This was orignially posted on October 1st 2015
I went to Poetry Jam in Durham for the first time tonight and it was wonderful. Hosted by Steve Urwin, the night consists of special guests interspersed with free jamming poetry – no announcements, no introductions, people just jump up from the audience and do a poem, take their applause and sit down again. Most poets weren’t even introducing themselves, which I quite liked. It felt like a sort of frenetic and awe inspiring Quaker meeting. (I’ve never been to an actual Quaker meeting, so this might be wildly inaccurate, but it was a frenetic and awe inspiring version of how a Quaker meeting goes in my head based on the little I know.)
The event takes place in the Waddington Centre in Durham – a smallish room with plastic chairs, arm chairs, perhaps one sofa, a little side kitchen and a coffee bar – it feels homely. Like the communal room of the sheltered accommodation my grandma lived in for a bit. The seating is arranged on three sides, surrounding a performance space in front of said coffee bar. The effect is a fairly intense environment, which Steve Urwin stepped into beautifully at the start of the night, walking into the space and commanding an expectant hush before launching into some fantastically gritty poetry. He then proceeded to briefly and enthusiastically introduce the night and open the floor.
I’d come with something to read and shortly decided I wasn’t going to read it. This allowed me to enjoy fully listening to the poets as they came and went, rather than sitting with half my head on what I was going to do, which was lovely. Later in the night I broke this small self promise and read a piece I’d written that morning (that morning being at point of writing this morning, unless we’re counting the last 50 minutes as this morning, which technically they are, but it always seems pedantic not to think of ten to one as night time.) It seemed to go down well and I was able to devote proper attention to other performers pretty soon afterwards again. Often I’ll find this difficult as I’ll be playing over what I did, what I should have done, things I should have changed, but the atmosphere here was too grounded for that, too loving, too focused.
I was told that I’d come on a particularly good night for my first outing – the room was heaving – but regardless of usual turnout, this was and is a special poetry night with a simple format that I’ve not come across before.
I’ll definitely be going again and so should you
Poetry Jam takes place at The Waddington Centre, 3 Waddington Street, Durham, DH1 4BG.
All poets from beginners to veterans are invited to attend and share their work with a friendly crowd.