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Interview with Gulb Slam poet Calum Collins

Following the March Gulb Slam that was held at the Gulbenkian Cafe earlier this month, I had a conversation with one of the performers – Calum Collins – to get his views on slam poetry. Calum performed a poem about falling in love. With a bat.

Sunny Singh: Do you fall in love with bats often?

Calum Collins: I’ve always had a thing for bats. Their hugs are the best.
And to be fair I didn’t know she was a bat at the time.

Sunny Singh: I’ve heard some of your bat-less pieces before and they’re often filled with things personal to your life – how do you think performance poetry is suited to that?

Calum Collins: It’s a voice thing. I articulate my point a lot better aloud than on the page so things that I find difficult to talk about normally in my personal life go into my performing. A lot of people find performance poetry a good way to be listened to.

Sunny Singh: And it can be incredibly funny, don’t you agree? Is there anything you’ve either written or heard in the last few years that stuck with you as comedy gold?

Calum Collins: I normally don’t write humour into my prose but I love messing around with timing in my performance. I was very proud of a vampire inspired blowjob joke, but what always sticks with me in terms of comedy is the Thick of It (Malcolm Tucker is the king of swearing) as well Dylan Moran. I saw Moran live and his surrealist deadpan is the best. He finished the night off by reading deliberately awful erotica.

I’m very proud of my preamble to a poem about being single in which I asked the crowd ‘Anyone here single?’ and when people cheered I told them, ‘That’s what desperation sounds like.’

Sunny Singh: Great examples there! I find it interesting you went to both TV and stand-up for them. What makes performance poetry, poetry, rather than a monologue or a piece of stand-up? Or do you think the line between poetry and other art forms is gradually getting blurred (not necessarily in a bad way)?

Calum Collins: It’s most definitely getting blurred but in a very good way. Got no time for purists. Spoken word comes from the same basic DNA as rap (not that I’m claiming to be a rapper, but I spit bars like nobody’s business) so you can see different influences. Comedy has a natural rhythm so poetry is ideal whereas there are pieces that are almost theatre, as the many different voices of poetry get involved. It’s a brilliant space to mess around in with different styles.

Sunny Singh: I see what you mean, the way the different stories and themes are shared is just as important as the content itself in this field. Do you try to be more and more creative in your delivery? (PSST MENTION THE FLIPBOARD. TOTALLY NOT LEADING THE WITNESS PSST)

Calum Collins: Actually I’ve been messing around with styles and techniques recently and no your honour I haven’t been led into talking about the flip pad I used in my last performance. Sorry couldn’t resist. I was trying to come up with a way to deliver a joke non-verbally (I’d had my tongue bitten out by a vampire girlfriend) and I was thinking about the Boy With Tape On His Face. He’s a stand-up comedian who doesn’t talk so all the jokes are delivered visually. I wanted to find a way to do that. The main inspiration and the leading force in flip pad based humour is Helen Seymour, another slam poet, who totters onto stage and delivers these surreal poems with a flip pad in hand. She has her timing with her flip pad down to a T, because she’s just so hypnotising in her performance. She drags you into this weird fantasy world and then shows you a drawing of a bear that’s become Satan. My flip pad usage cannot compare.

Sunny Singh: I love Boy With Tape On His Face! All of your sources of inspiration really show how performance poetry and spoken word can be used in a variety of ways to tell a particular story. Lastly, the last Gulb Slam was not as crowded as it usually is – would you like to say anything to those who still haven’t been to a Gulb Slam, perhaps because they have an outdated impression of poetry?

Calum Collins: It’s weird because slam has been going since the 80s and not enough people know about it. But if you come along you’ll laugh, you’ll listen to interesting stories, you’ll get a professional headline poet, you can listen to me drivel on, Dan Simpson the incredible host will make you laugh, there’s a bar, audience participation and more! And come off it: it’s a fiver. For two hours of fun. I can think of much worse ways to spend an evening.

Sunny Singh: My thoughts exactly, cheers for the talk Calum and I can’t wait to hear your next piece!

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