Last night's slam poetry showcase at the pop-up Arcola Tent (a temporary off-shoot of the Arcola Theatre in Dalston) was ostensibly to celebrate the launch of Sam Berkson's new poetry compilation Life in Transit. Berkson is a poet and organiser for the East London division of Hammer & Tongue, a spoken word collective. Because of Berkson's connections to the slam poetry world, the night became an excuse for some of the most celebrated stand-up poets in London to get together and show off their skills.
The night shifted from hilarious comedy to provocative prose and moving real-life stories - with an occasional fictional embellishment. Author of The Sustainable Nihilist's Handbook, and owner of England's most pretentious moustache, Jonny Fluffypunk's "coffee" is an ode of intricate humour and surreal fantasy. His acute social observations about the middle classes and tales from a troubled youth spent trying on his mother's clothes (including nipple tassels "Like two miniature Fezzes") are evoked with sharp irony and wit.
Salena Godden had the crowd in fits of laughter after telling her story of how an air hostess once refused to lend her a pen, entitled "A Letter to an Air Stewardess Found in the Back of Seat 67A".
"If Daddy" by Zena Edwards, about the lost days spent with a father she never knew, was poignant without being soppy and Sam Berkson's own stories of life spent on London's public transport system, including lust on bendy buses and the cramped tyranny of the tube carriage at rush hour brought political meanings to the tawdry and humdrum experience of the everyday commuter.
Here are some of the highlights:
Jonny Fluffypunk reads "Coffee"
Salena Godden performing "A Letter to an Air Stewardess Found in the Back of Seat 67A"
You can buy a copy of Life in Transit here.