by Anita Foxall.
Poetry Platform is a warm welcoming spoken word open mic held at the Railway Inn in Winchester on the first Tuesday of every month. I met its incredibly talented host/poet, Stephen Ripper Mizzen, for a conversation about his open mic, his love of poetry and all poetry related things.
Poetry Platform was started by poet Claire Hillier in the summer of 2011 at its current home, the Railway Inn. At 19 year old Stephen attended the first one, and despite feeling apprehensive and slightly nervous, he gathered the courage to read some of his poems for the very first time.
One year later, Claire moved to Brighton, and Stephen was given the opportunity to become the new host. He was insecure about accepting this challenge, because he had never been a host before, but he couldn’t bear to see this event, that brought so much to so many people, disappear. So he took it up, and ten years later, he is the unforgettably loud, warm, welcoming host of Poetry Platform.
There have been many noteworthy moments throughout the years, but one of the most special ones for Stephen was his 10th year anniversary as Poetry Platform’s host. Many of us poets and friends, led by musician and Stephen’s close friend Flis Pitman, filmed ourselves reading a line of Stephen’s poem “Spectrum”, and then all was assembled in a montage. He says this was a very emotional moment for him, one that emphasized the reasons why he carried on doing it for all those years.
That evening also saw the return of Claire Hillier has a guest poet, as well as Antosh Woycesc, who, similarly to Stephen, stepped on the stage for the first time at Poetry Platform with Stephen’s encouragement and support, and built a solid remarkable career as a poet from there.
Moreover, Stephen said ,throughout the years it has been incredibly special to see people coming back; and more recently having had the opportunity to organise two special Poetry Platforms: one with special guest poet Harry Baker, and the other with Inua Ellams.
If you ever attended Poetry Platform, Stephen’s passion for poetry and the event are so evident and contagious, you feel immediately at ease. In fact, he states that as a facilitator what he enjoys the most is to enable talent, welcome people and make them feel comfortable.
Being a loud host and audience member himself, he loves it when others join him in his exuberant heart-warming loudness. So if you have never been and decide to attend, don’t hold yourself back.
Stephen started his journey as a poet at the age of 16, but the love for poetry is in the family. He fondly cherishes the moments he shares with his grandad, where they pick a poetry book and read poems out loud to each other. In fact, his grandad writes poetry himself. Above all, Stephen likes words and how they fit together; he likes to be given themes or prompts to challenge his writing; he enjoys going from structure to no structure, or from serious to silly.
Moreover, Stephen brings as much poetry he can into his life and the lives of others by taking part in festivals and events. He loved taking part of Campbestival which he attended with a troupe: doing workshops, walking about all dressed up, and just purely embracing nonsense. Amongst other projects are: And There it was… For the Curious, a calm and engaging creative writing session he co-organises with Kristianne Drake; and hosting Touch Network, which are story telling sessions to empower everyday people overcome their problems by talking.
Stephen encourages everybody to write, and if you ever decide to go to Poetry Platform, don’t feel that you have to read the first time you go, but when you read for the first time he promises “it will be exhilarating, and the more you do it the more you will find your voice, and the more powerful you will feel.” And this power he describes is visible in his own person, which is something you will immediately recognize if you attend Poetry Platform, it will hit you like a captivating wave and it will contaminate you with its poetic magic.
The next Poetry Platform is on the 6th of September. You can follow all event details here: Poetry Platform @ The Railway | Facebook
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