Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘James Bunting’

Sage and Time’s 3rd Birthday 24/07/13

In Performance Poetry on September 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm

– Reviewed by Lettie McKie

sage & time 1

Why you should celebrate Sage and Time …

Three years ago I wrote a review (here) of the first time I ever when to London performance poetry event Sage and Time at the Charterhouse Bar next to Smithfield market.  Masters of the warm welcome hosts Amy Acre and Anna Le put everybody at their ease. At the time of my first visit I remember being amazed that such an open friendly atmosphere could be found in a faceless city bar and ever since I’ve been a regular open mic performer at this monthly night.

After a hiatus of three months since their last show Anna and Amy hosted Sage and Time’s 3rd Birthday with a specially extended night of open mic performances and featured slots. With a generously low £3 entry fee this night is extremely accessible and this time there was also birthday cake and whisky shots on offer!

As performance poetry veteran John Paul O’Neil pointed out on the night, anybody who can set up and sustain an event for this amount of time has done extremely well.  Through their dedication Anna and Amy have developed a poetic community, where poets can share their work, swap stories of their various attempts to get noticed and generally chat about their favourite subject into the small hours!

The hosting that makes it such a warm event …

The team were joined by fellow performance poet Richard Marsh in their hosting efforts, and together they worked (as they always do) tirelessly and efficiently to make sure everybody has a good time.

Richard Marsh hosted the first third of this evening and kicked off with his own poem celebrating performance poetry in general as well as Sage and Time in particular! The night got off to a hilarious start with Richard cajoling us into “Shaking that Assonance” and reminding us that “Spoken word by definition is not dumb, so we come”.

Constantly welcoming to newcomers the open mic (which was generously dispersed throughout the evening) included several Sage and Time ‘Virgins’ as well as more regular performers.  With approximately 20 poets performing there was an enormous mix of styles and experience levels. As a listener this eclectic hodgepodge means there is something for everybody to enjoy even though there are inevitably some poets whose work is not to your taste.

My open mic highlights …

Wizard of Skill: a passionate and heartfelt performer who has a unique perspective on pretty much everything. He combines a softly spoken delivery style with wild poetic streams of consciousness.

Richard Watkins: His considered and thought provoking poem about the human heart (asserting “the human heart is not a bone”) was a delight to listen to, taking a common metaphor and focusing in on its inadequacy explaining “the words we use to describe things are important”.  His second poem about growing apart from somebody was my favourite of the night, the line “these days we aren’t together, we’re adjacent” was particularly touching.

James Bunting: Delivered another thought-provoking poem, which was an exploration into how human life tries to understand itself. Although I felt it was slightly condescending in parts, in general I found its searching tone and imagery compelling.

Chris Kraken: Announced that he had found the perfect metaphor for love “it’s like being captured by aliens”. Although the pedant in me longed to shout out  ‘I’ll think you’ll find that’s technically a simile’, the poem itself was nicely delivered, light hearted and tongue in cheek.

Mark “Mr T” Thompson: A great performer and crowd pleaser, experienced poet Mark showed us how it is done with a hilarious poem about learning how to dance just for the fun of it, even if you’re shit!

And the special guests at this birthday party …

There were two featured slots of the night which were an absolute delight. Poet Paula Varjack, who took her show ‘The Anti Social Network’ to Edinburgh this summer and singer/songwriter Maddy Carty.

Paula is a consummate performer with charismatic stage presence. I found her poems powerful and hilarious. My favourite of her pieces was ‘His Perfect Ex-Girlfriend’ in which she described a sickeningly beautiful, intelligent and successful girl in great detail, wittily playing on her own sense of inadequacy and jealousy. Her excerpt from the Edinburgh piece was also brilliant describing the awkward moment of bumping into somebody in the street who she slept with three years before.

Singer Maddy Carty’s performance was the perfect end to the evening. Her soulful voice and down to earth lyrics were upbeat, heartfelt and charming.  She quickly developed a rapport with the audience with a chilled out style and absolutely beautiful music.

Anna and Amy rounded off the night with a performance of ‘The Thing’, an interactive poem that grows with the night incorporating lines from every performer.

Sage and Time is not an ordinary poetry event. It’s uniquely friendly with a buzzing and creative atmosphere. Roll on 3 more fantastic years!

Sage and Time‘s next event is tonight at the Charterhouse Bar at 7.30pm. Featuring the amazing poets Sophia Walker and Raymond Antrobus, we advise you to be there or … no, just be there!


‘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.

Hammer and Tongue National Slam Final: The Individuals 31.03.12

In Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on April 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

@ Wilton’s Music Hall

– by Dana Bubulj

Part two of the Hammer and Tongue Final: this review concentrates on the Individual slam at the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall. 18 Poets that had qualified through the Hammer and Tongue Regional Slams were now pitted against each other. While we saw many during the Team Battle(!) earlier that day, with mostly different poems under their belt and a packed, enthusiastic audience made this a fantastic evening. (Also, Cat Brogan fulfilled her promise to do cartwheels on stage whenever anyone got a 10.0, which was surprisingly under-exploited).

Scoring in slams are often tricky to explain. You have to factor in individual biases, take into account direct comparison between the preceding poet, bumper scoring to offset potential time penalties, and, of course, score creep (more likely for comic poems). That said, it was refreshing to have such disparate scores, with judges showing a range of tastes for different kinds of poems.

Rounds: Three heats of six poets, two each heat qualified to a semi final, then three went on to the final. Sam Berkson & Steve Larkin hosted the heats. Weirdly, there was a large break between the first two heats and the third, but we resumed with new judges.

Favourites of the Heats:

  • Vanessa Kisuule‘s “Playground Debt” was fantastic: the guilt (“apologies in hindsight are always profuse”) of standing by in school while a boy was bullied (“she gorged on your silence”) with racial slurs and the childhood fear of bullying. (23.8)
  • David Lee Morgan repeated his great Team Battle(!) poem about the August riots from the perspective of “the man on TV calling you mindless”, exploiting youth’s inexperience with “fingers around [their] thoughts” to serve authority’s ends. (23.1)
  • Sacrificial Poet, Michael Parker owned the stage, and had great rapport with the audience as he told us how “[we] would have loved [the poem that he’d written]”. This was fantastic theatricality, booming  “OUR POET KING” (as we would have crowned him). I believed him. (23.8)
  • Anna Freeman‘s “If History Has Taught Us Anything” was a scathing commentary on how regressive politics have become recently (“I want to be pig ignorant”). A nice twist end: imploring us to pick up our pitchforks and guillotines. (24.8)

I also particularly liked:

  • Spliff Richard‘s plea to stop reggae music’s increasing anger and homophobia (“whatever happened to one love?”) was heartfelt; with a nice juxtaposition to the multiple defences for ganja. (25.9)
  • Amy McAllister‘s “Role play” painted a believable relationship where the participants only stayed together because “London’s massive and we’re lonely”, sacrificing standards (“I only expect 30% on your part”) and kissing only because they’re “tired of talking”. (24.3)
  • Curious had a great poem about refugees who “fled to sea”, from “distant lands … far and few”. The first half, which dealt with the journey and impetus, before settling and assimilating into Western culture, was especially good. (24.2)
  • Jessie Durrant reminds me a little of Kate Tempest, both in breathy impassioned delivery of personal material and in subject matter: of a friend lost to drugs, leaving “nothing left of the boy [she] knew”. (25.6)
  • Sacrificial Poet, Pete the Temp, gave an impassioned defence of the Occupy movement, co-opting the audience in a call and response declaration of “No, I’m Spartacus”. It had a good rhythm, even with slightly odd line breaks, and certainly fired people up. (18.4 due to flagrant overtime)

Also Ran:

  • Yvo Luna‘s “I’m so glad we stayed friends” took on a very bitter, angry voice, with screams played for laughs rather than empathy. (22.3)
  • Mark Niel professed attraction to audiences in a theatrical, obnoxiously loud manner, complete with partial stripping. I admit I did like one line: “you still crave one night stanzas”. (23.5)
  • Phat Matt Baker had an ode to a kebab (“dirty doner”), complete with imaginary dialogue in falsetto and scatological humour. The audience laughed, even if I didn’t. (23.1)
  • Chris Parkinson‘s surreal delivery didn’t stick together as well as his team poem, leaving this poem confused (culminating in a boy being kidnapped by a balaclava’d Prince Philip, as you do). (22.1)
  • Mac McFadden confessed a love for “A Girl Called Sid”, which played generally off the subversion of gender essentialism in Sid and its reinforcement by the narrator. Unfortunate implications to the dismissive tone of “she thought she was a fella”.  (23.4)
  • Adam Kammerling constructed a surreal scene of working the night shift and, being penniless & hungry, being taunted by the cakes surrounding him. Could have done without “drop your slacks and lube up” threat. (26.8)
  • Tina Sederholm‘s “Keep Young And Beautiful” was standard commentary on cosmetic culture, complete with its ugly sides (eating disorders/alcoholism). I’d have been happier with it if “feel guilty as a rapist if you eat a single biscuit” wasn’t played for laughs. (22.9)
  • Charlie Dupré pleased the crowd with admissions of “having a feminine side” and the stereotypical trappings thereof. Arguing for genders being similar would be more effective were it less couched in phrases like “don’t worry lads” or “in 2012, it’s manly”. (25.2)
  • Cat Brogan gave a raucously crude story of a liaison in a lesbian bar inBerlinwith a woman named Sadie. Joyful and shamelessly explicit. (21.9)
  • Lucy Ayrton‘s “Fuck you, Corporate Land” was one of the quieter pieces of the night, a meditation on the malaise of office jobs and the importance of seeming happy, even when disappointed with how life has dashed our childhood dreams. (21.8)
  • Chris McCormick‘s “Math” detailed an argument with a teacher, calling them out on their sexism. At the teacher’s “most girls aren’t good at math”, the audience gave a pantomime-eque gasp; I think points were for sentiment rather than the poem itself. (23.7)

Individual Semi-Final
Hosts: Sam Berkson and Michelle Madsen

  • Vanessa Kisuule‘s “Bounty” was about the trouble of “society’s scalpel”: feeling “out of place” surrounded by those of her own race. However, rather than analysing the stereotypes she discusses, the poem seemed a little classist (feeling “a traitor because [she] refuse[s] to drop T’s”, or wishing her knowledge of jazz/blues held sway over hip-hop fans). (28.5 OT)
  • Curious‘s poem was inspired by Black History month, rather problematically. “The Soul of Motown, I am it”, he proclaims, after saying “Black History belongs in [him]”. The poem wished to instil hope rather than guilt into “our children”, in a time of such institutionalised racism, but the appropriation made it a bit dodgy. (26.3)
  • Amy McAllister was a bittersweet dedication to a depressed friend: hoping their road-trip was full of experiences, from food poisoning to the desert being “overwhelming, in a good way”. (27.1)
  • Jessie Durrant‘s cheerful poem “Kakorrhaphiophobia” spoke to the performers: about overcoming a fear of failure by embracing the stage, filled with familiar references aimed to inspire. (25)
  • Spliff Richard‘s “Never Alone” was an defence of marijuana and its ability to instil peace, drawing allusions from the civilisations which used it to his own personal use (I liked how music was “like the g-spot’s been relocated to [his] ear”). (23.1 OT 4:01)
  • Adam Kammerling‘s poverty piece was his strongest of the day. Taken from own experience with poverty & rooting through an M&S bin for food at night, the hunger was palpable, the rot visceral. The final (expected) line (“not just bin food, it’s M&S bin food”) was said with aplomb to massive applause. (29.1)

WINNERS: Amy McAllister, Vanessa Kisuule, Adam Kammerling


  • Amy McAllister’s “She’s Over” was certainly a different take on moralising; a rallying cry to replace pornography’s seedy underbelly with another kind of passion: that of the “intense determination” of the August riot looters, whose “spunk is on our side” rather than against. (25.4 OT 3:41)
  • Vanessa Kisuule performed “Little Red Bow” was on a once-idolised friend: a fantastic character piece. With a recurring refrain of “laughing at a joke yet to tell” that created an air of companionable despair, Kisuule captures being on the sidelines of someone’s alcoholism. (25.1 OT 4:08)
  • Adam Kammerling went back to his rap roots in “Spitting Bars”, an amusing dialogue between an insipid young rapper, all front and no substance, and a literate objector who tears him to shreds. While the rapper was a bit of a straw man/easy target, the back and forth was great, particularly when it played with slang: “you’re killing the art” “fucking right I’m killing the art” “no, in a bad way”. The nod to Wilton’s stage on which he stood went down well, too. (29.6)

Who treated us with another rendition of his altercation with the NYPD.

Hammer and Tongue National Slam Final: The Team Battles! 31.03.12

In Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on April 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

@ Wilton’s Music Hall

– by Dana Bubulj and Koel Mukherjee

Event: Taking the six different chapters of H&T from across the country and pitting them against each other to see which location has the best poets: 1st two qualifying heats and then a final.

Judges were chosen from the audience, with standard slam rules. (Scores noted, “OT” = if points were docked for going over time.) I was relieved to see the turns alternated between the teams of four poets, keeping it competitive.

There was also an individual slam, with many of the same poets, but that will be covered in another review, so if you feel the poets have been short-changed, they may have longer write ups there.

Venue: Hidden in a back alley near Aldgate East is Wilton’s, the last surviving Grand Music Hall in the world; rather beautiful in its stripped walls, wooden floors and curled columns; a splendour perfectly suited to the occasion.

On a positive accessibility note: the name, team, score and time were projected behind the performers.

The hosts: were excellent. Working in pairs, they kept proceedings fast paced, cracking jokes while scores were collected. They also made sure the audience knew the rules, so as not to exclude newcomers.

HEAT ONE: Brighton VS Cambridge VS Hackney
Hosts: Steve Larkin (Ox) & Michelle Madsen (Camd)

Hackney: Angry Sam (Captain), Adam Kammerling, Amy McAllister, David Lee Morgan

  • Angry Sam spoke wistfully of snow failing to affect the harshness of business. (25.8)
  • David Lee Morgan performed movingly on the riots from the perspective of authority. I love this poem to bits, particularly its darkness. (26.8)
  • Amy McAllister talked accessibly of falling unrequitedly for her flatmate and the drive to escape (“he forgot what he had, scratch that, hadn’t”). (26.5)
  • Adam Kammerling’s poem about an overheard conversation captured the meandering nature of everyday chatter about a day’s events (things “proper kicked off”), in a realistic tone that nonetheless maintained poetic rhythm. (26.2)

Cambridge: Fay Roberts (Captain), Jessie Durrant, Mark Niel, Hollie McNish

  • Hollie McNish performed “Wow”, a fantastic piece on body image post-baby. (26.9)
  • Fay Roberts “I want more”, a friendly rejection of female magazine advice. Wished she’d made more of the last line that questioned what the media was hiding with such a distraction. (24.6)
  • Jessie Durrant discussed notions of family in relation to seeing a picture-perfect “catalogue” example, and comparing it with her own version. (26.1)
  • Mark Niel raged at the frequent misspelling of his surname with the tightly-wound fury of a child’s tantrum. Culminating in the revelation that he was defending himself to a judge, the piece was compelling (if only compelling you to run away – ed) but also rather disturbing. (26.5)

Brighton: Michael Parker (Captain), Yvo Luna, Chris Parkinson, Spliff Richard

  • Michael Parker’s passionate “100%” built momentum with the effective repetition of “we few” and “we stand together”, combining otherwise isolated protest groups into a united movement. (23.4 OT)
  • Yvo Luna had several poems, one a great, disturbing love poem with a baby-doll voice conflating kisses with “cuttlefish bones up vertebrae” and “drowning kittens”. (25.3)
  • Chris Parkinson keyed in to the manic energy of the media with “Fashion Tips for the Last Days”. It unleashed a frenetic bombardment of clashing headlines and surreal imagery, in a hilariously tabloid-worthy tone. (“Would Gandhi have voted for Clegg? We asked Ulster, and they said no!”)  (27.1)
  • Spliff Richard: A fabulous piece dedicated to Kate Tempest, beginning with thunderstorms and ending beautifully with: “She’s the reason hurricanes have girls’ names”. Though the delivery was so fast it was occasionally incomprehensible, his rhythms and amazing flow were exhilarating. (26.1)

Compound Scores:   Brighton: 101.9, Cambridge: 104.1.  Winner: Hackney, 105.3

HEAT TWO: Bristol VS Camden VS Oxford
Hosts: Angry Sam (Ha) & Michael Parker (Brigh)

Bristol: Sally Jenkinson (Captain), James Bunting, Jeremy Toombs

  • Sally Jenkinson went twice to make up for Bristol’s reduced team, which worked distinctly in their favour. Her first, (25.9) was a moving entreaty to her sister not to lose herself in disaffection, weaving the lyrical with the everyday in a tone choked with feeling. Both her pieces effectively used evocative details to create atmosphere, whether for the complex familiarity of siblinghood or the vulnerability of insomnia, when “white bones sing awake”. (26.3)
  • James Bunting’s “Conkers” drew allusions and teased comparisons between a whirlwind romance and carefree children playing in the “rum-gold twilight”. But occasional nice turns of phrase couldn’t overcome the patchwork of clichés, repetitious imagery, and familiar lines you already knew. (26.5)
  • Jeremy Toombs’s hypnotic voice suited his wandering, Ginsberg-ian reflections. “Hangover Meat Belly” focused on the origins of the meat and alcohol in his stomach. The second, “My Asshole is Burning”, was a musing on diarrhoea and that all poets must shit. Engaging, but the humour was not for everyone. (25.4)

Camden: Michelle Madsen (Captain), Curious, Charlie Dupré, Cat Brogan

  • Curious first detailed a young black rapper’s use of violent/threatening imagery in performances, then his death at the hands of police who framed him. Vivid and well performed, but confusing and lacking an obvious perspective or message. (24.7 OT)
  • Michelle Madsen performed “We’d All Melt”, of bittersweet offerings to a relationship that’s ending. I’ve always loved the line: “I give a gift of seven lemons”. (25.9)
  • Charlie Dupré’s consummately theatrical performance animated this sweet tale of two band members, the kick drum and high hat, who fall in love, leading to solo ambitions, crushed dreams and eventual reconciliation. (24.8)
  • Cat Brogan on the origin of boycotts and filibustering in 1880s Ireland was full of facts (at the time, 100% of the land was owned by 0.2% of the people) that tied history neatly to contemporary protests. A powerful piece (if a little stilted from occasional forced rhyme). (25.5)

Oxford: Tina Sederholm (Captain), Phat Matt Baker, Chris McCormick, Mac McFadden

  • Tina Sederholm shared her cute take on a child’s understanding of sex and the euphemisms they’re told, compared to the messy reality adults know. (25.7)
  • Mac McFadden did a ‘comic’ poem on the shock of being “old enough to be [his] dad”, full of repetition and feigned outrage. The audience responded positively, though the chauvinist fantasies of making a sex tape with Paris Hilton made us cringe. (25.9)
  • Chris McCormick wants to be a pirate, free of girlfriends and beset by wenches. Much of the poem romanticised this archetype and more could have been made of its glimpses of a lonely, melancholic fantasist underneath (pirates prefer “savage lust, instead of love which they cannot trust”). (25.5)
  • Phat Matt Baker ranted against landlords shafting students in a confused revenge tale that failed to impress. (25.2) 

Compound Scores:   Camden 100.9, Oxford 102.3.  Winner:  Bristol 103.5

Note: The scores in this round seemed to be frustratingly and unfairly stuck between 8.5 – 8.8. Don’t make me graph them as proof.

TEAM SLAM FINAL: Bristol VS Hackney
Hosts: Steve Larkin (Ox) & Tina Sederholm (Ox)

Special mention to sacrificial poet Peter Hunter, whose “On Eyebrows” was masterful: painstakingly explaining the traditional sonnet form and its rhyme scheme, he then performed the piece silently, using said dextrous facial-hair.


  • James Bunting talked of looking for the voice of his ‘Generation’, and not feeling a generational identity. Fixating on icons of prevous generations, he contrasted important voices of the past such as Dylan, with the potential of (for example) himself, or a protestor, to be voices today, and emphasised the confusion and fear of choosing such voices with quotes and cliches. While feeling lost was easy to identify with, the poem’s sense of confusion and adrift-ness was expressed in back-and-forth thoughts which made it feel muddled, and gave it the impression that it suffered from too many endings, some of which were rather trite. We also wished the piece had explored its theme with more depth, perhaps acknowledging that we tend to rose-tint the iconic voices and identities of past generations, that this whole process is a contrivance shaped by our own needs in the present, and considering what acknowledging that means for feeling lost in the here and now. Ultimately, his sometimes strong turns of phrase were not enough to draw his disparate and confused metaphors into a coherent poem. (24.9) Performing twice in this round, his ‘To the Girl Who Loses Herself in Other Peoples’ Mirrors’ received a 25.8.
  • Sally Jenkinson’s “The Gasman Cometh”, perfectly captured the way your world can shrink in the depths of despair and illness, feverishly elevating the pronouncements of visiting gasmen (“fluorescent gods” with blinding high-vis jackets) to prophesy. (26.4)
  • Jeremy Toombs‘s “Badass Bop” was a glorious, mesmerising , jazz poem with a great flow, woven with the repeated sounds of beep, bop and beat.  Listening was like falling into a dreamlike, music-induced haze. (27.7)


  • Angry Sam‘s compellingly human “100 Greatest”, discussed our obsession with ranking/categorisation to fill voids in our lives with some lovely examples. (25.6)
  • David Lee Morgan’s trilogy on children, finished with the memorable “Dead Babies”, which hammered home a solemn point by grimly suggesting the volume of dead babies around the world could be used as time-markers (a standard TV episode is 800 dead babies long). (25.8)
  • Amy McAllister started her set with “Toilet Troubles”, about a break-up triggered by a boyfriend pooing at her house, using deliberately childish rhymes to mask underlying complex issues. Her second piece, “Burn”, was far superior, a sad, sweet poem which related a break-up in the present to her childhood propensity for burning herself accidentally. (27.2)
  • Adam Kammerling’s tale of being stopped by the NYPD for drinking in public was accessible, went down well, and ended the night on a good-natured, comical note. (28.3)

Final scores: Bristol 104.8, Hackney 106.9

Winner: Hackney. (The less-consistent Bristol still provided some great highs)