I was recently given a piece of advice by a lovely man called Chris Jakubiak. He said “Too many people try and conquer the whole world straight away, when really they should be doing it one person at a time”.
I fell into this after heartbreak, a botched one night stand and too many nights out in Birmingham whilst sober. On the coach down to Camden, my friends and I struggled with what a slam could actually entail. We decided on, I was going to have to sit in a room with some judges and they’d look over my notebook. How wrong we were. I was quickly taken into a room where everyone seemed to know each other and what more seemed to be rehearsing at each other. This is when I panicked and asked someone who I’d be introduced to as “the host” what I’d actually have to do? His accent was familiar, and soon I found out he was from Birmingham too – I also found out I’d have to perform these to a packed audience and to be honest I have never wanted the ground to swallow me up as much as I did that minute. I don’t draft poems, I know that sounds weird but I literally write what I’m thinking exactly and if at the end it sounds rubbish I screw it up. I didn’t think I was ready to tell an audience my stories but found myself doing so. I remember being physically sick in the final after my first poem and winning was definitely not something I imagined happening. More so I didn’t realise that just less than two years later some of my best friends would be some of my fellow slammers, judges and audience members.
I realised that this was what I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it or how I was going to do it but I wanted people to be able to listen to my tales and for them to say “Man, I’ve felt like that too”. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that someone else has been there. I worried that not being in London would leave me at a disadvantage. The amount of opportunities down there are ridiculous but after voicing my concerns to Inua Ellams at a gig in Exmouth Market. He made me see it in a different light: in London there are 100 people fighting for the same thing, the same funding and wanting to get to the same place. In Birmingham, there is so much more room. Plus whenever I am in London something crazy happens to me, whether it is the man at Euston in chaps singing All Saints “Never Ever” and getting me to join in or a 7ft man propositioning me in full Herman Munster costume.
I feel so lucky to have fallen into all of this. I love writing more than anything in the world, even more than CSI and that’s huge! And thanks to Chris, Inua and the host I met on that day at the Roundhouse I’m finally “happy with my own grass”. It’s the best feeling in the world, one person at a time…
Jodi Ann Bickley, a poet from Moseley, Birmingham, is one of the spoken-word scene’s most exciting talents. She’s performing this summer at Glastonbury and Camp Bestival, runs her own spoken-word night in Birmingham; you can hear her here, and watch her here.