BBC 1Xtra has been celebrating spoken word (a catch-all term for poetry and storytelling with a little bit of overlap into MC territory) with their recent series Words First. Spoken word is one of the freshest and most fertile performance scenes in the UK, an exciting, thought-provoking medium that prizes wordplay and sharp thinking, and has made stars of George the Poet, Kate Tempest, GREEdS and Hollie Poetry.
Here's a beginner's guide, taking in the history of the form; and time now a few tasters, to get you in the mood, starting with (what else?) a poem:
And here's a selection of spoken word performers talking about their work, including George The Poet, Suli Breaks, Kate Tempest, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hollie Poetry, Amaal Said and Toby Thompson...
As part of his investigation and celebration of the scene, 1Xtra DJ Target has committed a weekly slot to spoken word performers as part of his 100% HomeGrown show on Sundays at 4pm.
Here he is talking with Birmingham spoken word artist Deci4Life about the excitement of the grassroots scene:
If anyone is a standard-bearer for just how far this spoken word thing can be taken in the right hands, it's Kate Tempest. Not only has she toured with godfather figures such as John Cooper Clarke, Benjamin Zephaniah and Scroobius Pip, her debut album Everybody Down was nominated for a Mercury award, her skills as a theatrical dramatist have been in demand by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in 2013 she won the Ted Hughes award for her theatrical spoken-word performance Brand New Ancients.
You can hear her in full flow here:
...and the clip below, in which she explains her philosophy to Armando Iannucci (the comedian and satirist behind TV's The Thick of It, among other things), is a wonderful thing too:
It might be tempting to conclude that this new spoken word scene is strictly a London thing, but that's not true at all. There are new and exciting performers appearing from all over the UK, notably Deci4Life and Polarbear in Birmingham, and the Young Identity writers' collective in Manchester.
East Anglian native Hollie McNish - better known as Hollie Poetry - even explored her feelings about the way London tends to dominate British cultural life in this poem for Radio 4.
And then there's George the Poet, who has become a similarly inspirational figure within the spoken word scene as Kate, but pushes his poetry into more musical, less theatrical areas.
George has more than done his homework in order to craft thoughtful rhymes, having studied politics, psychology and sociology at Cambridge, and as you can see, Radio 1 and 1Xtra's affection for him (he was chosen to launch the Hackney Weekend in 2012) is entirely mutual:
And just to prove this stuff is not simply for listeners, thinkers and chin-strokers, here he is doing something quite brilliant with Fetty Wap's Trap Queen in the Live Lounge.