I love to see people express themselves in artistic and articulate ways. I also like to be challenged on what my perceptions are of art and all things creative. But most of all I'm always inspired when I witness people who care deeply about their craft and produce work that is just simply good.
That's what I encountered at the LGBTQIA poetry night at King's College on the 3rd November a few weeks ago. So let me explain this rather epic acronym: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual. It's a bit of a mouthful, I know, and for many, some of these references may seem intimidating and complex. Not to worry, you are not alone - a simple tap, tap on Google and it's godly ways will explain what they all mean (gotta love Google).
Back in the day, I remember when I was at Uni and the 'B' had only just been added to the 'LG' in society groups (boy I'm showing my age!). I think what this long and constantly growing acronym shows (or what I would hope it shows as the world becomes more and more exposed to aspects of society that were otherwise underground due to ignorance and discrimination) is that we're simply becoming more knowledgeable, empathetic and understanding to the concept that the human condition is more than simply male or female, straight or gay, black or white; it's complex.
And it's this complexity that inspired a most talented young man of the name Travis Alabanza. The poetry event was his brainchild. This was his motivation and vision in his own words:
I am really needing and looking for queer and/or/trans Black and Brown souls to perform and share their words. Our university's LGBTQ scene is extremely whitewashed, and I am fighting for that to change- so I am hoping this event takes up as much space as possible. It is free for anyone to attend, but the real push at the moment is to find more people to perform and share at the open mic. Come along and celebrate the voices of those that are so often not heard and please share this event to anyone you feel may be interested. This event is welcome to everyone, but open mic slots are for those identifying as both as LGBTQIA and as a Person of Colour. We will be holding a strict safe-space policy.
When Travis invited me to his event, I was struck by his determined passion to alter his current situation. Being the only 'brown' face in his LGBTQIA (whooo that's long) poetry club at King's College was a serious issue for him and he knew he had to illuminate this to his present poetry contemporaries.
I found this to be strangely ironic; that a group, created to represent and showcase those who are often subjected to prejudice were, within themselves displaying a level of exclusion and, dare I say, prejudice too- even if it was unwittingly so.
Well, Mr Alabanza was soon to put an end to that...
When I arrived at Guy's Bar, on the college campus, I was thrilled to see such a healthy turnout and the beautiful sea of multicoloured faces. Travis' influence had spread far and wide; and the abundant size of the audience was a certain reflection upon the need to host such an event.
Being on a University campus really brought back some memories. I had forgotten how cheap everything is and the conversations- oh those conversations....every so often I'd eavesdrop on students citing War and Peace, Dante and other epic, obscure novels and canonical texts just because they could. "Was I ever like that?!" I thought, ...yes, I'm sure I was but then life after uni hit me with a vengeance and somehow quoting from Paradise Lost seemed a little irrelevant when a council tax bill needed to be paid...sigh...I miss those pre C-tax days...
The night, itself, was full of mirth, good food and drink and some really heart felt performances.
There were 3 poets who stood out for me:
Xana, whose poem was a cautionary tale, of sorts, written in the form of a nursery rhyme as it revealed the sinister truth of our colonial history. The light hearted, almost sing-song rhythm of the poem juxtaposed brilliantly with the sharp and cutting storyline. It was almost disconcerting at times, rather than amusing, because it brought home how much is omitted from our historical teachings at school. And that void has a direct influence to the way in which growing children view their world and other races. It needs to change- perhaps Xena could infiltrate the schooling curriculum with her poetry...that would certainly start a revolution.
Simeon, whose complex and delicately written poems about love and relationships were so authentic and relatable. I was deeply impressed with the imagery he conjured with few and simple lines. And his voice! Soft, mesmeric and coaxing. I could listen to him all day!
And there was also Ian, whom has a one man show in development. Ian had an intelligent, humorous and very natural comic timing to his poetry. It was a pleasure to watch him as it really felt like he was enjoying himself along with us. If his performance is anything to go by, I'm pretty sure his one man show will be excellent.
Yet the poet whom stood out for me the most was the organiser himself Travis Alabanza. Now | don't think Travis realises just how accomplished he is as a writer and performer. He has a delivery that is confident and very mature. It's clear. captivating, with the perfect balance of emotion and intellect. Combine that with his extremely witty, earnest and observant words and you've got power house, a lyrical force to be reckoned with.
It was truly an achievement what Travis brought together that night. It is the first ever event like that at the University (King's College, London Bridge) and I'm certain it's the beginning of many.
My favourite of Travis' poems that evening was based upon an incident he had when he was a young boy. It's about how an seemingly innocent remark can bring an end to innocence itself.
A story that I, and many others, can absolutely relate to. A funny, poignant, sardonic and emotionally honest piece of work.
Have a listen below:
Oh, yeah, and if you're wondering whether I performed like I said I might...well I did!! WHOOP WHOOP!
I told you, I'd do it!
Make sure you're there at the next one!