Everyone, by now, knows what to expect from The Word House. Everyone indeed. Half of East London were unfortunately turned away at the door on Saturday as the Gallery Café reached bursting point. ‘Sardines’, someone said; it was like rush hour on the Northern Line. One guy stood there awkwardly negotiating a curry as the people piled in and forbid him the required elbow room for food-shovelling. Others were wiser, forgoing dinner and loading up on drinks.
An incomprehensible babble flooded the room: Word House regulars on their third outing meeting spoken word virgins. DJ Able played down-tempo hip-hop on the decks and with the doors fastened, resident poet-cum-host Dan Simpson took the stage and got the ball rolling. He opened with a poem combining those two inescapably entwined features of post-Enlightenment life – love and mathematics. If love has a formula, Dan’s got it.
On to poet number 1, Adam Kammerling, whose tense and humorous dialogues were a confessional and critical look at modern ethics, with a snappy delivery which I am told by the kids is called ‘rapping’. Adam’s tale of a curiously bureaucratic mugging had us squirming as we relived the experience, but it was all balanced skilfully with some jolly good laughs. The bar was set, we were warmed up; onto the Open Mics.
Each Word House has a lengthy Open Mic section for poets of varying experience. But its no picnic; standards are high and the audience is, well, big. But a bunch of brave poets, many familier with the stage, offered a very enjoyable series of amuse-bouches to keep our tastebuds excited. Amongst the numerous offerings we had the cynical reflection of an imagined corporate Christmas party, a celebration of the beat poets, and the existential landscapes of online dating and unemployment. Anthony Fairweather defied the human need to breathe to deliver a seamless medieval poetic jig which only lacked a lute. This section wasn’t without its politics too, as Catherine Brogan recast Jesus as a protester and Anthony Anaxagorou forced us to rethink racial preconceptions by considering the creation of historical narratives.
You might think that this poetic plenitude would have quenched our appetites, leaving no room for the two remaining headline acts. But you’d be mistaken. We loosened our belts, stocked up on booze, had a quick fag and went to the loos. And back for round three, with another from Dan, who’s erudite wit now turned to epistemology.
Hollie McNish’s crusade began with an enlightening critique of both school uniforms (worn by adult women) and cupcakes. She expressed a similar amount of disdain for both despite the varying degrees of urgency. Then she meandered through a slightly erotic dinner scenario to take on the issue of resentment of immigrants. Daily Mail readers, beware, Hollie will undermine your populist assumptions with cold hard logic. Applause was due and promptly given. And after a passionate call for the acceptance of male nudity by censors, McNish departed with a spring in her step.
Finally, we welcomed Ross Sutherland. Ross’s two ‘poems’ had something of an aleatory approach. The first was the well known fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, with all the verbs and nouns replaced by those 23 places below in the dictionary. The resulting story, The Liverish Red-Blooded Riffraff Hoo-Ha, had us in stitches. I couldn’t make notes for all the laughter. With the grandmother now recast as Great Britain, the story became a bittersweet satire, with clever jokes arising amongst the nonsense. The second, and last of the night, was to be dedicated a member of the audience. A certain ‘Monica’ ended up with this honour, and Ross adopted her as the subject of his doting, uber-affectionate poem. Her day was made, she said afterwards; as was ours, I might add.
Word House no.3 assured us of the consistently brilliant nights that can be done with spoken word. For this we extend our gratitude to Amy Stratton, whose staunch determinacy and belief in the spoken word of London knows no bounds. We all look forward to the next one in April.