The queer community are taking over the spoken word scene and we are here for it!


Can you hear it? The ruckus of a room filled with reuniting friends. The shameless self-promotion plugs. Pages rustling and rifled through as performers attempt to find their pieces. And then, the spotlight’s glow descends. It fills the room the same way as the emcee’s voice booms. It’s time to take the mic. There’s a build of snapping fingers and mmmm-ing, and then, the audience’s roar soars… 

The above is just a peek through the doorway’s crack at how it feels going to a spoken word poetry night; there’s truly nothing else that emulates this atmosphere. During lockdown I fell head over heels in love with performance poetry, and for the past year it has completely changed my life. 

For those of you unfamiliar and only experience of spoken word is this scene from 22 Jump Street, spoken word poetry is quite literally poetry written for the stage. Often competitions called slams are held, a tradition starting out in 1980s Chicago, where poets go head-to-head with one another, a fun way for people to begin building up their reputation in the scene as well as get some immediate feedback on new poems. 

Being a smaller scale art form, it’s not as heavily scrutinised, so spoken word artists generally have more freedom in what they say, giving more voice to those marginalised by mainstream media. Comparatively, page poetry notably resorts more to metaphors, a tool traditionally used within queer poetry to conceal feelings we previously couldn’t. Combining flamboyant language with a love of performance, spoken word is considered a much more accessible take on poetry and a perfect art form for many queer people.

The performance poetry community is small but mighty, with word of mouth being our key weapon of choice to bring us together. Events offer a uniquely emotive experience for all listening. It’s politically charged, calling out those in power. Poets may also share personal moments, make us cackle with laughter, or bawl our eyes out. The scene and nights are also extremely queer. Truly some of the UK’s biggest names and slam champions are openly queer and a main theme within their writing. Names like Joelle Taylor, Jasmine Gardosi, and Kathryn O’Driscoll

Looking inwards, there are queer poets everywhere hosting open mics, releasing pamphlets, and uplifting each other. Much like the queer community, the spoken word community (at times a chosen family) is also incredibly close and once you know one person you know the entire local scene, next thing you know you’re getting feedback from some of your faves.

While it’s rare to find a poetry night not filled with a gaggle of gays, here’s a list of some LGBTQIA+ specific nights across the UK and online; most include an open mic, a place you can safely start sharing your words:

Incite LGBT+ Cabaret – Predominantly on Zoom

Hear My Voice – The Rondo Theatre, Bath. Next event Saturday 30 September, headlined by Eryn McDonald (they/them) & Andie Davies (they/them)

Queer the Mic – The Brunswick Live, Brighton

PUNCHING UP! Punk Poetry Against Transphobia -Online, next event Friday 15 September, headlined by Rick Dove (he/him), AJ McKenna, Clare Shaw (they/them), Edalia Day (she/her), Tyrone Lewis (he/him), Jon Kinsman (he/him), Chris Cambell (he/they), and Mithago Craze (she/they).

Sad Poets Doorstep Club –The Portal Bookshop, York

London Queer Writers

Sounds Queer – Dina, Sheffield

Poetrylgbt  – Open mic, 1 October online, 25 October, The Two Brewers, London, featuring Andreena Leeanne (she/her)

The Big Queer Poetry Show – Sponsored by DIVA

Time of the Month – Open mic, 8 October, Café 5, Bristol 

Soft Butch – Next event 14 September featuring Aiysha Humphreys (they/them), Eryn McDonald (they/them), and Emery (they/them), The Jam Jar, Bristol

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