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Almost one week ago, I attended the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival in the South of the Cotswolds.

I had been asked if I could participate in the festival this year as an author and poet and on the day I had the last few printed copies of my poetry book Phoenix Rises on sale there.

I was also invited to take part in the festivals first Poetry Slam, which I nervously said yes to, having never taken part in one before. As director of The Gloucestershire Poetry Society, I’d seen quite a few Slam events and had even helped to judge several for the society, but I hadn’t have the confidence to take part in one myself.

When I arrived in Hawkesbury Upton, it was just as idyllic as I had imagined the Village to be, a picture perfect Cotswold village. I was really surprised to see so many people walking around and when I went into the main building for the event, the local school, it was pretty much packed with people, which was lovely to see.

As part of the days events I had asked to have a photoshoot with the event photographer Angela Fitch, which I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in! After that, I had about an hour to wait for the Slam, so I enjoyed a bite to eat at the School and read through the two poems that I had decided that I would perform. One for the first round and the other if I was lucky enough to make it the final. I’d chosen two poems that I felt had enough meaning and emotion to create a good impression, but the nerves were kicking in.

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When I arrived in the Methodist Chapel, where the slam was taking place, I waiting for everyone else to arrive and I tried to stay as calm as I could. The room was full to capacity by the time the host, Josephine Lay, explained the proceedings and rules. There would be three rounds and the highest scoring poet of each round would go through to the final, as well as the next highest scoring poet below the three.

When my name was called out, I found out that I would be the last poet in the first round, so thankfully not much time to get even more nervous than I already way! I stood up after my introduction and performed my poem Claws on Glass, which I’d written only a week before. The nerves quickly faded and in no time at all I was finished! I’d timed myself several times and had gotten the poem down to two minutes and fifty four seconds, so as close to the allowed three minutes as I could get.

The standard of performers and their poems was high and I thought to myself that there was no way that I would make it through to the final. However, I heard my name read out as the winner of my heat and I couldn’t quite believe it. I had the break to let that sink in and to to chat with the other competitors and audience members and after ten minutes we were called back into the room to start the final.

I performed my second poem The Apathy Travesty, another very recent write (two days before to be exact) and was relieved to finish and sit back down. The other three finalists were all great and very different from each other in content and style. When the winner was announced, the judges told us all that there was a tie for first place and so there would be joint winners. I wasn’t called out but I was very pleased for both winners, who thoroughly deserved it and I was delighted to have been a finalist in my first ever poetry slam!

To make the day even sweeter, I discovered that I’d sold a book, which was a lovely surprise. Now that I’ve got my first slam experience under my belt, I’ve got the taste for taking part in more.

To find out about the festival, you can visit its website here and if you’d like to see some examples of my poetry, you can visit my Facebook Poetry Page.

Written by Jason Conway of Cre8urbrand