I performed as a solo spoken word artists for many years as part of the PiP collective. It was great being in a collective of poets, it meant that we could discuss the spoken word scene, share knowledge and it contradicted some of the competition stuff can happen between artists of all forms. I think one of the reasons I choose to work as a poet with a band now is because my spoken word career started in a collective. By its nature, writing poetry can be such a self-exploratory form so it’s nice to perform it with other people alongside me.
When I wasn’t performing in the collective I found there was an element of loneliness to being a solo performer. Something I found it hard was not having anyone to share the experience with me. To turn out to gigs alone, do my poems, sometimes they would go down well, sometimes not so well but then to go home on the train, scrutinising yourself (obviously I’m the only poet in the world who does this!) and not having anyone to recall the experience with was hard for me.
It is of course everyone to their own, and I know some people enjoy this side to being a solo performer. I have heard people talk of the independence to go anywhere and analyse stuff in one’s own mind being one of the attractions.
For about a year and a half I’ve been working with the band PoetiCat, and this has been a really different way of working. Generally it works that I write a poem and then we all compose the music together. Working with a band has opened lots of new opportunities up for me and I’m really enjoy being in a group and creating together. It has meant I’ve had to learn a lot about rhythm and think about how I speak my poems. We have managed to get a good mix of songs, some of which my words fit very neatly into the bars they play and cue some of the music and others of which are more free for me where the band play in more of a jam and I can speak in a variety of rhythms and speeds depending on the live atmosphere.
I still love witnessing solo spoken word performers and admire the freedom they have to really react in the live moment. Choosing their set list once they reach the stage (as I know Jean Binta Breeze does) and having long pauses if they so feel etc. There is a sense of realness to that and you are completely in control of the vibe. You create one performance to the next because of your delivery. One of our aims as a band is to become so old-hand at performing together that we can do that as a group. That would be really great. That is the ultimate ensemble!
PoetiCat play regularly nationally and you can check gig dates at http://www.myspace.com/poeticat. Poeticat also produce their own night of specially picked musicians and poets called PoetiCat Presents. The next event is 2nd of July at The White Lion in Streatham. Confirmed acts so far are Belinda Born Free Zhawi and Paradox…more tbc.