So every Wednesday I post a new poem. It might be something I’m working on, it might be a warm-up piece, or it might be a commission based on something you’ve requested. If you’d like to suggest a title or you’ve got a subject you’d like me to have a crack at, chuck your suggestions in the comments below or drop me a line via the ‘Contact Me’ button on the right.

I’ve been on tour the last few weeks, mainly doing the Hammer & Tongue slam circuit. I really like the British slam scene, such as it is. We’re not as slick as the US, but the diversity is staggering. Poets sound like themselves. I admire the dedication to craft in US Slam, and (of course) the positive messages, but it makes me sad to see how it homogenizes all these individual voices into a single Slam voice, with a single Slam style. Even when I’ve been to Beijing and Melbourne, that US voice has infected the scene, so that people even end up putting on a mid Atlantic accent.

I guess what I’m saying is that, I love our spoken word scene here in Britain. Slick oratory is okay, but I’d trade 100 US Slammers for 1 of our hapless, self-deprecating poets, just being authentically themselves.


Dear American Slammer

Dear American Slammer, your perfect consonants will not protect you come the revolution;
come the revolution we will leave you swinging in a gibbet outside the city walls,
gibbering slick syllables to the Poe-faced ravens

Dear American Slammer, your similes jack-knife crazily like a butterfly big-rig
but one day you shall stand before God
while She makes you account for every last one:
‘So, Trevor… on the night of April 15th, 2015, when you said:
“The Moon is a nectarine, sliced into seventeen segments
by the blood of my father,” what the fuck did you actually mean?’
And you will say ‘Um…
a metaphor?’ and already God will be stabbing the button
under Her desk that pops the trapdoor.

Dear American Slammer, you sound like the world’s shittest wrestler,
with your ‘Last week, on Summer Slam,’ swagger
and your gigantic, moralising forefinger.
I would suplex you through the Spanish commentators’ table
just to hear the hollow clang
of your swollen head kissing the bell.

Dear American Slammer, you are not a poet.

Dear American Slammer, you are a self-replicating grey goo
of commodified sentiment, the pulverised pablum of activism;
a wino swearing at a bin that he insists on calling ‘Mr President’;
you are the Starbucks of the mind,
and we cannot hear what you say
over the clack-clack-clack of your pullstring jaw.

Dear American Slammer,
shouting your opinions to roomfuls of people who agree with you
and expecting applause
is bad for the soul.

Dear American Slammer,
you mention the soul too much.
If you must keep farting on and on about something that doesn’t exist
make it the Easter Bunny
or Krang out of Turtles.
Seriously. We need more Krang poems.

Dear American Slammer, why,
when you help kids find their voice
does it always turn out to be your voice?
Those same, faux-earnest secular televangelist Nuremberg rally glorious leader inflections
ringing off the walls of school gyms and halls from Boston to Sacramento:
ten thousand young tongues in lockstep.

Dear American Slammer,
you are a copy
of a copy
of a copy
of a copy
of a copy;
the key no longer opens the door.

Dear American Slammer, do you remember who you were
before the tyranny of elocution and scorecards
and the click-click-click approval like the winding of ratchet teeth?
That kid who made laser swords out of driftwood,
who channelled a cast of hundreds in service of some recherché game:
‘We gotta go and attack the base.’
‘Ok. You go up ahead. We’ll come in with the megabombs.’
Remember when your mouth was more than a machine
for shitting slogans?
Remember when your beliefs were more than showponies?

Dear American Slammer, pride and self-respect
are not synonyms.
Vulnerability and doubt and the occasional, you know,
struggle for a word are not shameful.
Your humanity will not fit inside the sockpuppet you’ve stitched for it.
The real you is peeping through the seams,
the real you is beer gut and crapness and mistakes,
is a plush Moomin dropped on the verge at Nunney Catch,
a big toe poking through a hole in moss green socks,
the flash of a slow worm knotting through crow garlic,
a ginger snap dunked in sugary tea;
moments so quiet
you have to hold your breath not to miss them.

Dear American Slammer, you have never heard the sound of your own voice.
Close your lips.
You have three minutes.
Now listen.

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