Yesterday I went along on a spontaneous little outing organised by Gorilla Events in Sheffield. Gorilla Events is the new kid in town, headed by the exuberant Michael, aka Supernova Poet. He holds a monthly slam at DaDa bar in Trippet Lane, as well as open mic events (same venue). But this, the Gorilla Pop Up, was something different.
Street poetry. I was already familiar with this concept, having read at Nuneaton Summer Poetry Day last July, and having been invited to a similar festival in Rotherham last autumn (unfortunately I could not attend) – but had yet to participate in my own city. Our group yesterday was small – Supernova, local author Jude Calvert-Toulmin, Dead Beats regular Dan Turner, HoverFly washboard-player Christopher Bellamy, and myself – mostly due to it being a midweek afternoon. However, we did find a way to draw attention to ourselves.
We got mixed reactions from passers-by. Several people stopped to listen – whether out of curiosity or a genuine interest in poetry. Others seemed acutely embarrassed at the very thought of listening to spoken word in the street. And still others spoke up about being poets themselves.
After Supernova’s poem about how anyone could pick up a pen and be a poet, Jude read her Sheffield poem, conveying how the city has changed over the years. Then a lady (wearing a white t-shirt, standing with a man in the above photo) spoke out.
“What about homeless people?” she said. “I write poetry and I’m homeless.”
We stopped what we were doing and listened to her story. The lady is called Colleen and has been expressing herself through poetry from a young age, growing up in a children’s home – where the adults took the poems from her, and put them on the walls for all to see! She gave us only two lines of her work from memory and everyone present could tell: she is good. Jude has invited her along to the next Northern Lights. I’m looking forward to hearing Colleen read! Hearing her individual experience of poetry was humbling, and served as a reminder of what poetry can be: emotions and moments we reflect on through writing creatively, and a cathartic, exploratory craft.
Our little group also included Dead Beats regular Dan Turner. Personally I am a fan of Dan’s poetry – he’s able to be very funny yet poignant, sometimes in the same line. Yesterday he spoke of a celestial affair, the pitfalls of being a romantic/Romantic, and … treasure hunting!
And, of course, there was me. I can’t really write a review of myself, but I did read out my popular hit sonnet* about young men who get possessive about pub quiz machines, and my poem ‘Villanelle for a Working Class Heroine’.
*If only there was a Sonnet Chart. It would be in the Top 1,000 Sonnets of 2012.
And on the theme of pubs, local poet (and member of Sheffield’s fabulous folk outfit, HoverFly), Christopher Bellamy, turned up later on to read a poem about ordering crisps at the bar. (The crisps were barbecued barbecue flavour.)
Christopher had only found out about the event half an hour before he came down – truly a pop up poet!
There were many Sheffield poets unable to attend this event, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for something on a weekend in the future, where even more of us can have a little fun with bringing spoken word to the public.
However, the month of June is overflowing with literary/performance awesomeness for your pleasure in Sheffield and Rotherham. Here’s a guide for what’s on so far:
1 June: ROMP (Rotherham Open Mic Performance) @ the Bridge Inn, Rotherham – 7pm
4 June: Gorilla Slam @ DaDa Bar, Trippet Lane, Sheffield – 8pm
5 June: Slam Bam Thank You Ma’am 3: Anti-Jubilee Special featuring Gevi Carver @ The Riverside Bar, Kelham Island, Sheffield – 7:30pm – £3/£5 entry
12 June: Northern Lights @ The Rutland Arms, Sheffield – 7:30pm
18 June: Gorilla Open Mic Event @ DaDa Bar, Trippet Lane, Sheffield