WHEN Deanna Rodger took the stage at the UK Poetry SLAM! Championships last December, she didn't really know what to expect.

Not only was she there alone, with no friends or family to flash her a comforting smile, but this was her first poetry competition.

Yet by the end of the evening, relying on adrenaline alone to get her through those first, terrifying lines, the 18-year-old Fulham resident had claimed the title of 2007 UK Poetry SLAM! Champion.

"Nobody knew who she was, it was brilliant to be surprised like that at a major event - she was the best by far," says UK Poetry SLAM!

Championships' John Paul O'Neill. Next week, however, the stakes will be raised even higher. Deanna will represent England in the Bobigny suburb of Paris, where she will face the world's best spoken verse poets at the 2008 Poetry Grand Slam Championships.

"I'm absolutely bricking it, but it's not all about competition," Deanna says.

"A lot of people there will be professionals, so if I make an impact, the worst I can do is leave with a heap of contacts."

Known for her emphatic delivery and heartfelt expression, Deanna has been leaving crowds tingling with emotion. Incredibly however, it is not even a year since she became involved in the scene.

"I studied some poetry while at St Charles College in Ladbroke Grove," Deanna says.

"But it was not until a friend took me along to the Lyrics@Lyric course at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith that it all started."

Her tutor for the 12-week workshop was Joseph Coelho. He says the programme, geared towards 14 to 19-year-olds, allows aspiring poets to prepare for performances and develop any themes they desire.

"My poetry can be all over the place, so the direction helped," Deanna says.

"I have strong feelings, but I tend to always go back on the theme of society and how it can be restricting for certain people, and how labels can be placed on people."

Currently finishing her first-year of psychology at Birmingham University, she aims to use her knowledge to counsel children after gaining her degree.

"I write for youth a lot," Deanna says.

"Kids need help and hope. I hope they will hear some of my words and, since I am young myself, they will realise they are not alone in their feelings."

Next on the agenda after the Slam in Paris is a project at the Lyric Theatre in September. This time she will team up with fellow rising star and Lyric graduate Tashan Cushnie.

Their play, provisionally entitled Honey Coated Dream, will be performed entirely in spoken verse poetry.

Juggling her work with her studies is not easy, but Deanna says she continues to write and perform because of the rush of performance, the sense of accomplishment, and the possibility of getting negative feelings out in a positive way.

"This is therapeutic," Deanna says.

"It's a positive way to deal with things; a defense mechanism. It's much easier to vent on a piece of paper than to take it out on someone else. It helps me function, forget about certain things and move onto the next." [25cf] Deanna will perform on June 25 at RADA Foyer Bar, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, W1. £6/5 concs. 7.30pm. Call 07905 078 376 to book.

*Hear Deanna on www.myspace/ deannarodger  or see www.myspace/farragopoetry   for details of Bobigny's Poetry Grand Slam Championships, May 27-31.

For Lyrics@Lyric details, see www.lyric.co.uk