Spoken Word: Howl [12 July 2017]

Tuesday, 10th October 2017

Author: .

Shaun Walsh and Guitarist
Shaun Walsh and Guitarist

I must start with complete honesty. I missed the first act of the spoken word night Howl because I had been enjoying a gin and elderflower in the fabulous garden created by fellow B13 writer Tessa Lowe. On a balmy July evening it was a battle to surrender to the darkest recesses of my beloved Dark Horse. To be honest, I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear – fear of glottal stops (a consonant formed by the audible release of the airstream after complete closure of the glottis). I love poetry, I love performance but I struggle with young middle class folk intoning verse in fake urban accents. It makes my jaw tense and my skin break out in hives. My grandmother had elocution lessons and my mother learnt English from wartime radio. Tessa feels the same about callow linguistic pretension and that gives me strength.

When we get to Howl, a woman dressed seasonably in black, greets us at the door in the manner of an undertaker. Art is currently intoned and we must show reverence. The room is rammed full of Hipsters and Boho. This is the place to be. We tiptoed to the front row in time for Shaun Thompson, who had come all the way from Liverpool. He introduces a poem about a black swan, which, he assures us, will explain human suffering.  Well that’s me sorted then. The Dalai Lama can go home and the Pope can list the Sistine Chapel on AirBnB. He did however perform a rather wondering, moving piece urging his lover to see herself through his eyes, as someone extraordinary and beautiful.

The compere, with gunfire Cooper Clarke delivery, gave a very flattering introduction to the next act, Lily Blacksell. We were lucky to be graced with her presence, she is an expat who gave us poetry about going to parties on film sets. Lily is beautiful and dresses in a way that says she has always had money. She name checked her yoga teacher and expressed huge admiration for Annie Lennox. I fully expect Ms Blacksell to have a lifestyle column in the Sunday Times by the autumn.

The headline act was Shaun Walsh, evidently a well-known rapper on the Birmingham music scene. He moved round the stage like an ADHD toddler on Pop Tarts. His guitarist reminded me of a grizzly bear that had relocated to the city. They were happy, very happy and very relaxed. Shaun favoured the ‘urban look ‘. I can never get used to people wearing hats, shades and anoraks indoors. Exactly the same introduction was used for each piece “this next one’s about drugs”. You could hear the earnest audience groan. I thought he was hilarious, in a good-natured and self-destructive way.

It was a highly entertaining and varied evening. The Spoken Word scene is obviously very fashionable right now and I can’t wait to see who will become famous.