Maya Ostle reviews the Printworks’ regular poetry and spoken word competition or “slam” night

On Thursday, February 28th at the Hastings Printworks, Slam Dunk poetry returned – back on the scene after a five month hiatus. Its new format places one feature poet on either side of the central slam competition (like a sandwich) but otherwise the event is unchanged. Anybody can participate with any form of poetic performance they like – the only rule being that whatever you deliver has to be your own words.  

Starting off the evening was local musician and poet Oli Spleen, performing a melange of spoken word poetry and songs off his new album “Gaslight Illuminations” (available now), all wonderfully dark; his delivery tinged with humour; inspired by his own, devastating experiences, giving the poems a deeper, more chilling tone. Spleen told us that the death of his father was the catalyst for the album, and songs such as the emotive and lyrical “Almost Young” explore this theme, flowing excellently whilst communicating his despondency and regret. Spleen’s performances and delivery, whilst dark, depressing, and gritty were continuously accompanied by jokes and humour, which balanced his act wonderfully. 

After this introduction came the competition of local slam poets, compered by Lucas Howard. Lucas kicked things off with the wonderfully funny, memorable, rolling slam poem entitled “Hastings”, starting off the set brilliantly. The following hour or so of original poems ranged from the deep, dark and thought provoking to the funny, zany, and more light hearted verses – this contrast meant each act seemed fresh and new – no two styles of performing were the same. The intimacy of the setting made the poems seem more personal and direct. At one point we were even treated with an impromptu beatboxing performance to accompany a freestyling spoken word artist who couldn’t play his backing track. It was this relaxed nature of the event that made it so accessible, making the reading of the poems a far more individual experience; each poet’s intentions were made very clear to every member of the audience. 

However the undoubtable climax of the evening (after Michael was announced as the slam winner) was the outstanding birthday performance by slam poet Sadie Davidson. Davidson is an ex-stripper and ex-addict, drawing inspiration from these experiences for her writing, but above all she is a phenomenal poet and performer. Her stage presence alone was sizzling with dramatic tension. She said not one word that lacked energy, performing veritable works of art, infinitely varied, lyrical, witty, clever, and throwing out hard-hitting word after hard-hitting word, barely giving the audience time to register what they’d heard before plunging us in at the deep end again with more brilliant poetry. She performed a mixture of older works and poems from her upcoming anthology “The Poverty Guide Handbook” which is available now for pre-order.

Slam Dunk Poetry holds regular events at Hastings Printworks, admission is usually £7 on the door

Listen to Oli Spleen’s album for free and buy through bandcamp to give him more money 

•  Check out Sadie Davidson and pre-order the Poverty Guide Handbook on her website

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