Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Poetry Vandals perform in Oxford, plus the last Open Slam of the Season at Hammer & Tongue

Last night I was on Oxford's Cowley Road at the final Hammer & Tongue gig ever to be held at Moody's Pool Hall (it's closing this week to re-open later as an extension of the Zodiac). The dynamic 'Poetry Vandals' from Newcastle were the main attraction, with a larger-than-usual field of slammers trying their luck in the last Open Poetry Slam of the season. Much to my shame, I entered the Slam - only my fourth ever Slam over a ten-year period in poetry - and scored fewer points than I did last month (when I actually forgot the poem I was performing four times).

To score badly under such circumstances is a major embarrassment, so I think my brief flurry of Slamming activity must now draw to a close. I'm clearly better at writing about performance than writing for performance. Such a pity. If only I could have penned the epic poem about aerobics - complete with props and actions - which earned its glamorous performer, a lady of c. 65 years, second place in the Slam. But I'm not bitter. It's just my tone.

The eventual winner of the Slam, George Roberts, deservedly wins a chance to compete in next month's big H&T Slam Final of 2006-7.

Back to the guest poets. Out of the six members of The Poetry Vandals, we only had three on stage last night at Moody's. But they were all very talented. There was Jeff Price, environmentally-minded father figure of the group; Kate Fox, a smooth-tongued poet with an eye for the telling lyric; and Scott Tyrell, destined for great things, I'm sure, as he entertained the crowd with his brilliant comic timing and amusing facial contortions (his impersonation of a man having sex pretending to be a squirrel in his poem Coitus Interruptus is nothing short of genius).

Kate Fox gave us a series of well-written pieces, including her tongue-in-cheek crowd-pleaser Emin Eight (white rapper Eminem has a poetry joust with Henry VIII - 'gadzooks', 'one time' etc.). Jeff Price brought a bevy of 'ahhs' from the audience with his poem about missing an absent grown-up daughter as she finds her feet in the world, then demolished drivers of gas-guzzling 4x4s with a hard-hitting political rant, while Scott Tyrell moved from intense and moving poetry of a personal nature to the sort of highly-polished comedic sketches which would not look out of place on a top London stage.

Highly impressed, I forked out for the Poetry Vandals' joint CD on the back of these engaging group performances, which you too can purchase for a mere £3 from

For details of the next Hammer & Tongue Slam and its new venue, contact:
Hammer and Tongue
16b Cherwell Street
tel: 01865 200 550

JANE HOLLAND, former Poetry Slammer

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