By Eli Lambe

There are individual, form-based and contextual reasons the performance of Slam Poetry often goes viral – as a form it is rooted not in the appearance of words on a page, but in the exchange between poet and audience, the intense and intentional circulation of emotion between the two. Originally conceived as a way of getting out from stuffy academic interactions with poetry, the form has grown since the first slams in the 1980’s and has, over the last decade, been reaching wider and wider audiences through YouTube and social media.

Neil Hilborn is described as “the most watched poet” after his 2013 performance of “OCD” went viral through the channel Button Poetry – a channel which has been key to the virality of the form. The performance characterises a lot of what makes the form so appealing – it is emotive, it incorporates physical and affect based punctuation into the movement of the words, it touches on often difficult and internal experiences that can feel impossible to convey otherwise.

Sabrina Benaim’s “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” works into this last characteristic, putting the conflicting and painful experiential obscurity of depression into a complete whole of description. The performance is deeply personal – it is a conversation and feels like a rehearsal after the fact, like wanting to express these things in the moment but being unable to, and this makes it something people who connect to it, find common feeling in it, might be able to share to make that experience comprehensible to the other.

Rudy Francisco’s work delivers on gut-punches, tackling racism and the pressures of toxic masculinity with equal parts humour and gritted-teeth frustration. His performance of “The Heart and the Fist” is touching and damning, and looks at the ways in which violence is trained into young men through social pressure. “My Honest Poem” is funny and relatable, exploring the difficulties of anxiety and Imposter syndrome.

The trio will be performing at Magdalen Street’s Epic Studios on the 6th of November, tickets are £15 and doors open at 7pm.

Image credit: Button Poetry

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