Matt Abbott’s Spoken World

By July 12, 2016


Buddy Wakefield in Wakefield (Paul Crilley)

American poet Buddy Wakefield performs in Wakefield. Photo credit: Paul Crilley

In the first instalment of his new column, Nymphs & Thugs‘s Matt Abbott gives us a rundown of everything that’s been happening in the world of spoken word. 

When I first started doing spoken word ten years ago, it was usually either met with a grimace or a giggle. A few people embraced the notion of a post-school voluntary enthusiasm for poetry as being a novelty. Occasionally nowadays I get the same response, spoken word is undoubtedly creeping into mainstream culture.

I’m lucky enough to have a full-time job based around spoken word and poetry. As well as solo engagements, I front two spoken word organisations. So I’ll be providing these monthly news round-ups, for those that are suddenly finding themselves interested.

First of all, the rise in popularity of spoken word has been cited by Lucy English in The Guardian as being a “boost for mental wellbeing”. One of the artists behind this boost in popularity is George The Poet, who recently spoke to Clash Magazine about his new collaboration with Chase & Status – entitled ‘Spoken Word’.

It’s no longer considered weird to tell people that you’re going to a spoken word night, and more and more often, spoken word is receiving increased prominence on the festival circuit – from small regional arts festival through to Glastonbury, Latitude, and more.

Those of you that took the plunge and went to a spoken word night recently may have been lucky enough to catch one of Buddy Wakefield’s UK and Ireland dates. As I type this, he’s still on this side of the Atlantic: gearing up for a slot at Latitude at the end of the month before nipping over to Europe. Buddy is one of the world’s leading spoken word artists – watch ‘Convenience Stores’ if you’re set to come across his work.

And as well as the new spoken word artists on the scene, we’ve also seen a surge in popularity for punk poetry. Dr John Cooper Clarke’s renaissance over the last decade or so, partly with thanks to Arctic Monkeys and Plan B amongst others, has been one of the key factors for attracting “fresh blood” to this ageing genre. He’s definitely the artist that hooked me in initially.

Stand Up & Spit at The Roundhouse -- Phill Jupitus, Kate Fox, Sophie Cameron, Salena Godden, Tim WellsThis is partly thanks to Tim Wells’ Stand Up & Spit project, which ran an show at The Roundhouse in London this weekend just gone, in one of the events celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk. The line-up included the likes of Salena Godden, Porky The Poet, Kate Fox, Sarah Cameron and the iconic Linton Kwesi Johnson – the second poet to hook me in.

Aja Monet. Photo credit: Holly Port

Aja Monet. Photo credit: Holly Port

Across the pond, there’s been no shortage of anger, upset and tragedy of late – as I type this right now, no doubt thousands are out on the streets protesting. Afro-Cuban blues poet and activist Aja Monet wrote this piece confronting police violence, whilst poet and activist Staceyann Chin silenced a packed LGBT audience with this #WeAreOrlando piece following the tragic events there.

Jordan Chaney. Photo credit: Tri-City Herald

Jordan Chaney. Photo credit: Tri-City Herald

There’s a really interesting article here on how spoken word transformed Tri-City poet Jordan Chaney’s life (Jordan has just released a new book). Black writers in Baltimore are using spoken word to connect with the city’s youth, and a beat poetry festival in New York coincided with what would’ve been Allen Ginsberg’s 90th birthday.

Over in India, The Hindu Times has even declared that slam is the “rock ‘n’ roll of poetry”. There’s no doubt that spoken word has grown massively in the UK over the last couple of years, and from what I can see, the same thing is happening all over the world.

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