Two nights of poetry and music come to Hackney’s Moth Club.

I think we can all agree that it’s hot as shit in London right now. But instead of lying on the sofa, boiling alive and waiting for Love Island to start, why not spend your evenings in an air-conned room watching a bit of spoken word and music?

Kicking off tomorrow, giffgaff are bringing to life People Powered Poetry for two special night’s at Hackney’s Moth Club and if that’s not enough to pique your interest, it also happens to be the world’s first AI-fuelled improvised poetry event. With a line-up consisting of beatbox champion Bellatrix and world class spoken word poets, each will perform a set based on a current trending topic on social media. Who doesn’t love a bit of #RelatableContent, am I right?

A completely improvised night, the poets will have to go up against the giffgaff created “poetry bot”. A part of their Small vs Big campaign celebrating the power of small and how you can make a big, the “poetry bot” picks lines from people’s tweets in order to create a sonnet inspired by what’s going on right at that moment.

Set to be an instant trending topic, we sat down with spoken word legends Deanna Rodger and Hussain Manawer to find out a little bit more about them before the big night (which you can get tickets to here, just fyi).

How did you first get into doing spoken word poetry?

Deanna: Definitely not in school! Though I loved reading books aloud in class so I guess I’ve always had a performance side in me! Writing my own poetry came when I was 16/17 – I attended a performance poetry workshop at Lyric Hammersmith. In my book I Did It Too, I share the first poem I wrote, it was written to declare my innocence to my mum about a fight I had gotten into. I think that the reception of the blank page to my point of view is what I was drawn to and why I continue to write.

Hussain: It was Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In The Corner and the video of So Solid Crew’s “21 Seconds” that sent a rush up my spine, to get up from the sofa (watching Channel U) and get writing. I was in Year 9 in high school and growing up at a time when rappers, MCs and grime artists, were killing the game. I fell in love with wordplay, metaphors, punchlines, ad-libs, group clashes, literally everything! I was infatuated, I was involved. My older brother’s friend Idris was a big rapper in my area, his name was Dirty Bars. He had a garage that we used to go to after school to “spit bars”. They were a year older than me and I always looked up to them. Myspace played a huge role in my culture growing up and so did my English teachers Mrs Forbes and Mr Noakes. I read a lot, so shout out Michael Rosen and Carol Ann Duffey, I was inspired by a lot, I was soaking everything in. My first “writing book” was my school planner. I used to get in trouble for doodling in it.

Can you talk us through your writing process?

H: My writing process for me means entering my mind through a corridor of emotion and unlocking new doors, hidden pathways, thoughts and feelings that have not yet been walked upon. My pen is just the outlet of whatever my mind witnesses. 

D: There are many different process that I employ. It really depends on what I am writing. I have written poems for myself and for commission. For myself they come when they come. For commissions I gather as much as possible: research, read, absorb, scribble, doodle and have faith! It’s really important for me that what I write on commission, I would include in my poetry collections and performances. I have written (and am writing) musical theatre which involves collaboration with composers and directors, verbatim drama which requires me to listen intensely (and record and re-listen) to the people the piece is about and I have written comedy which requires devising on the feet and test runs and plenty of rewrites!

What do you usually write about?

H: Everything emotional to make it promotional. 

D: No usual! It depends on what I am interested in, what I have been asked to write and what I am feeling at any point in time. At the moment I am interested in religious dystopia. I have been obsessed with quantum physics, battle rap, neurological diseases and acquired brain injuries as well as politics, heartbreak and sorrow.

Do you remember your first time performing?

D: I think it was at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank. I performed a poem called “Paternal Prayer” which speaks to my dad, the violence of the paternal state and subsequent fears for my brother growing up. Written in 2007 I still perform it to this day with the same effect.

H: Let me take you back, we had a room in our house that needed wall paper. My older sister for some reason decided to write “lyrical badman, money maker, that’s why they call me a Casanova” on the wall. I clearly was heavily influenced by this so began writing lyrics and shouting them back at the wall. My mum then made us wallpaper over it. So technically my first ever performance was me in the small room, shouting at the wall. 

What do you like about speaking on stage? Do you prefer intimate audiences or doing bigger shows?

D: To be given the space to be listen to is priceless. A stage offers just that. regardless of audience size, honour everyone who has shown up and treat that position with respect. Never take it for granted as in other countries writers and performers are persecuted for this simple but undeniably powerful act.

H: I like speaking about real life issues that society has so heavily packed away, things that make people feel uncomfortable, this can range from mental health to bereavement. But at the same time, I love massaging feelings of nostalgia, love, and humour into peoples hearts. Intimate audiences ignite powerful emotion that can be visibly seen, whereas large audiences can really move you. Both are unique, both are incredible. 
What’s it like doing improvised poetry live?

D: Exciting, nerve-wracking! Sometimes, most times my mouth can’t keep up with my mind — which is why I love writing first, it bypasses that! Hopefully it will all come together in the event! Mainly I am looking forward to being in the moment, authentically demonstrating the powerful vulnerability of being human. 


Is there a piece you’re most proud of?

D: That is like asking which kid is your favourite! I am really proud of my collection I Did It Too. It contains most of the poems I have written over the past ten years. It’s been received really well around the world and is a milestone in my career. 

H: Erm, I have a different answer for every hour of the day, “Playground”, “The White Rose”, “My name is Hussain” and “Mamma’s Kitchen” are the top 5 I would definitely put on my Greatest Hits album one day! 

Which one have people been most receptive to?

H: They have all received a great response, some audiences across the world have been more moved than others and vice versa. My core audience takes different emotions from different pieces. 

D: You have to ask the people! Each piece gets different responses at different times. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into spoken word?

D: There is a space for you, your story, your view.

H: Stop talking, get writing. 

What are the aims for the future?

D: Hmm… in the words of Alabaster DePlume “I can only hope that five years from now, I am as disgusted with myself now as I am now disgusted with myself five years ago.”

H: To become the worlds first Poetic Rockstar *drops mic*.


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