Hungarian Conservative

Poetry Slam Budapest is Back Like it Never Left

The top 3: Laci Ludmány (M), Luca Rózsa (L), Péter Molnár (R)
Ádám Bráder
Excitement and anticipation, rain and dogs, a proposal and heavy poems. The first event of the returning Slam Poetry Budapest Club series did not fail to deliver.

After years of silence due to the pandemic and some of the previous venues shutting down, SPB (Slam Poetry Budapest) Club events are back on the menu for those interested.

The announcement of the new event perhaps came as a surprise, although a welcome one, to anyone who saw it pop up on social media. I was among these people. I attended my first SPB Club event in 2015, and was in complete awe at the time. Since then, I regularly visited the ever-changing venues where they were held on the last Thursday of every month for years. However, as the pandemic struck, and many of the venues that used to host SPB Clubs had to close down—some temporarily, some permanently—and slam events slowly disappeared from my social calendar. For some time, there were rumours of the Clubs restarting, but alas that never happened. Until now.

The Venue – Kertem

Last Thursday, on 13 July, SPB Club returned to the capital. With a new venue, new hosts and a revised system introduced, the anticipation was high. The event moved to Kertem, which roughly translates as ‘My Garden’. The open-air club Kertem, a great summer favourite of Budapesters, has had to move three times since it opened. Its name describes the current location rather perfectly: after walking through a parking lot, one arrives at a clearing with some trees, garden furniture and a food truck-like bar that serves street food as well as the drinks one would expect. Looking a bit further, one notices another—much larger— clearing, where the actual SP events are held. I bought my ticket for the competition and searched for a seat in the shade.

Trees, chairs, benches and tables, and a large stage is what Kertem offers. Prices are not out of the ordinary for a Budapest pub: 950 forints for a beer is considered rather standard in the capital, although one needs to calculate the 500-forint fee for the reusable cups in final price, unless one is smart enough to have brought their one cup or token from previous visit. That being said, the venue has a certain mesmerising atmosphere that reminded me of summer grill parties in the countryside.

Another positive to emphasise would be the audio from the stage. Both the music and the speakers were at appropriate volumes throughout the event, which is not always the case.

The Competition

In short, the SPB Club is a Poetry Slam competition. Poets can submit their names to the hat, 16 get admitted to the competition and six can participate in the Open Mic section. Open Mics are not scored, people can just go on stage and share their thoughts with the audience. During the competition, five judges score the poems performed on a scale of 0 to 10. The judges are elected from the audience, and to make the process fair and unbiased, the highest and lowest scores are removed when the points are added up, meaning that the most a poet can score is 30.

The hosts: Péter Mészáros, Bence Bárány, István Pion (L-R)

The event started with the three hosts taking the stage, all considered household names in Hungarian poetry slam. Bence Bárány, Péter Mészáros and István Pion are all prominent figures in the slam scene. As expected, they welcomed the audience and the new venue while making jokes and being generally funny, then they announced the first poet on stage, as part of the Open Mic performance.

The first performance was just as exciting as the announcement of the event. The poet talked about dogs being in love, however, his punchline was ‘will you marry me?’ and as he hopped off the stage and proposed to his girlfriend in the audience, the crowd remained flabbergasted. After much ovation, the event returned to normal. As usual, poets from all over the country attended and performed on stage, and the topics tackled included everything one would expect from love and politics to broken hearts, families and self-promotion.

Usually there is a brief break between the two segments of competition, however this time the break was forced as rain started to pour down intensely. Some sought shelter under a small tent and a tree while others roamed to the stage to stay dry. The rain did not last long so the competition could resume in a short while.

Attendees fleeing from the rain.

While the sun began to set, the quality of the performances did not drop. Better and better poems blessed the stage until the very last one. After a short break on schedule, the winners were announced. Laci Ludmány came in first, Luca Rózsa second and Péter Molnár third.

Overall, the return of the SPB Club was everything I expected and more. The excitement of the proposal, the constant threat of the rain and the new surroundings created a unique atmosphere. SPB Club returns to Kertem a month from now on 17 August. I am pretty sure I will return and I heartily recommend trying out the SPB experience to our readers as well.

The photos were taken by the author.

Excitement and anticipation, rain and dogs, a proposal and heavy poems. The first event of the returning Slam Poetry Budapest Club series did not fail to deliver.