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Upcoming Gigs

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TESTT (Durham): April 12th

The New Adelphi (Hull): April 15th

Workshop Theatre (Leeds): April 17th

Hydra Bookshop (Bristol): April 18th

Derby Theatre: April 20th

Harrogate Theatre: April 24-25th

Ovalhouse (London): April 26-28th


London Book Launch at Ovalhouse, April 26th

York Book Launch at All Saints Church, April 29th

Small Fry DIY, Warrington, 2nd May

Spoken Weird, Halifax: 3rd May

Born Lippy, Newcastle 9th May

Shaken In Sheep Town, Skipton: 10th May

Find The Right Words, Leicester : 16th May

Queenie’s Coffee Nights, Huddersfield: 21st May

Gong Fu Poets, Coxhoe: 31st May

Verse Matters, Sheffield: 7th June

Slam Dunk, Hastings: 28th June

Word Club, Leeds: 29th June

Poetry Jam, Durham: 4th October

Thursday, 17 March 2016

20.16 Blog #5: Trailers & Trigger Warnings

Trailers and Trigger Warnings

The trailer for Hail Caesar looked ace. It still looks ace. An all-star mega mystery and a cartoony noir thriller wrapped in a nostalgic retooled package of a bygone era.

But I wanted to like the film more. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to be my top film of the year. But aside from the subplots which never quite got tied together, I felt like it wasn’t funny enough. And yet the trailer had been so quirky?

The answer, I believe, was all the punchlines were in the trailer. Whenever a scene came up, I knew the gag that was coming. When two characters met, I could predict how the scene would end up. The worse was the big punchline at the very end of the film, where Cloony’s Whitlock fluffed his line. The note that ends the film totally given away in the trailer.

The answer, kids? Don’t watch trailers! It’s quite simple, I suppose, but I don’t think I’d have gone to see Hail Caesar without a engrossing trailer, so I suppose that’s the price you pay for being hooked in. You take the bait, but you might end up on a platter. Or something.

Of course, I have watched the Captain America: Civil War trailer a good number of times. I’m pretty confident between this, a deep knowledge of the comics and a basic knowledge of how action films work, I can predict the entire film. I’m still gonna see it, I have a fraught relationship with super-hero films, and I’m hoping Civil War can heal the wound as it rips apart the universe.

There is a certain level of expectation with super-hero films. If it’s the first movie, we get an origin story, we get a baddie and we get a showdown at the end. There’s usually a bigger villain hiding behind who we presume to be the baddie. Heroes will put aside their differences; anti-heroes will come good in the end. They might throw a curveball with a death or two, but just like a top secret underground lab-lair, there’s a formula.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the criticism of Trigger Warnings that pop up often online, in articles and general conversation. I have a huge amount of support for them, and I dislike the utter unnecessary contempt some people seem to have for Trigger Warnings, and the frank and casual dismissivness that comes with that criticism.

Trigger Warnings appear before something which is potentially upsetting, shocking or hurtful to someone whose mental state can’t quite handle that specific topic at that moment in time.

Now, I’m not here to entirely argue the ins and outs of them in academia, or social media or other circles. I get the criticisms, I don’t think they’re a perfect failsafe and I do prefer the term ‘content note’. But they do need to be employed.

This next ramble is looking at TWs from a live arts perspective.

A reviewer once said, regarding Spoilers, if you say “a character, whom we the audience presume to be the protagonist’s brother…” then you’re essentially giving away a plot point that they ain’t gonna be the brother. If you say before a poem, this is about X, then you’re giving away the emotional impact of any reveal that comes within the poem, it removes the subtext, it removes the open interpretation, and it can also totally dilute a piece to one singular topic. Like seeing Hail Caesar with the trailer in mind, it loses its weight as a piece.

Poetry nights are like going to see Captain America: Civil War. You can expect and predict there’ll be rude poems, funny poems and silly poems. They’ll also be deeply personal poems, political poems and poems that can be challenging in their subject matter and their content.

Poetry (and theatre/music/dance) is there to make you feel emotions, to take you to different places, explore themes, dissect, dissect and digest ideas. Arguably, if a poem has affected you, that’s a good thing. One would assume going to listen to poetry is an exercise in looking to be moved, inspired, challenged and affected.

But, as I say, I am in favour of Trigger Warnings because if you have hideous experiences, you should be able to confront them on your own terms, not the terms of a person on a microphone. This isn’t about wrapping people in cotton wool, it’s about accepting the world is violent and damaging to certain people of society, and part of the fight against the cause of this damage is also about dealing with the fallout. Fight war, not wars, and heal the wounds they cause.

So should poetry come with Trigger Warnings? I have taken to giving a blanket Trigger Warning at the very start of the night when I’m compering. Reminding the audience that anything could be said, and poetry can go to some troubling topics.

But I’ve seen TWs handled the wrong way at poetry night. You cannot ask your audience if anyone would prefer if you didn’t read your poem. “This poem is about rape, is that Ok to read?” I can’t imagine anybody who would find this topic upsetting piping up and putting themselves on the spot. Similarly, depending on the space and how quickly the poet leaps into the poem, it’s difficult actively stand up and leave in time.
It also leads to everyone questioning their content. Suicide is a particularly triggering topic. Is death? Death is a staple poetry topic. LBGTQ+ people might be going through a hard time with their family. Should a poem that references parents come with a TW? Where do you draw the line?

We’re all still learning. I’m up for any conversations, thoughts or suggestions for this topic.

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