You got time for rhyme? Hackney’s the place

© H&T
Poet Staceyann Chin (supplied pic)
Poet Staceyann Chin (supplied pic)

Don’t slam poetry! 

It gets a mouthy slap: 

“Rhyme and imagery 

What a loada pap!” 

But word about Eighties trickery? 

Yo! Now we got rap.


THE ODD THING is that when people are exposed to poetry they enjoy it… at least, they do when it’s better than the bad-to-terse effort above.

Sam Berkson says he is showing that with an outfit named Hammer and Tongue. The live event, which uses sing poets, rappers and stand-up comics, is marking its fifth anniversary in Hackney.

Started in Oxford, where Berkson took a bachelor’s degree at St Catherine’s College (you might know him as Angry Sam or as a guest poet on Resonance 104.4FM), H and T aimed to take live poetry to clubbers.

It has since extended its reach to five UK areas, as well as Hackney.

Part of its success is the combination of performers and open-microphone slam: people sign up at the door to read their poems and be judged by five randomly selected members of the audience.

The 32-year-old says: “If you are good, whether in a comic, lyrical, serious or any other way, you will be appreciated.

“Even the language you speak doesn’t matter too much.”

“We’ve had Dutch and Swedish poets doing their own-language poetry and audiences can still enjoy the live experience.”

David Altheer 140115

* The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, Shoreditch EC2A 4XS, Tuesday 3 February 2015 (first Tuesday of the month, £6 (£5 concessions). DJ and open-mike slam sign-up start at 730pm. No disabled access.

* Supplied pic at top shows Berkson and fellow members of the Hackney team that won the national slam team final last autumn 2014.

Backstory: Classical for the clubbers

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