Do you know about The Poetry Takeaway? You should, because it’s awesome! It’s an old burger van converted into a mobile poetry emporium that goes around the UK (and a little further!), loaded up with chefs who cook up poems for the public. Give the poet a few words, or a subject, or a question, or who you’d like the poem for, and 20-odd minutes later, you have a brand new poem made just for you – and hopefully just the way you like it (even if you didn’t know you liked poetry in the first place!).
It’s a brilliant thing to be part of as a poet, a proper way to connect with people through poetry. I’ve worked the van a fair few times now, and it’s always surprising and challenging – especially the Poetry Takeaway: Live version of things. Taking the speed-writing pressure cooker up a notch, we’re tasked with writing a piece based on audience suggestions in the time it takes for a performer to do a set – 15 minutes or so – and then perform it. Here’s a Live poem I wrote on Saturday for Wimbledon Bookfest – pretty pleased to have included every single thing the audience shouted out!
The Wisdom of Wimbledon Bookfest
Today we are made of extremes:
bright-coloured double-rainbow skinned people
with dark film noir souls
all multi-faceted split light smiles
on top of deepening shades of greyed-out shadow.
We are rock ‘n’ rollers belting out anthems in showers
to the spinning slurp of the plug as the water spirals down
with our full-bodied full-throated voices
pounding our feet semi-slipping
like we’re pressing juicy red grapes to make the finest wine.
We are a lecture hall full of football supporters
economic law graduates chanting through our moustaches
mouths filled with gin and tonics
and hope for the future.
We whoosh into it:
kicking up pebbles on the shores of our dreams
which turn into conkers in our handes
be ready to battle anything
that gets in your way.
Break through those Pizza Express chains
the hot clay ovens that oppress you with their heat