What space is there for performance poets to get involved in theatre?

Convener(s): John Challis

Participants: Jen Toksvig, Sara Bynoe, Stevio Vitale, Derek Shiel, Heather Taylor, Helen Bryer, Rob Haughton, Ed Rashbrooke.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Poetry slams – does the rap element of this change how we interpret poetry?

Performance poetry shows are theatre in themselves. Usually based on one person acting and staging their entire performance. This can be viewed as a fantastically intimate experience for both performer and audience member alike. They are storytellers.

Poetry is storytelling embedded in oral traditions.  It isn’t a commercial thing, nor should it be. 

Is there a genuine audience of performance poetry or is it made up of just poets themselves?

Jen Toksvig developed a play in Modern Verse, gaving each of the characters different rhythms to denote their status and character traits.

Poetry Olympics – An annual event hosted by Michael Horovitz in Hammersmith.

Performance poetry can sometime feel like something tagged onto the end of a programme, rather than an art form that is celebrated.

Writers of performance poetry do not usually have actors bring their work to life. 

Are there any clear boundaries between where performance poetry stops being poetry and becomes a theatrical show?

Can writers just simply read their work these days, without having to perform it to get attention?

Do you lose the power of words when you concentrate on the performance?  Does this distract from the poetry?

Performance poetry should take audiences on a journey – in sense it already is theatre.  These journeys/concepts for performances often differ depending on the venue.

Some performers today create work using predictive text in their mobile phones. In this sense poetry becomes a constant evolving thing.

How do we move poetry onto new forms, away from the simplicity of reading aloud from paper?

Is it becoming stand-up comedy?  The punch line is pivotal.

Poetry slams are a natural evolution from beat poetry.

Constant battle between the page and stage.  The ‘page’ poetry establishment often criticises the stage performance.

Not everything written should be performed.  However all poetry could be considered performance poetry when it is read aloud and in public.

There’s lots of good performance poetry out there, it’s just not all in theatres.  A lot is found in art gallery spaces, and in cafes.

People see theatre in everyday life; therefore they have preconceptions based on societal rules of how they should act at events.  However, what’s wrong with whooping & hollering to show your appreciation?

Is poetry still a solitary pursuit?