a little east of reality

Friday, July 28, 2006

extreme poetry

Tonight I went to a poetry slam for the first time. It was held at this dinky little cafe with a few old couches and a lot of floor space. The amp wasn't working, so they did an unplugged open mic while someone ran off to get a new amp. I've gotta be honest: leaning awkwardly against a wall waiting for things to get going, I could hear echoes of Danny Glover in my head (I'm too old for this @#$%!) I don't think my arty energy would have been dimmed by a comfortable seat. I only have to suffer for my own art, surely?

For all that, it was an impressive night. Australia's top slammer made a guest appearance and he was awesome - a real performance poet - interacting with the crowd, making us think, making us laugh. He took the 'chicken and egg' theme and ran with it to comment on various aspects of life, as edgy and honest and laugh-out-loud funny as a great stand-up comedian.

As for the rest, there were good and bad. The bad ones were of two varieties, both of which take themselves a little too seriously. The first variety think their poetry is good, when in fact it's simplistic greeting card verse. They come to the mic with puppy dog enthusiasm and fully expect applause at the end. And they get it...why? Because I don't think there's a serious poet out there who doesn't recognise that you have to start somewhere. I have no problem with these beginner poets and I'm definitely one of the people applauding them. At least they're at the mic, giving it a go. (I would have been there, too, had I realised they were having an open mic, but I didn't bring anything with me to read.) They might be lightweights, but their poems are not hard to listen to.

It's the second variety of deluded poet that drives me insane. These are the ones who are "deeply emotional". Every line is delivered with vein-slitting angst, agonising over the pain of the world (or their world anyway). Now if you can get this across in great poetry with meaningful imagery and words that tap into the listeners' harsh life experience, fantastic. But if all you're going to do is look painfully constipated while drivelling on about crying tears of blood into the abyss of night, then um...stop. Just stop now.

But wow, oh wow, oh wow - there was some GREAT poetry and not only that but also great performances of that poetry, really engaging stuff. One guy was just describing a night out on the town with his friends, but the way he captured the feel of a night like that and the look of the city at night was captivating. He made us feel like it was our own memory and we knew how these things looked and felt and tasted. Another guy used his three minutes to do three short pieces that were all sharp and witty. Most had a touch of humour, maybe because it lends itself to an interactive performance.

And so on. Good night, and I'll be at the next one.