Hammer and Tongue, residents at Komedia, and the hosts of many a fantastic poetry slam with some indisputably amazing guest poets presented this month’s guests Hollie McNish and Scroobius Pip.
Hollie McNish has been gathering momentum and respect in the poetry scene and beyond for some time now. She is a published poet, with two critically acclaimed poetry albums. What has brought her even more into the limelight recently are her YouTube videos, which in this digital day and age have been gaining a lot of attention from more than just poetry buffs. Her poems are very real, many of them focusing on her deeply personal experiences. One of her albums is even titled ‘Kick, Push’ which tells the story of her being pregnant and having her first child. She performed a couple of pieces from this album, including her well known piece ‘Embarrassed’ which describes her fears of breastfeeding in public and being shunned to public toilets. Amusing yet sincere; McNish strikes the perfect balance between the two. A truly inspiring role model, McNish does not shy away from important issues. A similarly well-known piece of hers also went down a storm, a piece titled ‘Mathematics’. It is about the attitude towards immigration and the benefits immigrants bring to the UK – a difficult subject to discuss, but McNish does it with passion, intelligence and empathy, as with many of her other poems. The reception for her was astounding and rightly so. She seemed nervous and genuine, which is nice to see in a performer sometimes.
Following Hollie McNish, there was the poetry slam. As a seemingly random audience member took to the stage, I was certain I recognised both the face and the poem, and it turned out to be Attilla the Stockbroker – a punk poet known for his radical views and hard-hitting poems. He opened the open-mic, as an example for everyone to see how it was going to work – what a nice surprise, another remarkable poet sneakily thrown into the line-up by Hammer and Tongue.
There were 6 poetry slam participants, competing to perform at the National Slam Final at the Royal Albert Hall on 21st June. If the standard of these open mic performers were anything to go by – the final is going to be outstanding. The rules of the slam were that each performer had 3 minutes to recite their poem, and if they went over the 3 minutes, points would be deducted from scores given by 6 judges around the room. The poetry slam poets were varied, ranging from a very nervous man with a nice poem who unfortunately forgot some lines due to nerves, to a robot called MechaPoet who takes a range of texts, such as tweets from the programmers, classic novels, and other sources, and learns the patterns of them in order to recite parts of them as poetry. This was certainly unexpected, and a little surreal, but the MechaPoet could be very good with a few more tweaks, such as learning jokes which the programmer is now attempting to make it do. The other performers consisted of a Liverpudlian whose rhythm was very slow, a girl who spoke about the language of sex – a definite strong candidate for the winner, George- the Hammer and Tongue intern, whose poem was short and sweet, and then finally, the winner, Nick Musgrove. Nick, I overheard saying he didn’t even realise it was a competition – he just thought it was an open mic, must have been more than a bit surprised to learn he would be performing at the Albert Hall. His poem was about his expression of creativity being in the form of poetry, making a joke that he could never be an MC because he wasn’t cool enough. It was very genuine, funny and well delivered, which is why it led him to a victory.
Scroobius Pip was next on. He is often known for his music produced with Dan le Sac which combines spoken word/rap over hip-hop electronic beats. This performance was just his poems, which were based around quite a dark theme, covering topics like death and suicide. The best poem (in my opinion) was one where he put on different hats, to assume different characters. The story of each character was told, and they end up intertwining and the point of the whole poem was that ‘there is more than one given angle to any one given scene’ and highlights the importance of looking at the motivations behind actions. It was thought-provoking and so well performed, with the timing making it all the more profound. After an intense set, Scroobius Pip ended by playing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’. It succeeded in lightening the mood, as I suspect he intended.
The night was a massive success with the guest poets blowing everyone away, and the open mic poets showing the standard of new talent is very high. As Nick Musgrove will be looking forward to performing at the Albert Hall, I am looking forward to the next Hammer and Tongue night, which is 5th June at Komedia.