Harry Baker is not your average poet

Harry Baker is a former world slam poetry champion who chose Rooted in Hull to launch his UK tour a few years ago and has been back three times since. You could say he is a Rooted regular now. He always shows keen interest in the work we do and performing at Rooted provides us with high profile exposure and revenue. So what is slam poetry?

Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that combines elements of writing, competition, and audience participation. Originating in Chicago during the 1980s, slam poetry is performed at events called poetry slams or simply slams. Poetry slams can be held in various venues, including parks, bookstores, coffeehouses, and bars, and of course at Rooted. Anyone, regardless of age, race, sex, education, class, disability, gender, or sexuality, can perform.

Poems are typically the creation of the performing poet and generally don’t exceed a three-minute limit. Performers don’t usually use props or musical instruments during their poem, but they can sing, clap, hum, or make noise with their mouths or other body parts. On occasions Poets can perform solo or in groups with other poets. Slam poetry is not only an artistic movement but also a genre of poetry and spoken word that has influenced various aspects of modern culture, including political movements, art, media, literature, and entertainment. Harry is one of the very best.

One poem that stuck with the Rooted audience combined the logical thinking required to complete a maths degree, and the similar modular thinking required to build sentences and words using the German language that he picked up whilst studying maths in Germany. The result, a poem about Phil, who is full of falafel because he has determined that 5 falafel is too many falafel whilst using his falafel spoon (falafel löffel in German). Confused, you won’t be if you come along and watch his wonderful interactive performances. As part of the piece, Harry managed with unfeasible ease to ask the audience, “How many falafel is too many falafel?” To which the logical reply was “5 falafel is too many falafel” What’s more, he had us do it in fluent German and we loved it!

Harry Baker

Harry’s second visit came last September when we celebrated our harvest festival. Used to the man by now, we watched him wander the site, gathering his thoughts and perhaps quietly reciting a few of his gems to himself amongst the curly kale. He cut a lonely figure as the sun captured him over in the wild area, next to the hydroponics lab, just before performing. The loneliness returned toward the end of his set when he revealed, in a poem that they, “Were trying for a baby”

The poem highlighted many issues facing couples struggling with fertility. It was thought provoking enough to resonate with a wide range of our people. In particular, he made clear in the closing lines that they were not trying for a “baby,” nor a toddler, nor a teenager, but that they were trying to create, “A life.”

Harry’s harvest visit corresponded with our first batch of Rooted Urban Honey. Most of the jars tend to sell out immediately as we produce a limited amount. Normally we sell it for around £7, but Harry used his stage presence to auction off the final jar, raising a whopping £23, making that jar unofficially Hull’s most valuable!

Harry last visited us in May and although we would have been perfectly happy for him to have performed the same set, he had lots of new material, some of it sad, most of it hilarious, all of it uplifting. Finally, he delivered his, “expecting a life” line. Many people in that audience were deeply moved by his fantastic news. He had been brave enough to share his plight a year or so earlier and now he could reap the reward for his bravery, safe in the knowledge that he had touched so many people, simply by sharing.

We look forward to his swift return for another round of the poetry that slams!

@harrybakerpoet for more about Harry

It’s a real privilege for the city and wider community to be able to come and watch Harry perform. Donations and sponsorship make it all possible so if you want to do your bit and help maintain this great event you can help by donating here. Hope to see you at the next one!