Food & Drink Editor Cara Scott attends Birmingham’s four-day poetry festival Verve and finds herself inspired by the fantastic poetry and musical talent of Jasmine Gardosi, as well as her fearless LGBTQ+ activism
Verve is a four-day poetry festival hosted at the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio where award-winning and local poets perform and conduct workshops. On Thursday 17th February, I had to privilege of being asked to attend the Verve Poetry Festival to review Jasmine Gardosi’s show ‘Dancing to Music you hate’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Jasmine Gardosi is a multiple slam champion, Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist and the recent winner of the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry. Gardosi uses her powerful voice alongside beatboxing to explore LGBTQ+ issues, mental health and to present her own experiences with identity. ‘Dancing To Music You Hate’ is her show commissioned by Warwick Arts Centre, which explores gender identity through poetry, beatbox and Celtic dubstep.
This isn’t my first time seeing Jasmine Gardosi perform. She performed at a Writers’ Bloc Grizzly Pear event in November 2021, so I knew this show would be nothing short of magical. When meeting Gardosi before the show at the Hippodrome, she was incredibly approachable and friendly, thanking me for coming to review her show.
The show began at 19:30, with Gardosi introducing herself and the order of the night, as other poets would be performing before her performance. It was amazing to see British Sign Language interpreters in the corner, something I rarely see for performances, but this event was made to be inclusive, with a live stream too for those who could not attend in person.
Not only did the night involve poetry; there was also a backing band to orchestrate music over the poetry. I’ve heard nothing like it before; it was breathtaking, to say the least.
The first part of the night involved an open mic with three people coming to the stage to perform one of their poems, accompanied by the backing band with no prior practice; yet, you wouldn’t think this because the music fitted so well with the poet’s voice, it has hard to comprehend that this hadn’t been rehearsed.
After the three open mics, who were all individually talented, Gardosi brought to the stage Luke Kennard, the Head of Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, and Forward Prize winner of his poetry collection ‘Notes on the Sonnets.’ I felt privileged to be able to watch someone who lecturers for my degree perform award-winning poetry – and Kennard did not disappoint, the way the words were paused for effect and the use of dialogue in his poetry was simply stunning.
John Bernard, a poet and rapper based in Coventry, was next to perform his powerful poems that hit me in the heart with positive messages about reaching your potentials. His first poem ‘Perceptions’ really stuck out for me, with the line ‘Belief is in the eye of the beholder’ being resonant at the start and end of his poem, with strong repeated phrases. The whole audience stopped still, captivated by his voice.
By 20:30, after the break, it was finally time for Jasmine Gardosi’s to take to the stage with her debut show ‘Dancing To Music You Hate.’ Fittingly, ‘Dancing To Music You Hate’ was the opening poem – it started with Gardosi’s beatboxing with an imitation of being unable to speak and needing to ‘take a breath.’ The room was silent apart from the noise trying to escape Gardosi’s mouth, until it eventually did, with words tumbling out with the music. The poem is about the idea of pretending to be someone you’re not is like being stuck in a club drunk having to dance to music you hate – it is awkward, uncomfortable and a horrible experience. Gardosi uses this metaphor to show that ‘pretending to be straight is like dancing to music you hate.’
After this strong opening, Gardosi moves on to a poem about the anxieties of COVID-19 and how people were so anxious and depressed before and after COVID-19, with the fact that people are still waiting in the line for therapy, and feel isolated and unable to leave their house before; yet little has been done to support these people with anxiety. The use of repetitions of how people felt before and after COVID-19 is used cleverly in this powerful message; Gardosi creates strong political stances through her compelling and engaging voice.
The band looked as though they were enjoying every second of performing with Jasmine Gardosi, the saxophone player even got to interact with her through her spoken word poetry to create a dialogue in the performance. She used the piano player to orchestrate one of her poems about being a ‘G’ or a ‘B’ to explore the transphobic message of having to be either a girl or a boy with no between or spectrum. The piano player responded using the G note and B note, and scales between them, in response to Jasmine Gardosi playing the part of a transphobic member of society. Her use of a higher-pitched voice with this interaction made the audience laugh and it was an entertaining performance to watch.
Her two final poems enchanted me the most; ‘Say it anyway’ is a passionate piece about trans people being silenced by society and the brave and bold statement of ‘say it anyway’ rung out across the room, with the rhythm’s of Gardosi’s words becoming intense and influential. The night ended with Gardosi’s poem about wishing everyone gender euphoria and how you don’t have to be transitioning to transition; the powerful statements and her interacting with us by pointing to different sides of the audience saying ‘I wish you gender euphoria’ was mesmerising. The way she explores gender identity and mental health through the power of poetry, beatboxing and music was phenomenal. She certainly knows how to capture the audience’s attention and the world needs more poets like Gardosi to use their words to create change.
I cannot recommend going to see Jasmine Gardosi enough when she next performs, she will completely change your perception on what poetry can be. Her words are still ringing beautifully in my head, with the most powerful quote resonant above all. In the words of Jasmine Gardosi, ‘However you want to be today, be it.’
Enjoyed This? Read more from Redbrick Culture here!