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Wham Bam Poetry Slam

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 7 August 2008 | Views [1920] | Comments [2]

So I haven’t yet described Patrick and my “mist”-ical trek through the Blue Mountains or our snowball fight in the Victoria Highlands, but I simply must share this experience as soon as possible:

When I entered Bar Open, it was as if I were stepping into a Bohemian alleyway – dark, artsy, local, underground… I immediately liked the place, humming with good friends, good beer, and good ol’ underappreciated – albeit well-directed – passion. I bypassed the pre-postmodern couples laughing at each other on maroon loveseats to seek my evening’s entertainment – slam poetry night.

I had never been to slam poetry before. But, like karaoke or a Wild West rodeo, I have always been curious about them. Furthermore, I like to think I have some talent in the poetic sphere. (Though this is quite unlike my talents for karaoke or rodeo.) This week carries the distinction of Melbourne’s Poetry Festival and I perused the flyer for free shows. I set out last night to Brunswick Street, arguably the best hip, alternative side of town (as there are several), and arrived at Bar Open not knowing what to expect.

I climbed the stairs, hearing bursts of laughter and clapping coming from above me. I drew aside a heavy curtain to reveal a room dimly lit with soft red light. The room was filled with as many couches as could be wedged into the space, reminiscent of a college apartment, and the audience – as I could not yet see the stage – was facing to my left, listening to the Emcee goof off at the mic. I sneaked by them to the back and snagged a couch armrest as my seat. I looked up, and guess who I saw on stage; none other than our dear friend Batman.

“Clap! Clap ya hands above ya head! And give a welcome to ah next reada – the Riddlahhh!” Batman extended his arm in the direction of a skinny, mohawk-ed goblin who mime-punched the Emcee before stepping onto the stage. “BATTERANG!”’s were heard around the room, the audience’s chosen interjection of approval and the Riddler grabbed the mic and cackled into it.

“Ha-ha ha-ha!” He chortled maniacally, prancing around the small stage. “I. Am. Tha. RIDDLAHHH!!” And my God, I believed him. Think the insanity of Jim Carrey with the creepiness of a goblin and that’s what was onstage before me, full out in a long-sleeve Kelly green shirt with a question mark hand-drawn on it. “You’ll ah, have to let me know if my trackers fall down…” He said, adjusting his gym shorts. “I didn’t ‘av green so I’m wearing blue ones…” And I knew I was no longer in Kansas anymore.

Bar Open’s monthly Wednesday poetry slams are themed, so while not everyone was dressed up – and no one more so than the Batman Emcee and the poet Riddler – most readers have a pseudonym, e.g. Aquaman, a bald, middle-aged ball of energy who for his first act wore black underwear above tights and for his second act, above nothing; and Cat Woman, actually quite rotund man with a wispy voice that was a few registers above what I would have expected.

Oh but it wasn’t freaky or strange or uncomfortable or “too” anything. The venue was fantastic and the people were even better. Everyone knew each other, squashed into this medium-sized room, yelling out Batterang’s of approval, booing and hissing when a judge gave out an unwarranted low score. (The highest was 10.5; the lowest, negative 50.)

The stage was wedged into a corner, giving the artist just enough room to take three or four steps in each direction. It was crowned with a garland of flowers and red and purple lights, and a man with a bull nose ring, Justin, played movie stings and theme songs from the sound board. (Including “Dance the Magic Dance” from the Labyrinth, Marilyn Manson’s remake of songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Prince’s cinematic pieces from Jack Nicholson’s legendary Batman.)

And [some of] the poetry was actually quite good! Here’s a sampling:

~ The eventual winner of the Slam performed his first piece about his favorite super hero: Jesus. All his pieces were memorized, and he had a fantastic deadpan delivery, reminding me of Flight of the Conchords. Just when you think you know how he’s going to finish his sentence, he takes it in a completely opposite direction:

“When I tell people that Jesus is my favorite superhero, they usually respond… you’ll have to pay for those sandwiches.”

“Jesus doesn’t have super powers like other super heroes do. He doesn’t have x-ray vision or the ability to fly. But he does have the super power of… shooting remarkably strong web from his wrists.”

~ The only black person in the room was a woman, probably in her mid-twenties, who had a strong Australian accent and a strong desire to get into Barack Obama’s pants. She spoke in a sort of rhythmic jam, in a smooth, slow voice…

“Pres eh dent Bah rack O baaaaaama. I want to be the Secretary to the House of your Affairs.”

“I want to cuuuuuure your ee lect oral dis fuuuuunction.”

“Mr. O… Mr. Oooh… Mr. Ooooooh.”

I made some friends, had a few drinks, met the Batman, and vowed to come back next month, where the theme, as we all chose last night, will be Mafia. Now, where can I get a Red Sox hat...?

Tags: brunswick, melbourne, poetry, slam



Red Sox hat? They're there, I'm sure. You'll find one.
Go Phillies.

What a great night you had! Thanks for the story. Keep 'em coming!



  Ralph Aug 9, 2008 12:56 AM


Mid twenties? Oh, so flattering. Barack will call me one day, for sure. (slamup.blogspot.com)

  Maxine Jun 2, 2009 9:26 PM



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