This month, we catch up with Commonword’s Young Identity writer Isaiah Hull and his reason successes in national spoken word competition, Words First.
Tell me about you, as a writer and performance poet
First of all, shouts to the Black Gum Gang. I am a writer of things I see or have seen or would like to see, I’m kind of dishonest in a way when I write because I don’t necessarily tell the audience about myself or of my experiences. I’ve been performing for a while, my first ‘real’ performance was in 2010. I enjoy performing, but feel as though my writing needs to compete with my performance and vice versa. They need to be on par with each other and in that way, if my written content is better than my stage presence then I push the performance side to better myself.
What is Words First and why did you choose to enter?
Words First is a project co-organised by Roundhouse Theatre and BBC 1Xtra, its aim is to find aspiring/upcoming spoken word artists, like myself, around the UK to help further their career. I was pushed to sign up and applied online quite early on. It sounded quite good.
How did you find the workshops and what did you learn from them?
The workshops were encouraging and I learned a lot outside of the poetry side, Louise Wallwein was our mentor and she was so genuine and honest with us we could all be open with each other which is important when sharing art with strangers. I learned about different people’s truths and what we write for. In one workshop I remember Louise gave us homework of watching a poetry documentary and in it was an interview with Atilla the Stockbroker. And what he said was something about how his generation of poets made audiences shout, move and stand in their seats. I’m paraphrasing but it’s to that effect, he added that poets nowadays may have good literary techniques but it doesn’t compare, the question it made me ask is what does my poetry do to people?
Tell me a bit about the poems you performed during the heat(s). Why did you choose those particular poems?
I performed an untitled poem in the final showcase at the end of the Words First qualifying week. It was an alright poem, if you ask me, but I think I got through to this stage from my consistency throughout the week rather than the single performance. It was written towards the end of the week and that’s the poem we were asked to perform.
How did you feel when you found out you’d be representing the North West?
I felt a heavy pressure lifted from my shoulders and then a new one in the same place instantly. I was glad that I had gotten through, of course, but at the same time a huge responsibility for Manchester that I didn’t think I’d get in the first place.
How are you preparing for the final?
I’m doing one hundred percent of nothing physically, but soon I’m going to go to the mountains to isolate myself and write beautiful poetry for the final.
Do you have any upcoming performances?
Yeah, I’ll be competing in the One Mic Stand champions slam in February, at Contact.
What was your highlight of the whole experience?
Meeting new poets and hearing different philosophies of writing was enough for me, it’s important as a writer to be exposed to different perspectives but also to know your own well.
Would you encourage others to participate in the competition?
Yeah, get your work out there and what not.
What does the future hold for you in your performance poetry career?
I have no idea. I could just give it up tomorrow and become an amateur filmmaker for all I know. It’s a love-hate relationship and so unless I’m constantly involved with other writers, I get distracted by another art form.
Sum up your experience in one word