The words ‘poetry’ and ‘slam’ are two that many people will not have imagined being coupled. But that’s exactly what a new generation of poets are doing – coupling, rhyming, adding cadence, beat and bravado, but most importantly, slamming.
One of Belfast’s best known slam poets is Colin Dardis. But it’s not all about slamming for Colin – he embraces all aspects of the artform. He started writing poetry in primary school, but it was at secondary school that he penned his first ‘classic’.
He recalled: “I remember I wrote a poem about an earwig just to amuse my friends. They encouraged me to write more and it ended up about 56 verses – a magnum opus for a 13 or 14 year old. It ended with the earwig crawling into my head and eating my brain. I died and came back as an earwig. Hopefully my poetry has developed a little bit since then, though some would say that was my best material.”
Colin, who cites his poetic influences as William Blake and WB Yeats, went to UUJ where he studied Humanities and did a thesis on the merits of poetry in popular music.
Arcadia Coffee Shop in North Street Arcade became a base for Colin and like-minded poets in the Cathedral Quarter.
“When the arcade was burnt down the poets lost their spiritual home,” he said. “This was before social media which has made things so much easier for organising get togethers.”
Safe House gallery became the new HQ for poets in Belfast and played host to open mic nights which played a big part in growing the scene.
Colin said: “We called it ‘Make Yourself Heard’, not as someone picked it up ‘Microsoft Word’. You could pack about 40 people in and everyone was on top of each other. It was a bit chaotic, but it meant everyone got talking. The vibe was fantastic and it really encouraged people to get up and perform their poetry.
“When Safe House closed, Bookfinders supported us for a while, then myself and Seamus Fox got involved with Crescent Arts Centre. I’ve loved working with the Crescent for the last three and a half years,” said Colin.
“We held our first Poetry Slam in the Crescent in June 2011 as part of Belfast Book Festival. The enthusiasm and support showed us there was a real appreciation for it.
“Our next one will be for the Book Festival again on June 13 in Crescent Arts Centre. I would encourage people to come along, or even put their names down to compete.
“The main difference between an open mic and slam poetry is the element of competition. Poets are judged and score points based on their content and delivery.
“The first round is open to everyone before the field is whittled down to a semi final and final.”