Spoken word is more often than not met with pre- and/or misconceptions. So when the last golden ticket became available to Opus Club’s Poetry Barge Cruise, I jumped at the chance to dispel my own – and hopefully others’ – perception of spoken word. This was an intimate first foray into the world of words, as The Frederick departed the Tap and Spile, meandering Birmingham’s famous waterways. A troika of poets graced the galley, and first to offer his prose was one Tarik Ross-Cameron.Wielding a heady mix of insight, wit, and a blazing freshness that those present more schooled in the art were visibly taken aback by, Tarik proceeded to grow monolithically into his performance. A Whim offered a weighty yet truly humbled internal monologue, whilst I Never Named It – a working title – offered up poetic philosophy that Aristotle would have been at home with:
“Live off the same sun, howl at the same moon, wish on the same stars”.
Tarik rounded off his set with the satire drenched I Hate Poetry, prompting frequent uproars of laughter from those assembled, repeatedly hitting the nail on the head with his word play “I see poetry as a virus, it gets all up inside us”. In all truthfulness, if it hadn’t been for the impending finale of former National Storytelling Laureate Katrice Horsley, Tarik could have easily sailed off with the show in tow.Professional writer and poet Holly Daffurn was next to take up the mantle, with a series of stark poems that tempered the light of the occasion with a compelling reminder of the power and purpose inherent in spoken word. For Russia With Love dove head-first down the rabbit hole of Russia’s wanton and flagrant disregard of the right to decide and act upon ones own sexual identity:
“Sex is a matter of lock and key but it’s the souls that need to fit, not the biology”.
Intimacy further elaborated on the strength of the spoken word: “to touch someone with your words is the most intimate of acts”, and looking down the boat, each and every face wore plain a deep-seated agreement. Artists with Filthy Fingers was her coup de grâce, a paean of prose to the creative: “come to me paint smeared” and “pervert the rule of thirds” – the rallying cries of a poet at the mercy of the art.With time of the essence, Leon Priestnall stepped to the fore to regale the motley crew with Taxi Girl: part sociologist, part bone-rattlingly honest self-reflection:
“She was presenting a peer pressure informed image of what she presumed my so-called but really nonexistent masculinity wanted her to be”.
In possession of a self-awareness as keen as any blade, Leon’s ability to cut through the crap straight to the crux of a matter without sacrificing linguistic fortitude only further expounded the fact that this boat ride had already become one of poetic reverence.
At the halfway point of the journey – with the canal barge performing what can only be constituted as a 12 point turn – the outline of a man perched on a deck chair upon the bank’s edge reached us before the rhythmic thrum of his guitar. Tom Peel, peddling his unique brand of abstract folk music, graced a brief lull in the evening’s travels with a veritable raft of rhythm, rib-ticklers, and rhyme – the perfect tie over before the main thrust of the evening.The ever-enigmatic Katrice Horsley took to the deck decidedly decked out in decadence: a trail of winking black sequins left in her wake inadvertently retold Hansel & Gretel wherever she strode. Spoken word is one thing, mastery of it is another entirely. Usurping the rumblings of the boat and echoes of the tunnels, Katrice began her chronicle Fur. Commanding the galley, the audience enraptured, so began the story of a spoiled prince, and a “woman with backbone, not wishbone”. Weaving an intricate plot whilst pianist Chrystal Ding summoned an improvised soundtrack from the ether, Katrice, at the height of her powers holds the audience, even as the halls of storytelling reverie beckon her. Fearing words will do her no justice, the gallery below goes some way to relaying both her unique abilities, as well as the delights of the evening as a whole.