As a genre, spoken word is pervaded by stereotypes and preconceptions. What is great about actually going to a spoken word night is having these assumptions, judgements and representations disrupted.
Our understanding of what things should be, what people probably think about, what kind of things someone like them would be interested in, are diminished entirely once met with the reality of performance.
Every time an open mic artist took to the Watershed's stage, not once did their poem communicate the expected. Verses came with twists in rhyme-pattern and surprises in plot. There is authentic emotion, insights into the speaker's cognitive trains of thought, homour synthesised with deep sadness and an undoubtedly uplifting experience.
This is what makes spoken word a truly beautiful form, caught somewhere between the private and public, the lone-self and the self-presented for others.
So while in day-to-day life, representations around us lead to quick unthought-about-snapshot-judgements, in spoken word spaces, such assumptions are always going to be disturbed.
Spoken word cultivates an environment for people to publicly perform the fleeting thoughts that enter their minds for only a few seconds, making space for what people often never express or subdue to tackle the material realities we all encounter in everyday life. It is a form against stereotypes and for the sake of catharsis.
At Raise the Bar's event, Ben Norris and Sabrina Mahfouz both gave performances worthy of their headliner titles. Sabrina read directly from her anthology, How You Might Know Me, confessing this stopped her losing her poems on a rouge post it or Word Doc.
How You Might Know Me includes poetry from the perspective of four London based women, connected by their involved in the sex trade. Sixty two year old Sylvia, who rejects payment in the form of Argos voucher, speaks alongside a younger female, who lusts after long-term crush in a pasty shop.
One of the first artists Stephen Lightbrown, perfectly communicated the transferability of metaphor. Seemingly speaking about the length of time it takes his beloved to get ready to go out, or how long it takes to please her sexually, his poem convinced the audience of his unwavering devotion to a lover. However, the poem's last line revealed the analogy to be a dedicated to his favourite dinner. The jacket potato.
Rosel Stern performance adapted the situation of a passenger on a flight to explore ideas of anxiety. Meanwhile Charlotte Stouter's piece should also be noted. It was addressed to her brother and presented the interior moments of panic women face when walking down the street late at night.
Attending a spoken word event should be a crucial activity in your to-do list. It allows a space for the self - divided between standing alone and standing on stage - speaking directly from the heart. The form invites and allows its members to take their personal contemplations and make them public. Love stories, devotions to lost ones and feelings of fear are just some of the topics the form allows for. It is a wonderful ceremony like no other.
Elena Angelides, Theatre Editor