Amelia Gregory reviews RAZZ’s Spoken Word Night
Spoken word poetry is an urgent medium. It catches its performers and its audience in a rolling, electric instant. In a communal space, like Exeter’s Bierkeller which Razz booked for their spoken word night, art creates a primal and familial bond: the same energy as a tale around a campfire. As it stands, communal art is under threat from the c*r*n* v*r*s, which will create untold generational repercussions on the ways in which we share and congregate.
Just recently the London Book Fair, a place where large scale book deals and exciting new discoveries germinate alike, was cancelled to prevent germination of a different kind. Communal everything is currently cancelled, and with good reason. In any case, the Razz Spoken Word Poetry Night 2 was not 20-odd thousand strong like the London Book Fair, or the University of Exeter, yet as a veteran self-isolator once said, though she be little, she is fierce.
Razz events are always special, as is their magazine, which recently garnered a crop of Student Publication Awards nominations. If you too want to hear first-hand accounts from the highly anticipated sequel to the sold-out Razz Poetry Night, read on as Arts and Lit editors past and future highlight the ones to watch in the Exeter poetry scene.
Jess White, who you may know from her typewritten verses on Instagram @shapesinwater, delivered a by-now-infamous “Three Bears” of poetry. White showed versatility and innovation, shifting from the angry and explosive Daddy Bear poem, through the introspective Mummy Bear poem, to the cheerfully optimistic Baby Bear. The latter, titled “Make Your Own Kind of Music”, was full to the brim with wit and wistful nostalgia. The poem has a great message, borrowed from a 60’s anthem, and as Jess said, music and poetry is basically the same thing.
Lanky lyricist George Clark provided ample evidence for the opening statement about the immediacy of spoken word, manifesting revolutions in discourse. With at least two instances of the word yet, Clark’s set memed its way through the vital issues of a fresh decade, from the importance of dog, to sexual taboos to “the murky darkness of liminality”. His bathos and juxtapositions were captivating, his props earned serious props, and, all jokes aside, his excoriating depiction of bisexual erasure was immensely powerful. We, as the kids say, stan.
A bearded bescarfed poet by the name of Daniel Marshall told versified tales of life in Korea to the eager Razz audience. So rapturous, so precise and so rich were these tales that a hand-dryer was audible from an upstairs bathroom. Offering rare cross-cultural insights, the poet painted clear and guttural scenes from rural coasts, culminating in a harrowing portrayal of alcoholism in a poem named after the Korean word for alcohol, Sul. He ended his set with the haunting line “there are no shortcuts to meaning”; on the contrary, meaning poured from his words.
The event confirmed that poetry is a malleable, versatile platform in self-expression and that it is not the inaccessible artform that many are told to believe. There were moments of laughter, education surrounding situations or events that people may have been unaware, and most prominently of sharing. Each poetic style was different, as was each persona on the stage, these elements came together to complement one another producing a night with something for everyone.
I learnt of situations I had never before heard of and I listened to experiences that I have not been through, the evening was enlightening to so many things that I would not have known otherwise, including Catalonian police violence and Agamemnon. Each poet offered a unique look on various topics, allowing those listening to see a different outlook on these topics than they may have had themselves, if they had in fact had a personal experience with the subjects at hand.
The atmosphere in the Bierkeller was one of encouragement and appreciation, everyone was there to listen and to enjoy. As someone who would never find the confidence to stand on stage and share what I had written with a room full of people, I can honestly say that the audience was so warm and welcoming they could have even convinced me to take to the stage.
All in all, the night was an extremely insightful and entertaining evening. The poems that we were lucky enough to hear were incredible, each in their own right. The atmosphere in the audience was exciting and encouraging and fantastic to be a part of. Spoken word poetry is so powerful that, no matter how highly we commend such events, you’ll have to go to the next one in the flesh to fully appreciate it.