It is official, the spoken word poetry scene is alive and kicking in South London. From Forest Hill to Peckham, Bermondsey to Borough poets are crowding out the backs of pubs and squeezing themselves into fringe theatre bars and basement galleries all over the place.
When you think of poetry events it is easy to picture a dingy room full of people in tweed reading out of moleskins but nights like at The Albany in Deptford show just how wrong this stereotype is. Currently billed on its own flyer as ‘the coolest poetry night in South London’ this event mixes an idiosyncratic line-up of poets, rappers and musicians with coveted open mic slots and a laid back hosting style. Almost always jam packed full of effortlessly beautiful young audiences you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a Shoreditch bar, not a poetry night in Deptford.
Run by a collective of poets including Simon Mole, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, Mista Gee and Adam Kammerling Chill Pill has gained hugely in popularity over its three year life time because of the vitality of its regular acts, the diversity of its line-ups and its open, welcoming atmosphere. This month Deanna Rodger played host to UK poets David J and Ross Sutherland and Chicago’s Kristiana Rae Colón all incredibly talented performers who each brought something uniquely different to the mic.
Ross Sutherland, from renowned collective Aisle 16, was first up with a set that incorporated footage from an old video tape he’d found in his loft. He had the audience in stitches with a poem that he told over the looping credits to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was a heartfelt and thought-provoking piece about his experiences of coping with his Grandad’s death.
Chicago Def Jam poet Kristiana Rae Colón”s style was very different from any UK poet I have ever seen. With a punchy fast delivery her poems are imbued with complex imagery and lilting rhythms that blur the edges between where poetry ends and rap begins.
The final poet of the evening was spoken word veteran David J (top video) who is simply astounding, a rare and unique voice. His verbal dexterity and ability to shift effortlessly between persona’s on stage is incredible to watch, his poems full of acerbic wit and insight.
Woven in between these astonishing featured acts were the open mic slots and mini-features from Chill Pill Poets. Rapper Adam Kammerling got the audience going in the second half with tasters from his EP The Letters and although it was slightly awkward at first shouting ‘pill’ to his ‘chill’ we got there in the end. His energetic, intelligent music is well worth a listen too.
The quality of open mic at Chill Pill is always consistently high, it’s a night that attracts poets who like to listen just as much as they like to perform which generally means when they do take the mic they a. get on with it, not hogging the limelight forever and b. are humble and self-effacing. I enjoyed all of the performances but the one which really stood out was Molly Arenberg an American poet who’s gentle, controlled performance of a poem about struggling with her girlfriend’s parents’ homophobia was incredibly moving.
On 23rd May are celebrating their 3rd Birthday with a much larger show in The Albany’s main auditorium. now and quote early bird for a discounted rate (next two weeks only). Chill Pill also run events at the Soho and Arcola Theatres and have recently launched their own radio show at the Roundhouse in Camden.