Friday, 5 June 2015

NEWS - The Second Worst Poet in the UK

This time last week, I was on my way down to London to take part in the Anti Slam Final at the Roundhouse in Camden.

In case you're not sure, an anti slam is the opposite of a regular poetry slam. So, instead of writing a good poem and performing it with the hopes of getting a top score, anti-slammers write the most terrible poem they possibly can. Then, the person who receives the lowest score from the judges - and the audience - wins. Or loses... (The mechanics can be confusing.)

Anyway, after getting the joint-lowest score in the Cambridge regional anti slam, I took the stage alongside seven other poets, to fight for the title of Worst Poet in the UK!

This night began with poems from Mark Grist and Tim Clare, who had put together a short show about Shitty Poetry. Using famously bad poets William McGonagall and John Skelton as their starting points, Mark and Tim gave us a series of clever and hilarious poems about bad writing. From an ode to Mel Gibson and a rap about computer games, to a really thought-provoking piece about the 'serious' issues in the world, and how they can all be cured by writing poems about them.

It was all *very* tongue in cheek, but it was also pretty bloody brilliant.

Mark even managed to write a poem in just under fifteen minutes, using a selection of random words generated by members of the audience. And fair play to him for managing to get the words 'artichoke', 'embryo' and 'halibut' into one poem!

Then, after a short break, the anti slam was upon us!

The judges

The competition was hosted by awesome poetry double act Dan Simpson and Paula Varjack, with Johannes Leistenbürger (aka James Harris) as our scorekeeper. Mark and Tim sat on the judging panel, alongside Oxford-based poet and veteran anti-slammer Sally Outen. And it was hard not to feel sorry for the judges, given what they were about to witness...

DISCLAIMER: After reading this post through again, I think I'd better just reiterate that these seven awesome poets were being deliberately bad (and my descriptions reflect that fact). A bad review is a good review here in the topsy turvy world of the anti slam!

So, first up was the alluring, if slightly unhinged, Desdemona Merkin (aka Sophia Blackwell) representing Oxford with a deliciously ranty poem about an ex-girlfriend. The audience thoroughly enjoyed it, and judges were suitably appalled too, so Ms Merkin received a comfortably low score to start the competition.

Next, and representing Newcastle, came Malcolm Odour (Scott Tyrrell), who was best described as an awkward-looking chap with bandaged glasses and a thick geordie accent. His poem about unrequited love managed to be both hilariously bad and borderline creepy, which is a feat to which all terrible poets aspire. He received just nine points from the judges - one of the lowest scores on the night!

Our next contender was the magnificently confused Melody Starchild (Fay Roberts), who dropped a load of hippy psycho-babble and new-age double entendre all over everywhere, and had the auidence in stitches throughout her 'cosmic opening'.
Rookie Joe

Then Rookie Joe (Alex J. Monks) represented Sheffield, with a gloriously bad poem that raged against a man named Darren, making it abundantly clear that the whole performance was some deeply troubling romantic catharsis. It was brilliantly terrible and the audience loved it. 

 Tim Goodings was the only one of the anti slam finalists to use his real name, and that takes balls! Tim was representing Bristol, and both his persona and his poem were arrogant, condescending and obtuse: all the ingredients for an impressively low mark from the judges!

Rosie Storm (Becca Audra Smith) was the next poet to grace the stage, having won her regional heat in Manchester. Her poem was extremely romantic and impressively repetitive, but it was her tiny tiara that really struck a chord with the judges. (And that's not some weird euphemism - she really did have a tiny tiara!)

Finally, Dichen (Christopher Hogg) closed the evening, representing London with an ridiculously silly poem about mid-life crises and the detriments of buying canoes on ebay. It made me laugh. A lot.

Dichen, Tim and Rosy

I tried out a bit of character comedy too - mostly as an excuse to distance myself from the awful poem I had written! Peony Simmons is a posh, angsty teenager with a lackadaisical Cambridge accent and a penchant for wearing odd shoes. Peony's poem was called "Poetry" and featured primal screaming, misery and a surprisingly impressive dolphin impression.

I didn't know I had it in me!

Peony screams the house down

The whole show was a riotous mix of comedy and gentle mockery of some of the more abrasive performance poetry tropes, and everyone seemed to have a really good time.

In the end, the mighty Malcolm Odour scooped that prize, and was crowned The Worst Poet in the Country. Congratulations Malcolm!

Malcolm Odour (The winner!)

I came in second place, which means that I am now technically the second worst poet in the UK. So that's going straight on my CV!

Photos courtesy of Fay Roberts (Thank you Fay!)

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