A Slay on Words

Often respected as neither 'serious' poetry nor actual rap, slam poetry occupies a notoriously difficult position, but it is not only gaining significant attention but a broader definition. I agree with Nathan Thompson (see article at the bottom) that poetry slams should not detract from the power of the written word, but equally I think that, if approached with the right mindset, they may lead us to a different kind of poetic appreciation. Slam poetry needn't be spitting insults and it needn't be overly competitive; it might just be a creative way of sharing something inexpressible. The Northern Youth's 'Slay on Words' events, which offer the opportunity for even the most inexperienced of poets (like me!) the chance to perform, highlight this capacity to bring people together in the context of a normally solitary genre of art.

Included within this blog entry are a few poems that were performed at the most recent 'Slay on Words' event, which was held at the newly opened Spark venue in York.

‘The Membranes of Lights Are Difficult to Walk Through’

I am between

I am inside


I position myself between the two rays of light so that I am cushioned, protected


Your hand interrupts the stillness

I walk forward tentatively as though I might collide with light waves

Dizzy with the effort of understanding my new spatial surrounds

The room is big, too big

Then I am encapsulated within a small pocket of light

Hidden from sight

I crouch to maintain this

Nothing and no one can touch me here.

Darkness surrounds

But the light protects me from my shadow.

Delivering a poem in front of an audience of people is scary, there's no doubt about it. There you are, clinging to these words that encapsulate emotions and moments you feel no one else will ever understand. Poetry is loneliness for me; it is sitting in an enclosed space to myself and writing because I cannot express myself at that moment. It is feeling that the whole world is too much to process and that reducing it to language might make everything seem a little less large and a little more comprehensible. At that moment, I wholly appreciate that my meaning will be lost even as I try my best to share it.

[if you are looking for hell ask the artist where it is.]

awake to lower abdominal pain. the contorted limb and torso of another body my blanket. sweat sticks lint and various other fibres to arm hair. miscellany of not-vacuumed-for-a-fortnight. the curtain’s position allows for one slither of sunlight to fall across my eyes. this intimate greeting is limited. i want to drag myself across the floor until I am engulfed in the hue. maybe then the goosebumps will settle. but I fear pressing my nose against the window in case someone pushes me from behind. cracking membrane on glass. where is the good life for all of us. brother. says the contorted limb. such a thing does not exist.

Joe Shaw

Perhaps poetry should stay in this format, hidden away in the depths of my notebook, or the obscurely named files on my laptop. Perhaps I am being presumptuous in even assuming that anyone would like to know what occurs within the strange inner workings of my brain. Or perhaps I cannot possibly encapsulate this, try as I might, and I should instead leave the thoughts to fester in my mind.

But isn't poetry also an ingeniously encoded means of sharing inexpressible feelings, translated indirectly so the audience captures only a glimmer of their original intent?

This Good Day

On this good day, the heating comes on in the kitchen. I can cook slowly now. Today, my aubergine is absolutely seedless, stunning. I empty the bin with pleasure, imagine my housemates’ relief. And last night, I dreamt I followed you ashamed before you turned and gently took my forearm between your teeth and I was filled – in dream, in waking – with joy.

Emily Pritchard

I had never dreamed that one day I would be reading aloud what are essentially glorified diary entries in front of what seemed an alarmingly large audience. What meaning people gathered from my ramblings I have little idea, but it was quite special to feel everyone listening so intently.


As well as slam poetry, Northern Youth hosts a wide array of events, bringing together artistic talent from the UK and showcasing it in the North of England. Stay tuned for their next event Millennial Minds II...




Tascha von Uexkull

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