It is not often that I am given the chance to attend a night with the objective of, in the words of the hosts, 'venerating verbal diarrhea'. At least, not intentionally. The brainchild of Tina Sederholm and Dan Simpson, the Anti-Slam is an event where the lowest score, the most atrocious, badly rhyming, hypocritical, sickeningly in our times poem wins. It is a glorious celebration of failure. And what makes this event work is the incredibly fine line between good and bad slam poetry. I have been to many a poetry night in which all moments of profundity have been achieved simply through timely line gaps, heavy pauses and accentuated inflection. The Anti-Slam riffs on this, beautifully making fun of a medium sadly so saturated with first world angst-ridden drivel.
The ten competitors are judged by a panel comprising of last year's winner, Vera '100% Chinese' Chok, Dan Simpson (spreading a thick, white blanket of self-believing patriarchy over the proceedings) and prim agony aunt in-training Samantha Mann (look her up). Scores are kept by the marvellously Germanic Johannes Luistenburger. The night tightropes just on the right side of offensive, with only one slightly shaky moment involving the holocaust.
Particularly notable competitors as follows: Lucy Ayrton encapsulates a wonderfully vacuous millennial, live streaming her hashtag heavy poem over Facebook (#seriouslysoblessed). Pocahontas Gilchrist-Smythe, clad in sham-Indian festival stall clothes and compulsory bindi reads a poem composed 'whilst tripping in the woods at Coechella.' But the winner and stand out poet was Trigger Warning. Wearing a sweatshirt logoed with 'You matter' she tackles gender, body shaming and the ever-present patriarchy. She uses the word 'heteronormativity' more than once. She goes on to win the final with a heartbreaking poem in which she compares herself to Luton airport - the one that people only go to as a last resort. She is an empty, lonely character, a complete construct of our times. Possibly the most entertaining poet of the night is the anarchic John Coltrane Quartet. His poetic trilogy is sourced entirely from a packet of ham. First, a found poem (reading the label), then a list poem (reading out the ingredients), and then the performance poem in which he rips open the packet with his teeth and stuffs twelve slices straight into his mouth, spattering it onto the floor and audience as he does so. One discarded piece is snapped up by judge Vera Chok, in an impromptu piece of performance art, or possibly she's just peckish.
To round up, I'll leave you readers with a test, try wittling out the slam and the anti from the below list:
'Damned you are if a hypocrite / Cause dear you'll full of shite!'
'Close your eyes and die / No one wants to hear you cry.'
Trick question, these are all examples from real slam poets. And now I am left with the feeling that, in the words scrawled across the blood-spattered vest of the John Coltrane Quartet, 'Poetry is Shit'.