Wednesday 1 September 2010

Venturing into performance poetry

A few weeks back, I attended a rather wonderful event called "Venturer Camp" (or "V-Camp"), which is run by the Woodcraft Folk (a sort of alternative Scouts/Guides organisation, without the religious and patriotic overtones or gender separation, and with a stronger focus on environmental and social issues).

It was like a bizarre, teenage parallel universe in a field in Derbyshire, run on admirably communal lines - the youngsters were heavily involved in cooking, cleaning, running the onsite services and documenting Camp events via a nightly "news" screening. The place even had its own currency and time zone (I kid you not).

I was only there for a day and a night, but still came away with some pretty strong memories - it's probably the only place in the world where I could perform my poetry in front of five hundred 13- to 16-year-olds and be received with rapturous applause and enthusiastic audience participation. They even joined in without being asked at the end of my climate change denial poem. This means I can now pretend that I am totally cool and, like, down with the kids (so long as I conveniently ignore the fact that the room contained probably the only 500 teenagers in the country who'd react that way to my poetry).

The other great thing that happened was that a group of campers attended the poetry workshop I was running, wrote some poetry of their own, and then got up on stage that very evening to perform it to the rest of the camp. That takes guts - especially as none of them had performed poetry on stage before. I reproduce below - with their permission - two of the poems, from the two youngest participants in the workshop, Edith and Luke. Remember, they wrote these in a single short poetry workshop (after various exercises and discussions I gave them about half an hour of writing time), and then got up on stage in front of hundreds of their peers and gave, in both cases, fantastic spirited performances (in fact, the written versions of the poems don't fully do them justice, as is so often the case with performance poetry).


Poem 1:
Eureka! Fantissimo!
I've solved the problemo!
No more cars, exhaust or smoke,
No more petrol smell as you choke
On the fumes from the old banger in front.
Never again that tiresome hunt,
For the car for you. the one.

For I have a proposition,
A fantastic, wonderful, ingenious solution!
For instead of cars, motors and so on
We will travel in bubbles for now on!!

For I have created a humongous bubble wand
That will blow bubbles 10 foot and beyond!
We will drift and float, bounce off walls,
Down roads, knowing we are free from the problems cars caused!

This idea is gold,
I don't need to be told
How fantastic I am for solving this boring
Issue that we call Global Warming!

- Edith Bannister, August 2010

Poem 2:

hunger is demanded
so wealth can be handed over
the lines on a map
to handfuls of chaps
who seek only profit

and problems are worsened
as thousands of persons
are crushed in the rubble
then corpses are doubled
despite the donations
to relief organisations
because they are denied permission
to land and start their mission
by the soldiers of men
who seek only profit

earthquakes caused
families in scores now buried
change Obama?

Haiti needs food
Haiti needs tents
US sends guns and sweatshops

but dawn is breaking
nations are waking
people are rising

so are the seas

but our alliance
acts in defiance
to imperialist giants
and their environmental catastrophes

Cuban medics were there before
treating the sick
helping the poor
and since the eco-disaster they've been joined by Ecuador

Venezuela cancelled debt
Nicaragua sent a jet
full of supplies for Bolivian doctors
who did the work that Britain didn't

this is solidarity
saying no to US hegemony

dawn has broken
the masses have spoken
revolution is on their lips

Alerte! Alerte! Alerte que combina!
La espada de Bolivar por America Latina!

- Luke Lucas, August 2010


Two very different poems, two budding talents to keep an eye on in the future...

(Also, rhyming "hegemony" with "solidarity"? Awesome.)


  1. hahaaa, thank you XD man that week was fun!!!! and thank you for coming to do poetry with us as well XD maybe ill see you around oxford :D

    best wishes, Edith

    oh and luke was 17 i think :P but oh well

  2. Thanks Edith! Best of luck with everything. Oh, and cheers for the tip about Luke's age, I've removed that bit of the blog post now just to be on the safe side...


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