Schooled by the spoken word

Where better to hear what’s weighing on the hearts of your fellow beings, than a poetry open-mic evening?

The Hive in Palmer Road did not disappoint, on that note.

I went during the Muizenberg Festival, on a warm mid-week night, simply to listen, to immerse in the word-songs of people who live in my community, to learn a little of what keeps them lit.

And the result was as mixed as the people who showed. The theme was in line with the festival – so, all about the celebration of water – and many poets adopted the theme by approach alone, and fell into the flow.

So here’s the thing. You pass these people in the coffee shops and in the side streets. Maybe you do business with them, maybe you have always wondered what their story is. Here, the well was deep. Because everyone has a multitude of stories. When last did you have the courage, to ask?

Some were brought to the stage this night. And it was wonderful to watch unfold.

People shared their own poetry, some recited what they had read, passing on what had moved them. A young group of boys shared the stage – and nerve – to perform two rap songs that spoke of life on the wrong side of the tracks. Not American tracks. These were local boys who got lost in the moment and stepped up to deliver some hard-hitting lines – and then were shyly delighted at the genuine applause. They went home, heard.

There was a young woman whose passion was so clear, but her words were not. I felt her message was lost in the performance – and have no doubt that her lyrics were hard-wrought. Those I did catch were meaningful. It made me realise the importance of pauses, and pace, and allowing ourselves the space to speak our truth. Especially into listening ears.

Resident poet Toni Stuart gave a silken recital of treasures, living and trousseau, her voice lifting us lightly out of our seats, like an ocean swell.

The open mic sessions are open to interpretation, some even did a few experimental poems using tone, sound and movement but no recognisable language, offering some thought on language and its nuances.

People spoke about the gloriously interconnectedness of life and each person in it, about death, about online dating and quite naturally, about love.

But in a time where words are often used as shields or weapons of war, or as agents of manipulation it was warming to, instead, hear words being offered as pieces of hope, as declarations of beauty, and as invitations.

My questions were answered; and, they weren’t. There are just so many more stories, I want to hear.