thunder is a well-produced introduction to a world of poetry that cannot be ignored and deserves to be taken seriously and Burning Eye are to be commended for publishing it. Will it make poetry more popular than Eastenders? I doubt it. But that doesn’t matter.

Keats House Poets’ Forum 11/12/11

In Performance Poetry on April 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

– reviewed by James Webster

The Keats House Forum is a unique kind of poetry event. Keats House is the museum-cum-memorial to John Keats, where he lived for two years, wrote some of his most memorable poetry and met his fiancée Fanny Brawne (who was apparently something of a creative proto-punk). I know this because those of us who were there early were given a guided tour, saw all the Keats memorabilia and were given a potted history of his time in the house. It made for an appropriate start to a poetry event (even if it was odd to be at a show where there was no bar).

The format’s simple and effective; hosted by Simon Mole (one of the Keats House Poets) who made a point of asking what everyone wanted for Christmas (recorded bold in brackets), the open mic spots were interspersed with performances from the Keats House Poets. Then Kat Francois headlined and closed the show.

Keats House Poets

  • Simon (road bike with drop-down handles) started us off with a piece (inspired by Human Planet), about a guy who can hold his breath for a really long time. It was a breathy performance, filled with verdant language describing an underwater world. By piling on the language and increasing speed Simon builds up a real sense of pressure, which he breaks occasionally with a fun call and response.
  • Laila Sumpton (Mary Poppins powers): previously seen at the Beaconsfield Reading Series, she started with a piece on Ear Worms (medically described as a musical hallucination). It was cleverly put together: you could feel the song entwining itself into your brain as she describes it.
  • And ‘Viral Times’ managed to make the personification of the common cold seems super-cute.
  • Anthony ‘The Hurricane’ Hett (socks that don’t fall down) gave a calm, but captivating performance of ‘For John’, emotionally drawing on the awkwardness and heart-rending nature of visiting sick friends. The words tipped over each other as he struggled to speak as it finished with a powerful monologue to his dying friend.
  • Paul Sherreard and Stephanie ‘Sonority’ Turner performed some re-workings of Keats’s poems:
  • Sonority turned Keats’s ‘Solitude’ into the contemporary ‘I Go Solo’, an engaging piece on a late night walk that made its words sound out like footsteps on a quiet street.
  • And ‘Song’ is translated by Paul into ‘I Got a Dog’, which was an adorable piece on feeling abandoned by the death of a pet.

Open Mic

  • Janice Windle (gallery desperate to sell her paintings) read ‘Beginning a Painting’ which described frustration and procrastination with nice intricate language.
  • While ‘His Name’ was an utterly gorgeous and magical (in an age-old blood magic kind of way) poem about finding a bone good luck charm.
  • Wizard of Skill (radio) performed ‘My Radio’. His performance is always full of quirky energy, but his idiosyncratic delivery swallows a lot of his language, the poem lacked focus, and he repeats his chorus far too often. That said, he did have the audience chanting along to the chorus.
  • Kaori (date with a special someone) captured the audience completely with a lovely tale of nostalgia for Godzilla destroying people on TV, contrasted with a touching family story of an earthquake.
  • Deanna Rodgers (headshots and membership of spotlights) read a roaming, rough-and-tumble of a poem, filled with the energy of her youth, riding over London with friends with ‘jackets on inside-out because we are Fresh Princesses’ on the old Routemaster buses (she also runs Come Rhyme With Me with Dean Atta).
  • Ed Mayhew (best free thing you can find) gave a lively performance of a hugely enjoyable poem on a protracted rap battle with the Mayor of Lime Regis. Some entertainingly clunky rhyme, and a superbly fluid, eloquent spoken word monologue, made for an ace poem.
  • Jess (little person in my life) based a poem on her ‘wish list for life when [she] was young and stupid’. Her younger self’s aspirations were a joyous mess of the hedonistic, anarchic and bohemian. Best line: ‘being thrown out of this establishment will be the best thing I’ve done all day’.
  • Donall Dempsey (Janice Windle’s filtrum) gave us his super sweet ‘Love Potion’ dedicated to his partner’s filtrum.
  • And also a ‘Love Song for Emily’ (Dickinson that is) that was beautiful on Dickinson’s ‘perfect embroidery of knowing’ and ‘The Present Moment’ was terrifyingly cute account of his daughter giving him a present of stone, grass and twigs.


  • Kat Francois (a new front-left tyre)
  • She starts with a description of someone who ‘used to dance in her not so long ago days’, using repetition to create a rhythm of music, it becomes all the more upsetting when things change and the woman’s limbs ‘hang useless’, but ends inspiringly with the affirmation that ‘in her mind she travels to places that in reality are absolute impossibilities’.
  • Next, a piece that describes a woman’s body and her issues with it; from her ‘inviting mango-calves’ to her dress that turns into a ‘crimson whirlwind of wonder’ with a gust of wind. Again it’s a triumph of freedom over frustration as she’s ‘sick and tired of hating herself’ and steps out to dance.
  • Her ‘West Ken Blues’ was performed imaginatively, using the space and props perfectly, she weaves the images of ‘the days when innocence reigned’ in the air for us. Starting with larger than life characters, moving to tragedy and pain, she movingly evokes the atmosphere of this troubled and low-income neighbourhood. A superb socially conscious performance piece.
  • Her final ‘Poetry Addict’ is another great performance. An explanation of all the reasons she performs, where you can hear her gasping for the breath that poetry gives her, it’s both intimate and performative.

Conclusion: A really strong afternoon of spoken word. The standard of the open mic (with the possible exception of Wizard of Skill), the Keats House poets and feature Kat Francois was incredibly high. One of the most consistently quality afternoons of poetry I’ve attended, with a variety of styles and themes to entertain and inform, whatever your tastes. Keats would be proud (probably).

Sage and Time @ The Charterhouse Bar 22/02/12

In Performance Poetry on March 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

– Reviewed by Dana Bubulj

Perhaps it was the weather that kept this night to an intimate gig of fewer people than usual, which is a shame, as it was another event of the fantastic standard that we are used to with Sage and Time.


The hosts opened each half with their own poems, setting the tone of the evening with effusive introductions to both the open mic poets and the excellent features.

  • Richard Marsh’s take on the bizarre love between two people at the gym, each embodying each other’s ideals was a nice opening to an evening whose theme seemed love-bent. It’s a shame he forgot sections, but with asides like “basically, it turns out she likes him too” to continue the narrative, he acquitted himself admirably.
  • Anna Le‘s All The While was a tender take on love whilst the world continues. She acknowledges politics and injustice (“teachers not renumerated”) and in doing so, the declaration becomes more powerful for not being rose-tinted. There’s a beautiful calm, amidst the “commotion” of the world, where the poet is “inescapably falling in love with you”.


  • Dean Atta has a great stage presence, performing his confessional poetry with confidence. His sensual first poem was about Grindr in Italy, where “new technology found intimacy…in an ancient city”. His second, My Love, (5th Draft),was a delicate portrayal of feelings not ready to be pinned down. As a “manifesto of love”, I Don’t Want To Write You Poems, also sought to define feelings with a lovely mix of ephemeral messages left on mirror steam and physical demonstrations.
  • Mother Tongue is an interesting one about not sharing his mother’s first language (Greek), leaving him an outsider when “forgetting to translate”. I loved the line: “our mother has swallowed her tongue”.
  • This is not supposed to be Therapy was a great take on the expectations placed upon us by both society and ourselves. Congenially taking us through familiar doubt (“I am a leader… right?”), Atta turns away from what we’re “supposed to do” as a way to define the self, vowing instead to do so individually by “any app necessary”.
  • He finished with the poem that brought him most into the public eye via Youtube (& now iTunes), “I am nobody’s nigger”: a commentary on language (“don’t tell me it’s a reclaimed word”) in relation to racially incited violence (“that’s one of the last words Steven Lawrence heard”). It’s performed passionately, with stirring references to ancestry and the slave trade, finishing elegantly: “call me nigger cause you’re scared of what brother means”.
  • Deanna Rodger was an exuberant performer whose work is very rooted in her past.  My favourite begins: “I always get asked, where’re you from?”. It’s a great take on the frustration of growing up in London, steeped in British culture while also (and more visually apparent) “a product of miscegenation”.
  • Her main focus is her youth, mostly in its innocence. In her 22 Now and 22 to 19, she we see her hanging out after school, mooching with friends on routemaster buses like “fresh princesses” with a breathlessly sincere nostalgia that that certainly took a few of the audience back. Young love doesn’t escape her canny gaze: from the plausibly confused 1432, complete with premature declarations “slipping out as easily as he slipped in” to the obsessive Love Ambitions (I liked wanting to be their student ID  “so you need me to get into the library”, and that she peppered her delivery with interjections like “I feel like a stalker!”)
  • Turning to the present were two poems: If Chloe Can and Nowadays. The former, about a young girl’s shattered self esteem, was earnest and hopeful. Nowadays tackled contemporary apathy in a heartfelt plea for people to once more pay attention to the world around them (“who cares about voting nowadays?”) While not new in content, it was passionately performed and a great close to her set.
  • Peter Hayhoe and Sarah Redington performed Dalston, a poem accompanied by music. Descending into Someone Like You worked, but could have been more effective in a smaller dose for those inured to Adele. I enjoyed most the poem’s performative aspect: its emphasis on the act of story-telling (“I say, ‘your coffee is getting cold'”), complete with distinctions between on truth and might-have-beens: “Pause. This is not a true story…The real story involves…”

Open Mic

  • Richard Purnell spoke of the N word in rap music as a white fan, addressing its contribution to the vilification of black people in society. He could have been more fluid and the beginning section (“what rhymes with…”) was horrifically awkward.
  • Lettie McKie performed three sonnets of which the third, about her elderly neighbours, was the most powerful, starting from a lovely first line “before the hospital, he always slept beside her”.
  • Edward Unique‘s Valentine’s Day poem, in the interests of balance, had a clearly defined three part structure, but alas lines like “she said I’m too nice for her” and “[it was left for] the nice guy to sweep up your stupidity”, left a bitter taste.
  • Joshua Seigal‘s AA Milne-esque Kid’s Poem about bullying was appropriately simplistic with a comic twist. His adult poems displayed an extensive vocabulary, with fast paced patter strewn with literary terminology. Camden Town was my favourite, conjuring peacefully stoned hipsters with “hours to shoot from the sky like ducks”. He is up in Edinburgh this year with We all love Llamas!.
  • Ben Newberry’s character pieces were nice enough: my favourite was “Royal Oak” a nod to the old guard of traditional pubs, less transient than their surroundings.
  • Sophie Cameron‘s modern fairytale of a Prince and his poor yet “ridiculously attractive” squeeze certainly uses some visceral imagery. Juxtaposing love that “transcends all bounds” with raucous sexuality (“and by swooned I mean he wanked his dick off”) Her second poem, “I am a posh cunt” set up a familiar straw man who likes oysters “because they’re expensive rather than their taste”.
  • Jethro performed three sombre poems, only one of which was his own. His delivery suited  Tennyson better than  Keats, but was best for his own, Time Passes, a lament for his lost brother who feels “just a moment ago”.
  • James Webster performed two poems: Fate (a little spoilt by phone scrolling), about unexpectedly meeting and bonding with someone not seen in years, (“not inevitability but an extra glass of wine”). The second was nicely done, filled with entreaties to “listen” to poetry “beneath the skin”, in its beats of “iambs and trochees”.
  • Keith Jarrett, finished the evening with two poems: an uplifting old favourite that with, fluid plays on words, takes on political slogans, making them his own for people who “believe in change but [are] still short changed”. The main argument of I do not believe in casual sex was that there’s “no such thing” because “casual suggests ease”. Its playful conclusion, “however…I do believe in a damn good time…”, lightened what could have been interpreted as overt moralising.

To conclude: Fantastic night. More soon, please.

There will indeed be more, coming up soon on the 28th of March! – Ed