The Spoken Word – a dying art or a reincarnation in the making?


Looking for something a little out of the ordinary in London this weekend?

You’ve probably been to half the pop ups going, lounged in most of the clandestine speakeasies and bat off Secret Cinema as old news.

Where to, then, for a night out far removed from the usual?

Open mic nights are ten-a-penny; stand-up comedy is strewn from the centre to the suburbs, but how about the spoken word? When was the last time you relaxed in a pub and listened to someone read out hand-penned poetry?

Of course if poetry is your thing, nights at The Poetry Café on Betterton Street are probably a recurring note in your calendar. From Poetry Unplugged to a poetry surgery; wordsmiths exiled from their home country to a night dedicated to material penned by women – The Poetry Café spans the verse abyss and then some.

On reading in The Independent that ‘poetry was dead’, The Poetry Café decided a fitting send-off was in order, hence their Poetry in the Basement event on Saturday 23rd March – a funeral for a forgotten genre, with elegies read by a sombre gathering of lyricists apparently flogging a lifeless horse.

Bringing it over to the East – The Book Club in Shoreditch is hosting History – Herstory: two sides, a Booked literary event this Sunday 17 March.

Combining the spoken word with acoustic folk, novel extracts, a book exchange and short stories for only £5; the event raises money for Women for Women International., as well as promoting an all but disappearing art form.

New Yorkers flock to hear the down to earth soliloquy of Sarah Kay – orating on anything – arranged marriage, the appreciation of your body’s corners, or a love letter to a bicycle tyre. American slam poets enjoy the underground notoriety of subversive graffiti artists, and activist poets highlight on-going political and social issues in their home countries.

Poetry is mixed with hip-hop, rap and blues; posted on Facebook, and displayed on the London Underground, and yet it is still a constantly emerging force in modern literature, never quite finding its feet and resigned to being loved by few and overlooked by most.

Modern poetry is in a perpetual cycle of innovation, teaming current genres with an age old undertaking. Being a cult, niche field is great. But it’s high time that our talented poets came above ground and gave their work a wider audience, and gave their audience a wider perspective.


About Amy Victoria Gray

Perpetual scribbler, drifter and wanderluster – Blighty born and bred, and settling in London again after jaunting far and wide from the crashing surf of South Africa to the outback wilds of North Western Australia. Writing, dusty bookshops, fire spinning, Jimi Hendrix and the ocean make her happy. Spiders, salad cream, chick lit and shark finning have the opposite effect.


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