Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Rogue teacher's lessons in rhyme top class

As a prospective afternoon's entertainment goes, a former English teacher performing poetry sounds more Out for the Count than Out to Lunch.

But the self-styled "poet laureate of Peterborough" Mark Grist defied all expectations yesterday lunchtime with his Rogue Teacher show at the Black Box in Belfast.

Best known for his rap battle with a teenage grime artist that has so far racked up nearly four million views on YouTube, Grist also won over the Belfast crowd.

Musing in rhyme on everything from the notion of teachers as "low-level celebrities" to his love of "gingers", the fuzzy-haired thirtysomething brought us into his chaotic world.

Against a backdrop of mounting bills, a driving ban and his parents' look of disappointment, Grist took a year out from teaching to try his hand at spoken word, he explained.

It has paid off, but the man described as a "drama queen" by the mother of his rap battle opponent (to whom he wrote a grovelling letter of apology) boasts Woody Allen-grade neuroses.

He pondered on his altered sense of self, the validity of using bad language in his work and various other supposed moral conflicts sparked by his new vocation.

But what could have easily become an exercise in navel gazing remained engaging and inspiring, thanks to Grist's eminently likeable persona.

Passionate, clever and naturally funny, he deserved every one of the "poetry gasps" he jokingly said at the start of the show that he craved.

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