Oxford poet ready for war of words

The Oxford Times: David MacArnold prepares for the National Poetry Slam final               Picture: OX52829 Marc West David MacArnold prepares for the National Poetry Slam final Picture: OX52829 Marc West

AN OXFORD poet is proving you are never too old to fight a war of words.

David MacArnold, 62, better known in poetry circles as “Davy Mac”, will wield his wit at the National Poetry Slam Final, to be held underneath London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The high-speed contest, in the hall’s underground loading bay, will see poets “battle” on stage to win the approval of the audience.

He will be the oldest contestant in this year’s final, due to be played out on June 21 and organised by poetry slam group Hammer and Tongue.

The poetry of Ruskin College student Mr MacArnold draws on his 18 years in the Army – the struggles of being a gay soldier – and his time on the streets.

Asked if he felt ready to “rumble”, Mr MacArnold, said: “The day I stop getting nervous is the day I stop doing it.

“You react differently with different audiences.

“A poem that does brilliantly with one audience won’t work with another. It is all to do with what the other poets are doing.

“You have to think on your feet.”

Each poet in the contest will bring four poems with them.

The first round is sudden death – grabbing the audience’s attention as fast as possible.

It will be followed by semi-finals and then, in the final, each competitor must deliver two performances.

Mr MacArnold said: “In the slams it helps if you’ve got a proper rhythm.

“I write most of my work while listening to Charles Mingus and Miles Davis.”

Leaving school at 15 and joining the Army, Mr MacArnold served in the signals in Germany, Ireland, England and the Falklands after the conflict, leaving as a corporal.

After that, he ended up homeless on the streets of London, then homeless on the streets of Amsterdam, where he started organising poetry nights.

He finally returned to the UK and discovered Crisis homelessness charity, signing up for their creative writing course in London.

His tutor there recommended he apply for an English course at Ruskin College, Oxford. So he did, and enrolled in 2011.

It was at Oxford’s Old Fire Station theatre the following year that he took part in his first slam.

 

 

 

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