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

Poem of the Month (Not spoken word)

September 2017 – God

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Every month we are going to publish one of Billy Pilgrim’s poems that is a little different from his spoken word, because, we think written poetry is still badass. This month, we’ve got a free verse/flash fiction poem called God.

Is God real? and if so what is God like? Find out what Billy thinks below.

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God.

We sit around, strangers to one another, sharing stories that we have all told a thousand times to a hundred people but with the energy as if it was the first. Our ever so modern and contemporary guise is a bib around our necks that catches all of our bullshit before it can drip through the gaps in the bench. Sometimes it drips through and mixes a cocktail so sweet that it rots the enamel on our teeth.

Impressive impressions are digested blissfully between us and fizz is flattened in our glasses from lack of attention, the whole of the world is held in suspension, because of our conversation. The illusion of apocalypse rings in our ears, and carries an overused hope through the radio waves to faraway places where they don’t give a shit, because they’re all starving and its killing their kids.

I look at my watch but don’t check the time, you distract me with chatter about the existence of god. The circle is broken and the world comes back in to view, and we have to acknowledge its existence because we are interrupted by an outsider. It seems the zombies of reality have learned basic motor skills and speech and now they want to throw a conversational party at our newly vanished picnic bench.

The zombie tells us that he has met god, and she is a woman, and she is a boring woman. You two are angry, not because she is a woman, you swallowed that pill in a practiced manner, but boring you cannot abide. How is it possible for the author of existence to be boring? This writer of everything has such an imagination that they must be a wonder to encounter.

The zombie groans and says something that means nothing but attempts to convince us that the God is boring and just sits at home poking a fire with a plastic stick, smelling the fumes, and sticking the end to things for a moment. The zombie says that everybody is just poking a fire with a plastic stick really, even the best people like David Beckham do nothing more than smell plastic fumes.

We all imagine David Beckham for a moment and then we see that the zombie is right, and that nothing and nobody is special, even God means nothing and isn’t anything but another person, in another room, and maybe her creating everything was special and we are grateful because it benefits our bullshit bibs and facilitates our fizzless drinks and we are grateful.

But really, we realise that even the most creative soul that ever existed and created existence and me and you and the other guy with us and you reading this or hearing this, you too aren’t special all of the time. Sometimes you just sit at home like everybody else poking the fire with a plastic stick and washing your underpants and eating crisps from a bag that you’ve opened upside down.

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So what do you think about God? let us know in the comments. You should check out our other work in the videos/music tabs, and take a look at our events page for all of our spoken word performances in Norwich and elsewhere.

Stay safe out there,

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