Since ‘slam papi’ Marc Kelly Smith established it in Chicago in 1986, the poetry slam has revelled in its youth like a teenager in an unmade bed, bright and beautiful and slightly ragged round the edges. Wrestling to combine beautiful words with a disorganised schedule, transcendent flights of metaphor with the obligatory knob joke, and stage fright with stage presence, slam poets are as ballsy and brave now as they have ever been.
Especially at Stanza 2013. Building on a strong tradition of great atmosphere and a deep pool of talent, this year’s slam was good fun. Stanza regulars such as Robin Cairns, Sally Evans and Colin McGuire (all of whom were finalists) served up with pace and lyricism a smorgasbord of piquant poetry, leaning firmly but not too heavily on that standard of the slam, the tower of metaphor that gets more obnoxious and precarious as the lines mount up. Tracey S Rosenberg and Harry Giles, familiar and treasured voices here in St Andrews, similarly lived up to reputation, with more daring and perhaps more refined work. that didn’t quite score the points from the “Darwinian death match” judges ( – a trio of young men laconic, acerbic, witty, gleeful).
- MC Luke Wright (back), with the judges (l-r), Luke Kennard, Tsead Bruinja and Jon Ramsay
It was, I think, the St Andrews’ home-grown Inklight delegates who stole the show. Unpolished but powerful, a little inexperienced, but with a lot of guts, Youkang Jun, Trevor Wallace and Harshad Sam had home-turf advantage and a bevy of supporters. Winner Carly Brown, current Inklight president, has poise, lyricism, passion and humour - delivered with a balance and grace that we see in modern giants like Shane Koyczan, current darling of the TED talks phenomenon. Carly and her megawatt-smile-burning-gaze-and-blazing-verse combo will go far.
All this was MC’d with youthful vigour and consummate style by Luke Wright, “the best young performance poet around” (The Observer). Intelligent, with tried-and-tested rhythm and the pace we expect from an experienced performer, Wright spearheaded the evening - a figurehead (his hairstyle is something of a statement) of panache. We enjoyed his dulcet Essex tones and the Anglo-centric humour of pieces like ‘Nigel Farridge’, particularly as a foil to the majority Scots and American participants.
So thank you, slammers, for having the guts and the grammar to give us a riotous evening. Keep rhyming, keep the rhythm, keep the passion.
Kate Palfrey is a member of StAnza's organising team and she had the tricky job of being the Scorekeeper at the Slam.
Photos by Chris Scott