Wednesday 26th April, 2017 at York Theatre Royal (Studio).
Words and Whippets has been around since 2013. It’s a platform for ‘the finest Yorkshire poets that God’s own country has to offer’ and each year, a selection of northern poets are gifted with the chance to share their work with a good-natured audience – both those who are fans and those who are spoken-word-curious. Although I’ve seen spoken word YouTube videos, this was my first experience of seeing an event like this live, and I wasn’t sure what to expect; I enjoy the odd video but I wasn’t sure that a few hours would work for me. I also didn’t expect to laugh quite so much, so I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the spoken word videos I’ve been watching are actually a teeny tiny drop in a very large ocean. I’m certainly glad that I went – and I’ll be going back for more come Words and Whippets #6.
This fifth run of the gig featured Katie Greenwood, a sweet voiced poet with quaint poems on the everyday; with a child-like delivery and twee smiles in just the right places, she takes you on a childhood journey of realisation and realism. She also touched on more sobering subjects which allowed her to pack a punch while beguiling with her gentle delivery. Andy Bennett, as someone straddling both the worlds of stand-up and poetry it seems, picked up the pace and upped the score on the profanity meter with flair. He had us in stitches with weird and wonderful lexical combinations, highly relatable narratives and plenty of perceptive observations speaking volumes about the minutiae of life. Hannah Davies was a change of style and tone again, with blisteringly personal narrative poetry alongside some more comical commentary – which, as a matter of fact, also provided some empowering messages and a siren-call to self worth.
Henry Raby, our compère, also shared some of his work, which off-set the jaws of some of the more political members of the audience momentarily but also provided some of the most thought-provoking, political poems of the evening. He also took on the challenge of writing a poem during the interval, based only on a selection of directives from the audience…it was intriguing, but in his own words, had ‘no legs’. Closing the gig was Kate Fox, rather a big deal on the poetry scene, as the very lively Raby emphatically relayed to us re her repeated appearances on BBC Radio shows as well as various other impressive achievements. Fox was every bit the headliner, with instant rapport and the easy confidence of experience. Her poetry (as well as her delivery, and to an extent, her accent) put me in mind of Victoria Wood more than once (this is a hefty compliment, for I adore VW). The northern charm, the quick wit and the clever combinations with oh-so-perfectly-selected words were very much a highlight and I enjoyed her stint thoroughly.
It’s an evening well spent if you find yourself at a Words and Whippets gig; it’s a friendly crowd, a very relaxed atmosphere and plenty to get you laughing as well as thinking. It’s not a bunch of people nodding while feigning their best ‘thinking face’. Nor is it a showcase of poetry requiring a PHD and a monocle (although Bennett is fond of a classical reference and a little pride with his complex knowledge of structural terminology). It’s actually an important gig to attend if you still think that poetry is stuffy or indulgent; I’ve heard plenty of poets explaining that poetry is primarily written to be heard and not read, and this gig is a glowing example of how poetry can be thoroughly enrapturing. With brilliant delivery, poetry becomes more vibrant and more satisfying, for sure. To hear the words delivered as intended often provides a refreshing take on language, and it’s not until you see the physicality of the poet that a specific line hits the right note for an audience I think. So, get yourself to a Words and Whippets gig and hear original poetry as it was intended to be received, from the talented folk who wrote it.