Rhythm Assisted Poetry

An Insight into poetry and rap from Zoka

I was recently surprised, and subsequently not surprised, to discover a theory concerning the etymology of the word “rap” from my recent collaborator on Words with Friends 3, Piers Harrison-Reid. He heard the theory from a Poet called Anthony Anaxogorou, who claimed that “rap” actually stands for “Rhythm And Poetry” or “Rhythm Assisted Poetry”. This seemed fitting to me, as my attempts to inject more rhythm into my poetry is what unwittingly transformed me into a rapper roughly a year ago.

Since then, I have been fascinated by the relationship between the two art forms, at times indistinguishable, at others starkly contrasting. After all, calling Lil’ Pump a poet is just as hard to swallow as calling Carol Anne Duffy a rapper. Yet, as the fusion of hip-hop and poetry within every ‘Words with Friends’ project clearly demonstrates, both genres are married in their exploration of the musicality of language.

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This is something that Piers, a poet by preference, also realised during his collaboration with me on the song ‘Flo’, on Words with Friends 3. ‘It’s definitely a different way of using words and takes me back to when I used to write poems more to classical forms in school,’ he said, when asked about how he found the writing process of rap compared to poetry. Yet he never let the constraints of the form ‘come at the expense of telling a story or sticking to a theme.’

For Piers, rap was more “rhythm constrained poetry” than “rhythm assisted poetry”. However, this constraint functions similarly to those in any other poetic form, providing a framework for poetic expression. What differentiates rap from these forms, excluding the way in which it is consumed, is its capacity for flexibility and reinvention. More traditional poetic forms often grow stagnant over time, yet rap seems to continually find ways to radically reinvent itself, as clearly evidenced by its innumerable styles ranging from boom bap to grime to trap. The stylistic range of this poetic form stretches the very parameters of poetry, justifying the creation of another word to define itself against it. Yet “Rhythm And Poetry” still subtly holds on to its identity as poetry the same way a child retains the traits of its parent, running towards and away from them simultaneously.

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As for my own practice, you will see by clicking the following link: Growing Pains – Zoka that in my debut EP entitled ‘Growing Pains’ I treat each song as a poem. This means that each word I use, each image I evoke, is not wasted in the expression of the emotion or theme or story I am trying to explore. Where many rappers ignore thematic cohesiveness in favour of satisfying punchlines, and many poets ignore rhythmic and oratory intonations in favour of intricate images, I am committed to creating a hybrid between the two mediums. This is a process I believe to be happening already within rap, pioneered by artists such as Kojey Radical and Samsa. I believe Words with Friends 3 to be another step in this direction, with the Heartsease Kid’s production enforcing a musical delivery from the poets that makes it almost indistinguishable from “Rhythm Assisted Poetry”.

To hear what I’m talking about, click these links YouTubeApple MusicSpotify

Crazy and creating. My experience of mental health and art.

A personal insight from Thomas Wolfe

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@Tomarsewolfe // www.tomwolfe.me

Mental health is something we are getting better at talking about. It hasn’t always been this way. When I first started showing signs of depression, I was sent to describe my feelings to a man I had never met before, I met him for 20 minutes and I never saw him again. What I did see however, was two years of swallowing pills and luckily for me, writing poetry.

When my feelings of depression set in, I was already a prominent member of the spoken word scene in Brighton. My work was rudimentary, I was adapting a love of rap and trying to make it poetry and if I am being honest, it wasn’t always working. Rewind back to that appointment I had with the mysterious medical professional, he kept asking me why I felt the way that I did, urging me to be honest. He did not believe I was being honest when every one of his questions were answered with “I don’t know.” But that was the most honest I had been in months.

Isolation played a huge part in my mental health battle, I had a friend who told me that during her depressive episodes everything sharp had to be hidden, or she would use it. The sharpest thing in my room was my pen and I really put it to good use. I decided to try the honesty angle, I wrote as much as I could about what I was feeling, working hard to make them stylistically pleasing. I wrote about real things, I wrote about pretend things, I wrote some poems so awful I am happy to have forgotten them.

One particularly bad evening, I sent an email to Scroobius Pip, I told him all about my struggles. I don’t know why, I am a fan of his poetry but the poor bloke did not need to wake up to my maniacal ramblings. Woke up to them he did, and he replied. What a gent, he commended me for the way I was dealing with my problems and told me to carry on carrying on. Its funny he was just as much a stranger to me as the doctor I was sent to initially but I had no problem connecting with him, because of his artwork. That is the power of creativity to those who would not consider themselves creative. When art is good, we connect with it and those emotional bonds can be strong and can also help us heal.

Similarly, when I am on stage I perform a lot of material about mental health and it always shocks me how many people approach me after spoken word gigs and tell me how relatable my poetry is. Young and old alike have told me they have been through the same, there’s something bitter sweet in that, I always feel sad that these people felt sad but also somewhat relieved that my sadness was not mutually exclusive.

A lot of good work came from that creative period in my life. Of the 100s of poems I wrote the best ones formed the basis of my debut collection Thoughts of a Dying Youthwhich was released in March 2017. Below are two of my poems that really sum up how my mind was working during those dark two years.

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While it would be naive to say that I was cured of my mental health problems because of poetry (I am not sure I am really cured), poetry has helped me express myself, it has helped me connect with people and it has helped me relate more openly to society. This has created more intimate bonds with those around me and together we are all just working through our troubles and letting the good times roll.

Talking about Mental Health is important, and I have discussed mine extensively on my blog. While talk can often be enough, it is vital that we take action to help ourselves and those around us. Below is a list of some excellent organisations that can offer much needed support when it comes to mental health.

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.thecalmzone.net/

http://www.together-uk.org/

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/

 

 

 

Spoken Word Introducing – Thomas Wolfe

This winter we’ve been looking to add a new poet to our collective, and we did this through an open submissions process. A load of fantastic poets applied and that made choosing just one really difficult. That is, until we found Thomas. Many readers will know that we are headed on tour this summer, and we will be releasing a new volume of ‘Words w/ Friends’, which will of course, feature our latest addition to the team. If you want to know more about the tour and the album then click here – Words w/ Friends volume 3 – What to Expect, but if you want to know more about Thomas then keep your eyes reading right here, Introducing –

Thomas Wolfe

Thomas is a Brighton based spoken word poet who started out his relationship with words as an MC. He clearly has an impeccable grasp of the English language, and the meter to which his poems conform seems like a hangover from his past profession. Thomas told us that he is extremely excited to delve into working with music again, and sonically we think he fits the project perfectly. Below you can listen to his piece ‘House Party’ which was long listed for Outspoken Poetry In Fill prize 2018, and will really give you an insight into what Thomas is all about.

 

When he isn’t performing, Thomas takes to the page, His first collection of poetry, entitled ‘Thoughts of a Dying Youth’ was printed by Knightmare Print and released in 2017. It deals with themes of love, hate, and mental instability as well as social issues. It is a collection created from over a decades worth of material and is presented in a “harsh street style” which assists the reader in absorbing the hard-hitting nature of the work. If you wanna buy the book, look for it at Waterstones, or get it direct from Thomas here – Thoughts of a Dying Youth. Readers can expect to see another book from Wolfe in 2018 and this will hit the shelves in June, complimenting the release of ‘Words w/ Friends Vol 3’  perfectly, because this is also scheduled for this summer.

Thomas Wolfe whole heartedly believes that Shrek 2 is the best in the series, and we wanna know what you think about that? If you disagree send us a strongly worded email and we can pass the message on. Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for more of Thomas in the coming months and maybe, you’ll see him in the flesh in a city near you come July. If you still haven’t has chance to listen to ‘Words w/ Friends Vol 2’ get on it here – Words w/ Friends Vol 2

Stay safe out there,

BP-THK

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Words w/ Friends volume 3 – What to Expect

To give you a well needed rest from the words of Billy Pilgrim, we have enlisted the help of Words w/ Friends poet Tamar Moshkovitz to tell you all about what we’ve got coming up. So here she is –

It was only a few months ago that Words w/ Friends vol. 2 wrapped up with a beautiful release gig in the Owl Sanctuary, but Billy Pilgrim and the Heartsease Kid are already raring to go on volume 3 – and I can guarantee this one will be even more diverse, challenging and wide-reaching than the last, because Words w/ Friends is going on tour!

The project will sweep its way across the country, opening with Glasgow on the 10th of July and stopping off at Leeds, Bristol and Brighton among other places before wrapping up with a homecoming gig in Norwich on the 22nd of July. Tour dates will be released soon so keep an eye out and don’t miss your nearest gig.

If BPTHK’s latest releases – Synthetic Strawberry featuring Minty Taylor, and I Love You Dennis Bergkamp – are anything to go by, this volume will bring us some more of the seamless fusion between their mellow, flawless lo-fi beats and rhythmic, dynamic lyricism. And there’s some old friends joining them back for this one. Minty Taylor is coming back for the third time with more of his achingly gritty poetry and evocative performance style; Imogen Stirling will be bringing the irresistible combination of a beautiful Scottish lilt and an unapologetic lyrical honesty; and Zoka will throw in some more of his unique and utterly sweeping rapping skills.

Also coming back are Piers Harrison-Reid and his effortless, fluid sincerity; the bewildering but wise Sven Stears and his poignant, melodic storytelling; Rob Carnie, man of mystery and alluringly vibrant poetic imagery; and me, Tamar Moshkovitz, hoping to push my own limits this time and to let my voice come through loud and clear on stage.

Thanks to some amazing submissions, we’re also going to have some new poets on this volume who will be announced soon – you don’t want to miss their names so keep a keen eye out.

I reckon Words w/ Friends volume 3 is shaping up to be unmissable – bigger, better, and more collaborative than ever – so save the date: the 12th of June, which is when Volume 3 will be released to Youtube, Soundcloud and Bandcamp. No release gig this time, but plenty of gigs to catch over the summer! If you still haven’t heard Vol 2 check it here – Words w/ Friends Vol 2

Make sure to stay updated, see you soon and stay excellent.

TM

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What Was it like: Words w/ Friends Launch – Sven Stears

It’s Sunday 5am and I’m awake and actually moving. Ahead of me sits half a day of travel from Bristol to Norwich and back again. Over the next 48 hours I will spend 14 of them on a coach. And probably another 6 wondering around lost. But, between the outbound journey and the return leg is one of the best experiences I’ve had since I started performing poetry 4 years ago. When you see open submission calls on Facebook part of you never expects them to go anywhere. There are a lot of time wasters out there in the poetry world, but between Billy Pilgrim and his cousin, the Heartsease Kid, rarely will you see so much ambition. Not to mention kindness. BPTHK and their family and friends are some of the most open and welcoming people I’ve ever met. From their first hello to their final goodbyes there were smiles on their faces, warmth in their hearts, and drive in their eyes.

Billy Pilgrim and The Heartsease Kid love what they do and they are going to show you. They aligned the resources, got the studio time, found some knockout poets, produced the music, edited the tracks, printed the CDs, had the artwork made, booked the venue, and gathered us all here.

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Sunday night. Norwich. Packed venue. 9 nervous artists. There’s a trepidant air. Few of us have done this before, But then bang. We’re off. No turning back. The open mic’ers are warming the crowd. One by one to whoops and cheers. I’ve not seen Norwich’s poetry before but these guys could give London a run for their money.

Before we know it. It’s our turn. Billy is on stage announcing Tamar is to open the preceedings. She does this with the form and grace you rarely see in someone so young and new to the scene. Minty is second with a weird trip of a poem about hostages and sausages that stabs you with hidden meaning.
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Billy himself is third with a love poem that matches the track in the background so fluidly is clear this isn’t his first rodeo. Now it’s me. I have to be honest I was bricking it. More than when I performed at the Albert hall. This requires perfect timing. But before I even realise it’s over. I’m jumping the stage wishing I could go again as strangers and new friends clap my back.
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Imogen’s Scottish accent rings out behind me and I turn around to her piece marrying beautifully more traditional slam style poetry to the rhythmic lowfi beats. Zoka takes next and rocks a proper lo-fi hip hop poem/rap that has the whole room bopping to his natural rhythm. Piers performs a poem about life between cigarettes that vibrates your heartstrings through the feeling of his words and his deep amazing voice.
A few of us jump up to do second pieces before Ella gets up to do an all-too relatable poem about relationships feeling like scabs. Piers is last to wrap things up with a final piece and a big thank you to the whole room, and an ad-libbed lot of love to Billy, and of course, the Heartsease kid, whose beats the entire night were nothing other than godlike. Lo-fi with kick and retro vibe. Flawless.
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All too soon it’s over. I’m being whisked away from the after party to stay the night with Billy and the Kid’s family, Who are lovely and woke me up with coffee and absynthe. A few short hours later. I’m on the coach home. To soon. Sometimes. When you see open submission calls on Facebook it’s a waste of time. Sometimes 14 hours of travel is nothing but miles you could have missed. But this? This was perfect.
Thank you so much to everyone. To Billy and the kid. To the words with friends artist’s. To Paul and Sharon. To the open Mic’ers. And to everyone who came.
Sven Stears
P.s you can listen to the album (and buy it) from BPTHK’s Bandcamp or you can buy a physical copy of the CD from the Merchandise page.