Le Craft: Spoken Word

For our fifth instalment of the Le Craft series, ahead of his performance at The Last Word Festival, Sam Frankl investigates the jaw-locking, tongue twisting world of spoken word poetry with Polarbear. As always, we’ll be looking to get to grips with what it really takes to practise ’til perfect. 

How does the process of composing a spoken word poem differ from a piece that is purely intended to be read?
My spoken word pieces tend to come out in one sitting and then I edit and tune them over time through speaking them out loud to myself or others. Pieces that are meant to be read happen much more gradually for me, and are all about writing, walking away, and rewriting.

Are there certain subjects that lend themselves to the form?
I find that memory lends itself to spoken word. When you own the details of a story or a scene, you have the licence to play with the musicality of how you tell it and good spoken word is something I regard as overtly musical.

The rhyme structures and cadences in slam poetry borrow a lot from hip-hop. Do you see them as one and the same, or two differing forms?
I think skill is skill no matter what you call the form and I do think that the blurring of the two allows for a lot of sub-standard work to find a safe place that wouldn’t stand up in either field exclusively on its own.

Do you have an acting background? Can it be difficult to tap into the emotion of a piece time and time again?
I’ve never trained as an actor, but I have worked with a director (Yael Shavit) on all of my longer theatrical pieces. The process of getting to the heart of what I’m trying to say and why I’m saying it is something I learned to do through my work with Yael and I think that has filtered into the smaller pieces too.

Beyond performance, how do you best envisage your work being accessed? Videos? Audio? Books?
I think YouTube and other video sites are amazing in terms of access and awareness of work. I love the fact that a clip of me speaking something for the first time, an hour after I finished writing it, can be seen by people. It’s like a sketch book that moves.

Check out Polarbear in A Cloud of Foxes: Run at The Roundhouse’s The Last Word festival.

Polar Bear’s first YA novel ‘TAPE’ comes out January 30th 2014


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