I always cry when I hear a poem read: Barbican Young Poets 2014

Damilola Odelola, 2014

Kareem Parkins-Brown (no obvious relation) invited me to the showcase for this year’s Barbican Young Poets Programme, run by Jacob-Samla Rose.

It was phenomenal.

25 poets, all under 25, all crazy skillful and electric.

The evening, a recital of sorts, switched between individual works and group poems.
I’d never seen group poetry before and some of them were phenomenal. One in particular – about families and homes, used the form of the group itself to highlight the range of disparity in a family as in the group. Astounding.

Aome individual stand-outs included Emily Harrison, who spoke of falling in love with strangers in T-cut; Shoshana Anderson‘s cool American delivery that reminded me of a young Patti Smith mixed with a young Lily Tomlin; Greer Dewdney and her work Meant to Be – a cutting work of a social situation, using a form invented by one of the other poets Ankita saxena; Kareem was amazing – got the only ovation – with his work about his mother and the way he described her sighs and posture of sadness (I may or may not have cried); Antosh Wojcik showcased his well-crafted gonzo/surrealism and Cameron Brady-Turner‘s Living Alone: An Experiment, is a crushing story of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) that had us all gasping on a bus with him.

Dami Odelola had the line of the night in her work And the stuff that comes before a fall (see above).
Seriously, all the ladies in the house were clicking and showing appreciation like mad, and probably a stack of men too. I can’t quite remember because I was hit.

It was a line that still hasn’t left me. I couldn’t really hear the three poets after that line, because my mind had hit a glitch and was just skipping back and forth over that line.

Aside from the lyricism itself, it was a line that struck me squre. And I knew from then on, for the first time in my life, that being used by men was not my fault.
But it wasn’t entirely theirs either – I was a solution to a gnawing hurt.

It still makes me cry.

I’m sorry you all couldn’t hear that line, because although I’ve posted the image of it up there, taken from the anthology they produced, it’s not quite the same.
In fact, it’s not even close to the experience of sitting in a room, hearing the energy, timbre, rhythm of performance; seeing the gestures and the fire inside, and being in a group of people for whom 16 words hit them behind their eyes at exactly the same time.