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Spoken Word Sheffield

What with events organisers Opus’s Now Then magazine having been recently launched as a platform for their various nights and Word Life returning to the University of Sheffield’s Raynor Lounge, poetry, spoken word and live music performances in Sheffield seem to be going from strength to strength. Wanting to get back into the swing of reading in public, then, I attended two spoken word nights in Sheffield on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

First was Spoken Word Antics, which has been running for just over 5 years now, drawing together a decent and varied crowd every second Tuesday of the month in the homely upstairs function room of The Red Deer. This offers an extended performance from a guest reader and a mixture of poems, short fiction, novel extracts and songs that quickly fill up the open mic slots.

The featured performance this month was Linda Lee Welch’s new poem sequence, Flossie Paper Doll, a haunting and atmospheric narrative set to guitar and pre-recorded laptop-mixed samples, interspersed with songs. It was an impressive and moving piece that everyone seemed to enjoy. In the open mic section there was also a genuinely funny and off-the-wall reading of a novel-in-progress from Charlotte Wetton, centred around a fictional porn empire and its dealings with a group of religious vigilantes. Brilliantly weird. There were also plenty of other good readers including Corinne Salisbury and organiser Robin Vaughan-Williams, but the last stand out performance came in the form of two poems from Joe Kriss: the first a short, cryptic and funny skit about a man’s identity crisis, the second a heartfelt and unflinchingly honest appraisal of his moving from London to live and study in Sheffield.

I read four poems – ‘CV’, ‘Across the Way’, ‘Snipe Hunt’ and ‘Hex’ – all of which seemed to go down quite well, particularly the ridiculous and outlandish comedy of the first. A few of these are edited versions of very recent poems. So thanks to NaPoWriMo, as it turns out that writing a poem-a-day for a month isn’t as draining as you might expect, and can even help you to turn out some pretty decent work…

As for Wednesday, and there was a new spoken word night at The Runaway Girl called 'Runaway with Words', featuring a mixture of poetry and songs by Sheffield poets Chloe Balcomb & Seni Seneviratne. It also featured poems and songs read and sung by Hallam MA Writing poets Val Binney, Jude Brown, Sally Goldsmith and Fay Musselwhite. I missed the first half but enjoyed Jude’s set of poems and Seni Seneviratne’s performance, which effortlessly switched between moving, often soaring songs and a good range of poems, the highlight being a witty and darkly humorous dramatic monologue in the voice of an elderly woman, reflecting on her past whilst in the confines of a care home. There was also a short open mic section towards the end of the evening which featured six readers including myself: this included a good variety of different voices and I ended up reading the same poems as I had at Antics, which again got a fair few laughs in the right places. It will certainly be good to see this event grow and develop in the coming months now that previous Runaway night 'Words Aloud' has moved on to the Lescar (something else I keep meaning to attend).

Which brings things to tonight, then, when Word Life returns after its holiday break. I’ll no doubt head along, with readings from Andy Craven-Griffiths and a handful of others, plus live music and DJ sets. There’s also a new ‘Poems & Pints’ night at the Roebuck Tavern next Monday which might be worth checking out. In the meantime, though, its back to working on a tenth poem for NaPo, which when completed means I’m a reassuring third of the way through…