Meet the student spoken word poets you need to know about
Two of them have performed for BBC 1XTRA
At a time where students feel the least heard, it’s important we have a voice. Spoken word is as stylish as it is impactful, and there’s a revitalised revolution currently happening on campus that demands your attention.
We spoke to students across the country using spoken word as a way to discuss gender, their heritage and the issues that matter to them the most.
Marvell Fayose, Leicester, 1st year
Marvell is an actor, writer and spoken word poet in Leicester. He’s performed in BBC 1XTRA’s Words First competition and is part of the London-based poetry collective, Spit The Atom.
How did you get into spoken word?
I started writing around four years ago. I was thrown in at the deep end – my first performance was at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and I didn’t even memorise my poem because I was so nervous. After seeing the other talent that was there, I knew I had to take it seriously.
What do you typically speak about in your work?
I speak a lot about my Nigerian heritage, but also my upbringing – I come from an estate in East London where gun violence is prevalent. I’ve lost two friends to that, so it’s important for me to discuss these issues in my work.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve done within poetry?
It has to be BBC 1XTRA’s Words First competition as part of the London group. It was a really emotional time for me as I’d recently lost a loved one and felt quite distant from performing. That competition immediately pulled me back into it.
Why do you think spoken word is important?
It’s given people the courage to speak out against things they disagree with. It’s the most easily accessible way of doing so and has the ability to change people’s perceptions.
Damani Dennisur, Manchester, 2nd year
Damani is a spoken word poet and musician based in Manchester. He has performed in the Roundhouse Slam as well as BBC 1XTRA’s Words First competition. He is also part of the Manchester-based poetry collective, Young Identity.
How long have you been performing poetry for?
I began performing at 9 and joined my school’s Poetry Slam team at 11, where I performed non-stop. I was selected as Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate at 15 and I performed at memorials, festivals, and charity events. I then took a break for a few years but started again when I moved to Manchester for uni.
What do you typically write about?
It’s primarily a reflection of my life and the situation I’m in. I love storytelling and painting pictures with my words.
Was the poetry scene a welcoming environment to come into?
Yeah, it’s a rewarding environment as well. You can go far with poetry purely down to the support available to you from the spoken word community.
How would you describe spoken word as an art form?
It’s using language to our best ability, to describe the things we can’t usually. It’s powerful for the people writing it as it really does save lives. I’ve seen a lot of people go on to succeed in things unrelated to writing as a result.
Roma Havers, Manchester, MA
Roma is a spoken word poet and writer in Manchester. She’s performed for Push Festival as well as Hay Festival with the BBC. She’s also part of Manchester’s Young Identity poetry collective.
How did you get into performing poetry?
The first event I did was for Reclaim The Night in Manchester – an event to raise awareness of sexual and domestic violence. I performed to the whole of the Manchester Academy. I was extremely nervous but the crowd was amazing – I got the buzz for performing from there.
How would you describe your style?
It’s identity-driven but also quite personal. I recently wrote a poem about my Grandmother’s dementia, which has a very special place in my heart.
What would surprise most people about spoken word?
Most people don’t realise how therapeutic it can be. I teach writing poetry to others, and it’s often the case that once you get people writing, they’ve got a lot more to say than they thought.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working alongside a group of performers on a project about queer spaces. We’ll be working with people in the community, using their personal accounts to create something that hopefully makes a difference.
Connor Macleod, Bath Spa, MRes
Connor is a spoken word poet in Bath. He is co-host for Raise the Bar (a nationwide poetry event) and is currently having his first play produced in association with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I’d say I’m the poetry equivalent of a stand-up comedian. I like to make people laugh while discussing issues that are important to me.
What are the main themes in your work?
I find myself writing about relationships and love quite a lot. You can discuss gender and sexuality with a romantic poem, but also other issues like sexism or racism. I also like to include very niche references and twists.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a play for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre – it’s a one-woman show exploring what it means to be an internet celebrity. In uni, I’m also researching and developing a model for undergraduate spoken word education.
Why do you think spoken word has gained so much interest recently?
With the internet, it means you can be a performance poet in a bar – and people from anywhere in the world can see your work. It’s more accessible than ever.