Let’s hear it for GEEK poetry

It’s so easy to not go to stuff when it’s on your doorstep. So, so easy. So easy in fact that I’m pretty ace at not going to stuff, even though I want to and know as far as engaging in enriching life experiences that I should. My autumn/winter excuse is my over zealous OTT craft project making (more on that later). One always needs an excuse for not going to stuff and this is mine.

But I threw caution to the lazy wind this week, when GEEK 2012 (Game Expo East Kent) came to town. A great idea by those local champions at Marine Studios to bring gaming wonderfulness to Margit. Here’s their blurb…

A five-day festival celebrating gaming’s past, present and future. It runs in the half-term week, Wednesday 15th to Sunday 19th February. Play retro games on original consoles and arcade games. Play the newest games -huge networked-gaming tournaments. Talks from gaming and technology experts. Learn how to get started on a gaming career.

GEEK 2012, Margate

As a mega drive and Sonic the Hedgehog devotee (I have been known to complete Sonic 1 and 2 in less than 6 hours oh yes), I was intrigued, and of course being all #lovemargate, I knew I had to get my dusty going out self out my hermit cave and go to something.

I’ve grown to love my own geekery, accepting that for some glamour, beauty and gracefulness are their calling, and that mine is to have my head stuck in some uncool book, harbour a secret desire to be a teapot collector, get excited at wearing my new red lumberjack checked shirt parading myself round town like a cowboy (note cowboy not cowgirl) and to frequently spill my daily lunchtime yoghurt down my chin and onto my PC’s keyboard, whilst speaking with my mouth full to my boss. Such is life.

One thing my geekery does afford me is a love of words, written and spoken. Known as ‘Wordsmith’ at my current and past day job, and one of those ever so annoying corrector’s of poor spoken English (I just can’t help myself, much to one’s own annoyance), I just love play on words. And so, when Grand Verse Quarto was advertised at the Tom Thumb Theatre as part of GEEK 2012, I had to go.

Grand Verse Quarto at the Tomb Thumb Theatre 16 Feb 2012

I’ve only seen performance poetry once before at Kent Coastal Week when Dan Simpsonread his Twitter inspired coastal collected poem – people tweeted their favourite thing about the coast and he turned it into an entertaining poem. I was impressed, I liked it. He was going to be the compére and there would be 4 other poets, all male, performing. Poetry + male + 2012 = didn’t even realise this existed (geek hermit has been living in cave far too long). So I was set on going.

I dragged along my chum and local legend furniture designer Zoe Murphy (visit her website for some marvellous Margate inspired furniture design, found in Liberty and other amazing places). She’s always up for new experiences, which is a really brilliant and somewhat rarely found quality in people, and of course always useful for the hesitant geek. Murphs, as I like to call her, is the glamorous, beautiful, graceful type with buckets of talent, chitter natter and inspiration thrown in. She donned a fur coat, I wore a skirt that liked to hide under my bottom every time I sat down. So off we trotted up the road to the Tom Thumb.

Just like its name suggests, it’s minuscule. I remember going as a child, so of course I thought it was quite sizeable but it was no bigger than my living room and the stage no bigger than my bath. If you don’t believe me, check out this pic….

Teeny Tiny Tom Thumb stage – literally is the size of Tom’s Thumb

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the ever-friendly Dan Dan the Poetry man, who led us straight to the front row – eek front row with a skirt that hides under my bottom every time I sit down, fr-eek! In a theatre that small our breathing was likely to tickle the poets’ nose hairs!

A play on Grand Theft Auto, Grand Verse Quarto was of course gaming inspired poetry. Murphs and I had our most convincing ‘we so get what you’re talking about, of course we’re gamers don’t let appearances deceive you’ faces on, held to our very best as we were now directly under and annoying the poets’ noses.

First up was Dan with a fantastically funny poem about Clyde from Pacman, who was enthroned in his own random-wall-hole-come-Royal-box.

Clyde

Dan’s poetry reading is like a performance in itself with exuberant arm gestures, theatrical face pulling and more – this guy was definitely born to be on stage.

Then came Christian Watson, a super tall northern guy (6ft 6″ he preemptively told us) whose set was like stand-up – full of witty word play, banterish boyish lines and a seductively comedic edge, combined with a deep soothing voice which I couldn’t help think sounded a little like Lenny Henry. Though let me be clear, that’s not saying I find Lenny Henry soothingly seductive, more Christian had a rich-toned voice (*will desist trying to get myself out this hole*). His tales of desperately seeking sega were hilarious and I think rang a bell for all of us in the audience, who it seemed were also never the ones with the latest computer gear.

It was refreshing to see both Dan and Christian with exercise notebooks, scrawled with words, post-it notes sticking out of pages with lovingly worn curled edges and scraps of inspiration clipped in for good measure, and reassuring that being a good wordsmith does not mean having to memorise every line (thank feck for that). Saying that, Christian’s first poem blew my mind with the ferocity of words spilling out his lips, at a speed and craft I’d never before witnessed, and all from memory (maybe a hint of jealousy coursed through my veins) – a definite showstopper. It was clear these guys were not just poets but seasoned performers. Bring it on…

Jacob Sam-La-Rose followed adorned with silver iPad in hand. I embrace our digital age and type more than handwrite so fair play. Taking a more sombre, but no less brilliant, approach Jacob reeled back the energy fuelled atmosphere to a calm steady beat with mindful lyricism. I have to confess this is where I realised I have no contemporary gaming knowledge, being firmly stuck in 1989 and the mega drive. Murphs and I were in permanent ‘ha ha oh yes we so get your jokes’ mode at this point. But we were still enjoying the gig.

We even had an interval where we could purchase pop and sweets – sweet.

Dan opened the second half with some gaming mixed with broken heart inspired poems. I’ve noticed a theme emerging in his work where he brings together jovial everyday subject matter with woeful-tinged one liners of past relationship pain, which makes for some interesting and funny poems.

Headlining was Ross Sutherland who, as he told us, had previously spent some misspent days wandering the streets of Essex like Pacman. As with the other acts, the pre-poetry performing sharing of life experiences really made the evening. It felt more like a group of friends down the pub sharing their funny stories from the week than a performer / audience thing, which as a first timer at such an event was great. It’s really easy to feel out of place when you’re trying something new – there’s no guarantee you’ll like it, there’s no guarantee you’ll ‘fit in’ to your surroundings. But what you learn every time that you do try something new, is that all that doesn’t matter. School playground tactics are just rabbit in a hat tricks and don’t necessarily seep into adult experiences.

Ross read from his own published book Things To Do Before You Leave Town. Once again my computer knowledge failed me but it didn’t really matter as the mastery of his language impressed Murphs and I.

After nearly two hours of wordy fun, the gig was over. We’d had a great night and the best bit by far is that it’s left me feeling really inspired. Not only that there is a lot of word/language love out there and that some really talented young guys are heralding the wonders of English to the masses, but that maybe just maybe I can come up with some poetry myself. I used to write quite a lot, mainly revolving around my 20 year old self’s broken heart, which makes my face crease up into a mass of cringe ripples. Maybe now as a wiser (!) less sensitive (!) more level-headed (!) near 30-something I’ll give it another go.

I may even make a game of it.

You can find out more and follow the talented fellas at

dansimpsonpoet.wordpress.com / @dansimpsonpoet
www.myspace.com/tallpoetry
jacobsamlarose.com / @jsamlarose
www.rosssutherland.co.uk/main / @rossgsutherland

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