A Lovely Word, as advertised by the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, is ‘a monthly open mic night for poets’. Started two years ago by Patrick Hughes and finding its beginnings in the now closed down MelloMello, the night provides a space where first-time and veteran performers can try out their poetry in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience. The night itself is completely free to attend and its current directors – Tamsin Cook and Matty Elliot – describe the night as “open”, “accessible”, and “a platform for any kind of poetry”. A poet may include as many or as few poems as they can fit into a five minute slot; other than that there are no rules (they say), but “it has to be poetry!”
Performance poetry can include spoken word, slam, beat, punk, amateur, political, absurdist (the list goes on) and certainly many of these genres were on display at the latest performance, Monday 14th March. The night was an eclectic mixture of regulars and first-timers, with York’s spoken word artist, songwriter and playwright David Jarman as a powerful headlining act. His set was an engaging mixture of jovial and thought-provoking material; notably one which raised a frustration with government funding of weapons, by an extended metaphor of a child’s pocket money, and struck a chord with many of the audience. Previous nights have seen the likes of many-time slam champion Rose Condo, writer and poet John Osborne, who has had his works published and broadcast on BBC Radio, and the group ‘A Firm of Poets’, after meeting Cook and Elliot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
First-time and repeat performers fell into every age bracket, which must have spanned sixty years, and the styles of writing and delivery were as diverse as the age group. While some chose to read from notebooks, others performed from memory, and there were no inhibitions on the themes performers wished to explore. Whether it was freedom and war, politics and society, coping with depression, the loss of loved ones to cancer, relationships or their own daily lives, the poets never failed to use their writing and sound to make their interpretation of this world almost tangible to their audience. Old-timer and regular performer George Melling stood out for his captivating delivery, as did Victoria Sánchez for her beautifully original take on the city life of Liverpool.
Both Cook and Elliot began their involvement with A Lovely Word in May 2015; both starting out as poets themselves, they now direct and host the night. When asked what it means to them, the night’s ability to provide an accessible platform for anyone interested in spoken word seemed to be a predominant factor, with Elliot answering “poetry should be for everyone”, and Cook “it’s the simplest form of having a voice”. Prior to finding A Lovely Word, they didn’t really know about performance poetry nights and now they’re thrilled to be a part of the network, having both gone on to perform at poetry nights in other cities and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When asked what they most want to convey about the ethos of the evening they answered that audiences consistently enjoy the night and feel good afterwards, it is something that is very “emotional and important for the performers”, and absolutely “the more the merrier!”
As a new-comer to the event, it seemed to me that the self-expression people find in performance poetry is not only invigorating to an audience when done well, but most importantly, is cathartic to the performer. This would explain why many return to A Lovely Word time and time again, and why many audience members end up trying out spoken word poetry for themselves. I would certainly recommend anyone interested in poetry to attend the night and learn from what you find there. You may find inspiration, an outlet, or at the very least you could spend a Monday evening soaking up the pleasant atmosphere of the Everyman Bistro, and the very lovely words of its performers.
A Lovely Word will next be takes place every month at 7:30pm, in the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street, Liverpool. The next A Lovely Word is taking place on Monday 11th April with headlining act George Melling. Performers are able to sign up for a slot on the night from 7:30pm. The event and more information can be found on Facebook, Twitter or the Everyman & Playhouse website.