Tag Archives: vanessa kisuule

Grizzly Pear @ The Bristol Pear

Grizzly Pear came into 2013 with a bang. This was the second instalment of the rebranded Writers’ Bloc open-mic night, and the demand for spoken word and storytelling was as high as ever. The theme for the evening was ‘eavesdrop’, which technically applied only to those performing in the second half, but the other writers were also very welcome to take part in the theme.


Ben Norris and Joe Sale kicked off the night with a feature that is quickly becoming the most anticipated performance of the evening: the parody rap. This time it was ‘The Fresh Prince of the Pear’, a hilarious take on a classic, which saw Joe play guitar and Ben play keyboard while rapping about the Aldi vs. Tesco debate – something that every student in Selly Oak understands. It was very clear that this Grizzly was going to be as bawdy as the last.

IMG_3895The first half saw fourteen writers take to the stage to show off their poems and prose pieces. Jess Hanson, the society’s Social Secretary, proved a brilliant opener. She read a ‘prequel’ to the piece she shared at the last Grizzly Pear, which was funny as always (especially in her imitation of her grandmother’s voice) and very well written. Some writers chose to stick to ‘eavesdrop’ theme, with amusing results: Meg Tapp read a series of limericks entitled ‘The Bitches: A Quartet’, which included women she overheard talking on a train, and Lorna Meehan performed a poem that was ‘Ophelia’s suicide note to Hamlet’ – a beautiful, haunting poem that was completely different to anything else performed during the night.

Celebrities also seemed to be a popular target of the readings. Joe Whitehead read ‘I Need Someone Better to Love Me’, a poem about being in love with Kim Kardashian. Joe clearly had the audience in the palm of his hand: he played between being endearing and absolutely entertaining, leading to very loud cheers from the crowd. Ed Corless, whose readings are always popular, read three short pieces of dialogue between Nicki Minaj and a stranger, entitled: ‘Superbass by Nicki Minaj’, ‘Nicki Minaj in Most Social Situations’ and ‘Nicki Minaj ruins everything’. The pieces played hilariously on Minaj’s most famous songs. With the ability to write such fantastic dialogue, it is easy to see why Ed is doing a Prose MA. IMG_3897

Grizzly Pear also drew in many new faces and performers. As with most open-mic nights, the performers provided a mixed-bag of work, but their performances were generally confident and showed potential. The best newcomer of the night, however, was Sid. After being forced into reading by another performer, he showed that he definitely has the potential to become a great performance poet.

The second half of the evening saw six Writers’ Bloc members take to the stage to perform their ‘eavesdrop’ poems. Standout performances came from Lily Blacksell, whose poem about Bobby Womack (who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s) showed off her writing ability and acting prowess. Joe Sale returned to the stage with ‘Anti-poet’; this poem was a controversial choice, as Joe admitted that he had written it after hearing lots of terrible rhyming couplets from poets, many of whom, he said, were in the room. However, all was forgiven. The poem was well written, well performed and quite frankly, electric. James Dolton concluded the Writers’ Bloc slots with a rap, complete with its own backing track. The Writers’ Bloc members should be commended for bringing such a diverse selection of writing and performing to the evening; they are a testament to the society.


The final and main attraction of the evening was Slam Champion Vanessa Kisuule. She wowed the audience with a beautiful poem called ‘Strawberries’, in which she charted the tumultuous decline of a relationship in a completely relatable fashion. Another standout poem was ‘The Incidental Sister’, in which she wisely communicated her feelings of jealousy and love, which anyone with a sibling or two could definitely relate to. Vanessa also treated the audience to a poem that she had never performed before, ‘The F-bomb’, which discusses feminism. However, the poem was not simply a man-bashing tirade; Vanessa dealt with the subject in a personal way, so that her poem was relatable, enjoyable and did not alienate any member of the audience. Vanessa proved that she is a great writer and performer; she is able to fill a room with laughter, and achieve a sense of poignancy that many writers struggle to.


Jenna Clake


Hit the Ode (part 2)

Hit the Ode, a monthly spoken word event organised by West Midland’s Apples and Snakes, returned last Thursday to prove that this is an event going from strength to strength. This month’s collection of open mic and featured poets consistently bowled the audience over with their humour, lyricism and raw emotion. The Victoria provided a resplendent setting; the intimate nature and dimly-lit room providing an evocative background for words that were even more powerful.

For those who are now regulars, Bohdan Piasecki is as much a celebrity as the poets he introduces. As a compere and poet himself, his obvious passion for the spoken word excites even the most cynical of audience members. The room was the most filled it’s been yet – an apt reflection of the growing popularity of Birmingham’s spoken word scene.

Advertised as ‘an eclectic mix of styles, voices and languages’, the night fulfilled just that. As the name suggests, open mics in any setting are a gamble. Apart from one crude and mediocre poet overcome by misogynism, however, the poets that performed were as worthy of the stage as those paid to be there. ‘Carys Matic’, an English teacher based in South Korea, humorously recited a poem about British stereotypes she’s often been expected to play up to on her travels. Ben Norris, a Birmingham-based student, excellently explored the connections one experiences with lovers and Grandparents alike, providing a humbling contrast to the more raucous poetry of the evening.

The first featured poet was Paul Murphy. An established resident of Birmingham, he is most-recognised as lead singer and punk poet of the band The Destroyers. Sharing his good and bad experiences of life with rhythmic rhyme, his words flowed instinctively. As was often the case throughout the evening, the audience were continually lulled in with humorous anecdotes and then left reeling at the sagacious and sombre moments.

Vanessa Kisuule, a multiple slam winning poet from Bristol, was the next featured poet. Speaking to her after the event she said that shy writers should not be deterred from the spoken word scene, as poets often use performance to hide the fact they aren’t prolific writers. From her recital, however, it was clear that Kisuule does not fall into this category. Her beautifully crafted metaphors were brought alive by her performance. With poems such as Little Red Bow, her honest and humbling account of a vulnerable friend, and Sandwich, a comic tale of OCD and relationships, the audience were moved from laughter to tears and back again.

The final highlight of the evening was the performance of New York City poetry circuit veterans, Jon Sands and Ken Arkind. Reciting their work alternately, the poets covered topics from a brother’s marriage to his male partner, to the ramblings of a woman on a New York subway platform. They captivated with beat, music, and poetry that obviously was anything but superficial. Possibly the best Hit the Ode yet, the bar has definitely been raised. There is no doubt that as talent continues to emerge, Birmingham has not seen the last of nights like this.

The next Hit the Ode is on Thursday 29th March at 7.30pm.

Words by Elisha Owen

Related links:
Hit the Ode @ the Victoria (part 1)
Tell Me on a Sunday (part 1)
The Poets’ Place