Exeter Poetry Slam 2015

Another write-up of the Exeter Poetry Slam…


The sixth annual Exeter Poetry Festival Slam took place in The Bike Shed Theatre on Sunday 4 October. Fourteen contestants gathered together to perform their poems for a chance to secure first prize and the title of slam champion.

Photo Credit: Christy Ku Photo Credit: Christy Ku

It was a mixed crowd, as people across the city and surrounding areas came to the intimate space of the theatre to hear an array of poetry, from humorous to confessional to just bizarre. Most of the performers and audience knew each other as the group of local poets are closely knit. They laughed and joked with each other, setting up a lovely atmosphere with only an edge of nervousness.

The slam was judged by three talented poets; Mantie Lister (Bard of Exeter), Alasdair Paterson (published poet and host of The Uncut Poets), and Robert Garnham (2012 Exeter Slam Winner). The judging worked like this: the poets…

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So here is the poem that I performed at this year’s Exeter Poetry Slam.


Let us take a proper gander,
At the propaganda
and perpetuating
across the
digital horizon.

The flood of subjectivity is
fuelling the proclivity to
view statistics
thrown around
by clickbait,
to inflame and
fuel race hate,

the mantra of the clickers
seems to be to twist their knickers
over things that have no
academic rigour or
even a footnote.

Immigrants are coming,
The immigrants are coming,
Quick, get out your

And it takes a social media petition,

To get the
to address them as

“They want to come,
To our hallowed shores
Because the pavements are
Covered in gold,”
That explanation is now so old,
Because some of us have stopped
believing what we are told.

The news ignores the human part
Because survival seems like such an art
And mostly about luck.
But it doesn’t matter
As the politicians do not give a fuck.

But wait, but wait
Isn’t this the fact
that only stories that inspire hate
will make the best clickbait?

Clicks means cash,
And it doesn’t matter

if in this
The truth turns to mash.

Our Facebook feeds,
are full of weeds

And the one thing that we all need
Is a top-up on our information literacy

We have to see through the lies,
Question the source
Look at the stats,
Examine the dates,
Filter out shit,
and all the race hate
Make up our minds,

free from a screen
And hold on to belief,

form an opinion
Avoid becoming,
Another brainwashed minion.

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The Slam! 2015 Review 04/10

…Solomon Doornails then criticised ‘brainwashed minions’ and people using their ‘xenophones’ to preach hate.

Exeter Poetry Festival

It is impossible to sum up this years poetry slam generally as the poets were all so diverse, the fact that each poem had a time limit of three minutes meant that there wouldn’t be much time waiting for a poem you liked. The event was a complete sell out with 53 audience members, 14 poets, 3 judges and 2 mediators.

I think a good place to start is by stating that the event was held at the Bike Shed Theatre. Now, if you haven’t been there before it’s an underground theatre and bar with old, unique arm chairs as decor. To continue the unique and interesting setting for the Slam! even the tickets were old Trivia question cards – mine mentioned the Soviet Union. This was the perfect setting to watch poets perform and a great introduction to poetry slams.

The mediators were Morwenna Griffiths and Tim King who…

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Dr Doornails completing in Exeter Poetry Slam 2015

Solomon Doornails performing at the 2011 Exeter Poetry SlamNow and again, I am let out of the small hole that I spend my life kept in.  The doors of the vast archive is opened and I managed to break free to a poetry event or two.  Recently they have been locked tight, but I have been able to open them for these evening as I take part in what is colloquially known as a Poetry Slam.

12 of Exeter’s finest poets will be pitted against themselves as they try to slam doors very very hard.  The winner is the one who can slam the door so hard that it falls off its hinges.


If you feel like joining me tonight in a Poetry Slam, be at The Bike Shed Theatre (I hear they have some wonderfully satisfyingly nice doors for slamming down there) at 7:30pm tonight.

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Lord Stanley Turner-Spongeman

Had you been a resident of Brooke Street in the 1950’s, you would have most probably come across one of Exeter’s foremost eccentrics.  Lord Stanley Turner-Spongeman resided at number 12, a life long bachelor and advocate of radio controlled insect repellent, he was not a resident of Exeter for that long until he came to an untimely end as a direct result of his addiction.


He was neither a lord, nor was he called Stanley.  In fact this strange character who could often be seen walking the streets of St Thomas and Exwick wearing his trademark blue suit, bearskin overcoat and a long staff, was not aristocracy in any sense.

Born to Mr and Mrs Harold Spongeman, residents of Wolverhampton in 1872, he was christened William and he had been born in to a family of bakers.

Mr Harold Spongeman was the first baker in the UK to offer an official service baking phallic cakes to the upper classes of Birmingham.  So successful and sordid were his delicious offerings, he was able to relocate his young family from the darkness of the industrial Midlands to the gentrified and rural county of Dorset, where he opened a similar operation in the town of Wimborne.

Unfortunately, Harold Spongeman’s phallic concept cakes were a little too progressive for the residents of this sleepy gentle Dorset market town, and he was driven out in a mob fuelled riot, his wares being thrown from the tower of Wimborne Minster in what has locally been called the Night Of The Edible Phallis.  Unfortunately for Harold Spongeman and his young family, this meant destitution and ultimately employment as a man-servant to a local wealthy family.

The young William Spongeman became disillusioned with baking, cakes and other confections.  After his father’s mob-fuelled exit from Wimborne, he became interested in the delicate work of Snoot Gathering, a little known Dorset trade that has long since died out.
After moving to Bournemouth, he became apprenticed to Stephen Corrit, Master Snoot Gatherer.  In documentation obtained from the Dorset County Records office, we can see that William Spongeman started his apprenticeship in May 1892, at the tender age of 20.

Very little else happened to William Spongeman until 1939 when the outbreak of war put an end to Snoot Gathering in the UK altogether.  Snoots were needed for the war effort, and the prices that the government were willing to pay per tonne of Snoot was far less than pre-war years.  This led to many of the greatest Snoot Houses closing down, many of their finest gatherers shipped off to fight in distant lands.  The Corrit-Spongeman Snoot House was considered to be the finest and most prestigious in the whole of East Dorset, and the sudden and dramatic need for Snoot, meant that William Spongeman was quickly out of a trade and a job after the government seized the business.

The post war world was definitely not Snoot friendly.  After it was revealed that Hitler was an avid Snoot enthusiast; this put an end to any hopes that the trade would be rekindled.  After the government had seized his business, he moved to Exeter to take up laceweaving.

His last years were spent in Brooke Street under the assumed name of Lord Stanley Turner-Spongeman.  The years of Snoot Gathering had taken their toll, and his mind was left warped and delusional.  We can see through accounts of his erratic behaviour, it is clear that Spongeman was suffering from advanced Snoot Madness, a condition the great Snoot Gatherers would suffer from in their later years.  This occupational hazard left him half blind and unable to say the words ‘No’ and ‘Affluent’.

He became addicted to chasing blue cars made by Austin, and it was this addiction that killed him when he chased after a car down Cowick Street, flapping his arms around and shrieking as he would
“The Nazi vultures are in my hair, its raining cheese, its raining cheese…Nazi vultures”.
Unfortunately the car sped away from him, but the car behind him didn’t see him and he was injured beyond help.

The limited poetry that was left by Lord Stanley Turner-Spongeman was nearly all written in Exeter, and in varying stages of the illness.  The poem that clasped his fame was the following.

The Cheese Of My Mind

Bang: The cheese it falls.
Its dented. Ruined on the
floor that is covered in soil.

Bang: The cheese it falls.
It stains the floor where it falls
floor that is covered in sand.

Bang: The cheese it falls,
It has melted. The carpet will never
Be the same.  Covered in cat hair

Bang: The cheese it falls,
Why must the cheese fall?
It ruins, covered in gravel.
I am covered in gravel.
So much.

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Thaddeus Humming: The Anarchist Poet-Postman of Sidwell Street

PostmanKnown to residents of Paris Street and the lower half of Sidwell Street as their beloved postman who had managed to keep his job well in to his late seventies.

Thaddeus Wrench Humming was born in 1920 in Barnstaple to Murphy and Elsa Humming of Agincourt Road.  He had seven brothers and twelves sisters, and found that attention was often lacking.  He became a well-known for his prodigious ability to count lemons in passing delivery Lorries and featured in The Daily Express, as the mystic lemon counting boy.  An early career in fruit based psychic shows was put to ruin after one of his jealous brothers claimed that he was a fraud, claiming he was in cahoots with a local fruit distributor.  Unhappy with the negative attention, Thaddeus ran away to Exeter to live with his aunt.

He passed away a few years ago, but left a large donation of letters and manuscripts to The Ebenezer Prawn Tentacle School for The Verbally Odd which until now, had not seen the light of day for a number of years.

Mr Humming was a man of many talents, but he was best remembered for the Anarchist poems about burning Exeter Cathedral.  He was also a prolific writer of Anarchist literature, with a particular focus to the rise of totalitarian regimes in pre-war Europe, the state of the banking system and Exeter City Councils love of car parks (which was in itself a political statement, manifesting itself in town planning and civil control).

Mr Humming made headlines when he assaulted a traffic warden with his postbag after Mr Humming spotted the traffic warden issuing a ticket: newspaper articles at the time were quick to jump on the fact that Mr Humming had tried to make the traffic warden eat the ticket that he had just issued.

Always a lively character at open mics throughout the city, he frequented the monthly open mics run by Lilly Slotweaver at The Eloquent Snail, a well-known café that used to be located on Bond Street and was one of the many cultural hubs of that time.  Never known for backing down from an argument, he was often thrown out after picking an argument with random strangers and other poets who questioned the Anarchist ethos.  Police being called on numerous occasions after the end result of ‘Read-Offs’ where poets would duel by reading their poetry loudly and angrily.

The rebel spirit of Antonio Breadstick still ran deep in Mr Humming’s veins, but unfortunately so did septicaemia which he caught as a result of cutting himself on a rusty piece of metal on the side of Exeter Cathedral.  Police believe he was trying to set fire to the roof. Again.

A poem that he was frequently heard reading was one of his best known.  Shortlisted for The Exeter Society of Illiterate Weavers annual poetry competition in 1986, it was published in The Express and Echo twice due to its popularity.

Burn the churches,
Burn the trees,
Burn the flowers,
Burn the bees,

Burn the books
Burn the crows
Burn the rooks
Burn the sloes

Burn the tarmac
Burn the sand
Burn the lawyers
Burn the pans

Burn the alter
Burn the organ
Burn the psalter
Burn the organ

Burn it all
The cathedral
Burn it all

Burn the tarmac
Burn the sand
Burn the lawyers
Burn the pans

Burn the Racoons,
Burn the BBC
Burn the government
Burn Thatcher
Burn Heath
Burn the News
Burn St Paul’s
Burn The Festival Hall
Burn Glastonbury
Burn Meter rulers
Burn Coffee Granules
Burn Nelson’s Column
Burn the television
Burn everything.

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Dr Solomon Doornails at Taking The Mic tonight (April 15th)

Tonight is Taking The Mic. That is exactly what I am going to do. For 5 minutes somewhere before the end of the second half.  It’s at Exeter Phoenix, kicks off at 8pm on the bar.

I will introduce tonight a poem by the legendary Antonio Breadstick, medieval poet and leader of The Exeter Poets Rebellion which nearly happened in 1422

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