I made a comment in my post yesterday about how I felt I would never move beyond being a hobbyist poet because my poems are largely expressions of personal feeling rather than being widely relatable, containing strong generalised sentiment or making a strong statement. I mentioned that this was a criticism that I had faced a number of times when participating in the slam poetry scene at university. It wasn’t that all my poems where bad but different poems do different things and as a Fresher at university it took me a while to understand that.
The poems I’ve posted over the last couple of days are good examples of why most of my writing is not ‘slammable’. The poem Hunters received a positive response from friends and at the writing club when I wrote it, but the amount of description and imagery it contains, is smudgy at a slam event. The poem I posted in Grief about the death of my father, is perhaps too personal, so whilst it is more suitable to being read aloud and performed, it doesn’t deliver what a slam requires. The poems that my companions in the university writing group (many of whom have gone on to be successful professional poets) were powerful, energetic statements. As I said yesterday, they made statements, not just expressions.
However, whilst I was in my second year (just before I entered into that particularly destructive relationship which I documented a couple of weeks ago in New Year – New You and two years before I met my now husband) I took part in a slam that was being held in a local pub, rather than at the university. I got into the semi-finals. Now it wasn’t really much to do with the location and a large number of the usual faces were there from the uni slams , but the poem that I performed was different. It was broader, more relatable and is the only poem I have ever written that has the suggestion of mild humour running through it. Perhaps it contained a few statements too. It was certainly trying to make a point to the person it addressed. I have typed it out in the way I type poems out before a slam so that the performance notes are essentially incorporated into the text.
This is not a love letter
This is a business proposal.
We’re in a time of recession
A stressful situation
I’m sure you’ll agree
And we’re told (repeatedly) that
Has never been more important
So let’s form a cooperative,
Work as a collective
Take opposing seats in the boardroom
For when have we ever not debated something.
This is not a love letter
This is an international negotiation.
Ours would be a special relationship
Like Great Britain and the U.S.A.
You might appear bigger, brighter, more advanced
Than this small island
But I too have learnt to punch above my weight
This may be called:
Pure bloody obstinacy,
Especially by those who consider you
Out of my league.
But you see…
A love letter.
This is a request of allegiance.
I may not have the golden hair,
Or marble skin of traditional economy.
I have coal in my bones,
Copper in my hair
And a spirit of steel.
Hands made of Kevlar
Heart a nuclear bunker
So let me include you
Amongst those I swear to protect
No matter what the cost
For friendship has no budget cuts.
And this is not a love letter
Unless you want it to be.