Birmingham’s Poet Laureate, Jasmine Gardosi talks about finding her voice, discovering Brum’s open mic scene and touring her award-winning debut show
Jasmine Gardosi is more than a poet – her debut show combines the art form with beatbox and Celtic dub step as she explores themes around gender identity. Commissioned by Warwick Arts Centre, Dancing To The Music You Hate pulls apart the boundaries of gender and musical genres as Jasmine breaks open the binary with boldness and humour. She says: “You don’t have to be trans or gender-questioning to see or enjoy the show – this is for anyone else who’s also wrestled with self-expression and societal expectations of gender. ie. Everyone.”
The show was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards Best Spoken Word Show in 2022 and 2023, went on to become Verve Poetry Festival’s best-selling event of 2022 and sold out Symphony Hall’s show at the Jennifer Blackwell Space earlier this year. The show’s titular track was adapted by conductor Jules Buckley and performed by BBC Symphony Orchestra for BBC Four’s Inside Classical: A Birmingham Celebration. Jasmine’s poet laureate predecessor, Casey Bailey describes the show as ‘the most important piece of art I can remember seeing’. High praise.
Jasmine’s work has appeared on BBC Four, Sky Arts, Button Poetry and across BBC Radio, while her poem about the pandemic filmed on a rollercoaster was broadcast across the pond on PBS. She has worked with the National Trust, the Poetry Society and the National Literacy Trust and was previously Poet in Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Winner of numerous prizes, including the Out-Spoken Prize for Poetry and Outstanding International Entry in Button Poetry’s Video Contest, Jasmine is also a festival regular, with appearances at Glastonbury, WOMAD and Shambala.
Being the city’s poet laureate is a role Jasmine feels privileged to hold. It’s opened doors and given her a platform. Happy to be Birmingham’s first openly queer poet laureate, Jasmine continues to champion LGBTQ+ communities. She explores identity and sexuality and invites people to do the same. The application process for poet laureate is lengthy and competitive and Jasmine was rejected four times before being appointed. She accepts she wasn’t ready previously and learned a lot from the process and from the feedback she received from the judges. She would urge anyone who’s contemplating applying to go for it. Even the mere process is enriching.
Through poetry, Jasmine has found her voice. She says: “There was a time in my life I thought my voice was not valid. Every voice is valid. Always.” In part, due to Birmingham’s thriving open mic scene, Jasmine found her tribe and a way to express herself. “When I was 21, I was a bit lost – I didn’t know what to do. I used to think writing in isolation was the way, but why? It’s like writing poetry in a vacuum. The open mic scene was/is safe and community driven.”
She didn’t perform the first or even the second time she went to open mic nights, but plucked up the courage on the third visit and is still doing it today. “You’re at the mercy of the audience performing lines written in your room, but it hit home. I felt understood and that’s beautiful.”
Jasmine still does open mic nights, so if you pop down to the likes of Hit The Ode at the Victoria or one of the many of other venues across Brum, you might just hear her trying out new work. It turns out Birmingham does poetry and spoken word seriously well, so if you’re curious go along. There’s no pressure to perform, but you might just find your people and your voice.