by Rosa Fernandez

On the middle Wednesday of December Find The Right Words brought the sparkle to Upstairs at The Western in Leicester. Compered as always by the BBC poetry slam-winning Jess Green, we were in capable hands as we enjoyed another superb night of spoken word.

To the headliners! First up was compelling Panya Banjoko, a tiny but fierce and warm presence who performed four stirring pieces; ‘Airport’ in particular was a deeply felt and shocking poem read with true grace and composure, transforming a clearly extremely unpleasant situation into art. ‘They and Them’, introduced as a response to a Keith Piper artwork, was a wry back and forth with a powerful message from her collection Some Things. I enjoyed Panya’s set immensely; she is a poet who leaves you feeling richer for having absorbed some of their energy.

Panya Banjoko’s collection Some Things is available from the Burning Eye Books web store.

In distinct contrast, Rowan McCabe closed the evening with his entertaining set; bless his wee Geordie face. From an energetic rebuttal to government austerity (including the amusing line ‘bailiffs came round with flowers’) via his door-to-door poetry to some fascinating true stories, he’s definitely got an instinct for a tale. His final poem about a deer got us all talking afterwards, and I sensed as-yet-untapped potential; I’d like to see where he goes next. This was his first gig in Leicester but I’m sure we’ll have him back.

Speed poet Chris Jaff Martin had the unenviable task of creating a poem out of the trio of suggestions ‘Costa Coffee’, ‘puberty’ and ‘arthritis’; the idea of pensioner ‘Gladys going fully gabber’ will tickle me for weeks to come.

The open mic brought us some accomplished performances, while I rather let the side down by forgetting my only poem half-way through. I pulled it back but it was a clear reminder of the skill required to learn and perform words, words that may have taken hours to tweak and perfect. Cheers to Panya and Rowan for bringing us two distinct and unique performances; on one of the longest nights of the year they kept the warm light of words burning bright.

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Thank you Dave Morris for the images and Catch Find the Right Words at Upstairs at the Western, Leicester in January!

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