PUTTING THE VENOM into verse. Rebecca Sabin is a rising star on the performance poetry scene. A white face in a predominantly black environment. the 24-year-old has won praise for satirical poems on gender politics and her native South London. She has never performed outside London. but the Edinburgh Festival looms and prior to that an appearance with Samantha
Coerbel (one of the famed Nuyorican
collective based in the Big Apple‘s trendy [East Village) at Glasgow‘s C(‘A. where she'll ‘be trying to get the knife in.‘
‘lt‘s important to get really vicious in poetry.‘ she says. in her first ever interview. ‘l‘m really inspired by journalism. by someone like Julie Burchill. I like that incisive. cutting way of writing. The best writers are not working in poetry.‘
Sabin's soul-destroying experiences of school and university explain the ‘angry young woman’ persona. Graduating in l‘)‘)5 with a sociology degree. she promptly fell into an unemployed rut.
‘l‘m really bitter about how the education system knocks the creativity out of people.‘ she says. ‘I was so hurt in English lessons ‘cos I used to get appalling grades. My teachers thought I was trying to be too clever or trying to kiss them off because I could just never do it the way they wanted me to. Artistic people often do badly at school. Academia is not conducive to being creative.‘
However. the community project she found herself on out of sheer desperation two years ago provided a nurturing environment. tinder the tutelage of experienced performance poets. Sabin‘s ability flourished to the point where she headlined a London Weekend Television talent showcase and became the toast of her peers.
‘l was so enamoured by my tutors.‘ she says. ‘My poetry was originally dry and wordy. but they said if your poem is angry. make it angry. and if it‘s sexual. then sexualise it. It‘s not about something that's dead. it‘s about something that‘s alive. Hip hop taught me internal rhyming and rhythm. and I‘m really into metaphors. I want people to value the poetry. I want them to remember the words and to say “that was a really good image".‘
Sabin is more eager to get her work published than to lap tip the adulation on the effervescent performance circuit. where audiences shout encouragement as readily as they would heckle at a comedy gig.
‘lt‘s so interactive and very empowering.‘ she says. ‘But some poets do it to have a kind of Hitler effect. where they say something and everyone stands tip and goes. “Yeah!”. That‘s a big appeal because you really feel you belong and it’s not just about the artist on the stage. But it gets tribal. which intimidates me sometimes. I don‘t want to go too much down that way. I want to run creative workshops. I really believe in organic. creative learning. That way. I think anyone can be a poet.“
Rebecca Sabin appears at the CCA. Glasgow. Friday 31 July. She appears as part of Apples & Snakes at the Pleasance Cavern, Edinburgh, Friday 7-Monday 31 August.
Her angry performance poetry comes from a soul-destroying education. Never mind the sonnets, here's REBECCA SABIN. Words: Fiona Shepherd
‘lt's important to get really vicious in poetry. I'm inspired by Julie Burchill. I like that incisive, cutting way of writing.’
9—23 Jul 1998 THE LIST 17