My Experiences of Poetry by Antosh Wojcik
For a long time, I hated poetry. In school, we studied war poets to death and I despised every moment of it. A lot of the time, I had no idea what any of it meant and didn’t want to care about the poet’s plight, so I rejected it the moment I no longer had to study it. Of course, I still wrote it, when I was fourteen and full of angst, self deprecating and depressed. No girlfriend, no love, hating ‘the system’; I used to jam an A4 lined page with all this rotten verse and then stuff it under my bed. I saw it only as a catharsis for negativity and that it had no value as a literary force. My ideals of poets were that they were either impenetrable lonely people or nursery rhyming, cuckoo clock crack pots that spoke like Shakespeare.
I went to University of Winchester to study Creative Writing and was struck by poetry once again in a compulsory module. I was shown a video of John Cooper Clarke and I had never realised people actually performed poetry. We studied the craft; sonnets, haiku, beat, free verse, all that wonderful stuff and yet, I still didn’t understand what poetry was. But still, I had no idea what he did to write his blindingly funny and evocative verse. I wrote a collection of poems, all free verse and rhyming in places, straying all over the page with very little editing and got a high 2:1 for it. I had no idea what I had created. The feedback on my sheet said I had produced an array of intriguing images and should seek to develop my personality, through my poetry. I had no idea what this meant, so instead, I refused to take poetry the following year.
I developed as a writer. I wrote short stories, lyrics and plays, monologues that used this beaty, rhymey style I had discovered in my youth. Instead of spreading messages of self hatred, I used it as a way to explore the things in my head; the scenarios I could encounter, the people I could be. I realised poetry is the most free form of writing, the most evocative way of expression because it’s so personal. No guitars. No actors. Just you and the other. They sit and listen, you throw your voice at them, it hits like a custard pie and they ribbon your ears with appreciation. It’s the sweetest music.
I decided to road test my poems. Performance is the best critical process for me; as well as being a load of fun. I found out that The Railway in Winchester had an open mic night and I decided to grab a bunch of poetry from my collection and perform it. I was more nervous than I’d ever been, even more than doing my Aural French exam next to my really attractive teacher. This was like standing in a room filled with her. My diction was shocking. I was vibrating, which gave me an unpleasant poetic vibrato. And I was last on. Pressure! But I got through it and received applause. Feedback punched me the moment I was embraced by my supportive friends. They said that I should definitely go again. The host of the night even said she liked my stuff. Instantly my performance adrenaline and passion flared and before I knew it, poetry became the main focus of my degree and writing.
Since that very first trembly performance, I have been performing as much as I can to get over the stage fright and stuttering. I have performed in Winchester, Reading, Guildford, London, Ipswich and most notably Southampton, which has been the fuelling force in my journey as a performance poet. Open poetry nights like 451 at the Nuffield Theatre and Archimedes Screw Showcases at The Art House Gallery Cafe have been the most supportive of my progression. They not only allowed me to throw my voice at an eager and appreciative crowd, but they also introduced me to many spoken word artists and performance poets, who have since become huge inspirations for my work. I often find myself infested with words after each performance, which I rush home to catch on paper, ready to become a poem I may then perform at a later date… After lots of editing of course. Also, as part of my process, I have been writing a poem everyday as part of a challenge set by my now girlfriend, so I’m always exercising the poetic muscle. I’m currently on poem 384. Hold your ‘awws.’
My performance and poems have become stronger, to the point where I have won two poetry slams and organised my own poetry night. I still have a reputation to build but I’m positive about my future in performance poetry and I have way too much fun to ever contemplate giving it up. I have met some of the most talented and amazing people through my progression too, which just shows how poetry is supposed to unite and be spoken; rather than lurking underneath your bed, insulting you why you sleep. I can’t wait to see where my voice throws me next. And now, the shakes on stage have ceased too.
Here is Poem 364, which I performed at the last 451:
I’m quite a grounded person, so there are times
where I wonder if my gestures
could have been more grand for you,
lightning eyes. After all, you’re the dawn
and sun burst cloud burner
and I’m the kid in his garage,
hoping the door is high enough to conduct
your electricity, to catch your little knocking
*tzt tzt* fists, not that I want to contain you.
I’m happy for you to sky rocket off
and touch all the metal in this scrap heap world
we call home, but if I reassemble a pylon
with my gestures, will you recur around each year?
I know the weather is an empty promise
and I would speak less gravity but wow,
you’re oxygen with a few too many electrons,
so I get that iron taste of rain,
when I breathe you in for too long,
though it’s much to my tongue’s fancy,
the hairs stand on my head,
make me a positively charged porcupine
with all my quills bolt upright
and at night when I think of you,
you look like shiver scissor cuts across the clouds,
scattered, not that I don’t admire
your curves, your arches, your reactions,
it’s just hard describing you to my parents.
‘What’s she like?’
‘Her temper’s a force of nature.’
It might be jagged of me,
but you can thunder around me any day
and I’ll bolt your way the moment
the weather represents my perfect day,
you and all the instability in the air
when you flash by me. And I promise
you won’t have to be naked either,
I have a pulse orb dressing gown you can wear
so my hands don’t scar, only feel your tickle,
despite your absolute power to strip a tree.
Though I wouldn’t mind it if you did that to me.
The next 451 event will be on 19 August at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.