Hello friends. I realise its been awhile since I last did a proper blog entry. I have been occupied by exams and then traveling around North America and meeting up with my family. But anyway. I am back in London now, balling hard once again (non-Americans out there,’ BALLING HARD means what it sounds like….ok not really but its like living hard…whatever.) in a cafe with free wifi and waiters arguing about Kerouac (er…)
More importantly, while in North America last month, I managed to get to three poetry slams. Here’s a bit about them:
PORTLAND POETRY SLAM (1st Sunday of the month)
“The point is not poetry the point is that I get laid!” yells the host, immediately winning me over.Then he gets the crowd to replay their best orgasms with him by way of ritual. This is the friendliest slam I’ve ever been to, or maybe its just my first in the USA proper where everyone’s just friendlier. But as easy as it is to judge PORTLAND, the slam was phenomenal. A beautiful massive cafe/art space, really energetic young queer crowd and NO scores, just audience cheering and splitting the poets into pairs and pitting them against each other, so the audience had to choose one.. So many poets that only half of those who showed up (like half an hour before the thing started) got to perform, so I felt really lucky to get on stage. I got exactly 4 people cheering for me, out of an audience of 50, but one of them had a fox’s tail and a fire-coloured mohawk so that made up for it. The standard was phenomenal as wel, with poems about everything from Jim Henson trapped inside a video box to wishing you could pay tuition fees with poetry.
Feature: Young medical student JUSTIN SEARNS, who was leaving Portland for Denver heart wrenching poem about his late mother, a love letter to Portland (that took place on a fixie bike, of course)(I am a sucker for poems about cities), one about immigration and one about giving an anal exam to a homophobe.
– “If I had a reality show it would be filled with Monkeys”
– “To all the young people of LA, California and Denver, Colorado, I have probably gotten high with your mom, your teacher and your librarian at some point”
VANCOUVER POETRY SLAM (every freaking Monday)
THIS was where I got into spoken word and performance back in 2008, so I was almost shaking when I got to the same cafe where it’s still held. The Van Slam was relatively more reserved than Portland, but still way more excitable than most poetry nights in London, but still had that same kind of community that i remembered, a kind of tightness among the audience and a great core group of dedicated regulars (Isedthat know all the in-jokes but still super-welcoming of outsiders. I did two poems and remembereed what I loved about this place is how people don’t hesitate to cheer/squeak/hiss/snap/clap if they like a line. Someone took a video of me and its floating around on youtube. But ran overtime on both. The chorus if someone’s poem runs overtime is “YOU RAT BASTARD YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE…but it was well worth it” I got a screen printed t-shirt with this on it and showed it to a random Vancouerite I met in Romania last year, and it turned out she had been heavily involved with the slam as well. Which was how we became friends and I ended up staying with her in Vancouver. She also introduced me to C R Avery just before we parted ways, who happened to be there that day. Which was why she could not meet me inside the cafe cos it was too full of people coming to see him.
Feature: CR AVERY. Quite possibly, my favourite spoken word poet, though ‘poet’ does not really do him justice. He wears amazing vests and fedora hats,beatboxes, sings, shouts, freestyles, croons, plays harmonica piano guitar sometimes all at once. Now imagine this combined with burlesque and you have about a fifth of his set.
“I get more tail than Thumper/I got 99 problems but the bus ain’t one” (winning poet’s poem about cycling through the city. he also stood on a table while reciting another poem which might have been a bit overkill but it worked)
“the guy with the Bambi metaphor/can go kiss my bumper” (CR Avery)
“any time, CR” (winning poet)
TORONTO POETRY SLAM (every second Sunday of the month)
Took place in a basement of an arty hotel, more subdued than the west coast and an older and more male-dominated, less queer, but still incredibly friendly people. What won me over was the Sound Guy went up on the open mic and read out a page from Naked Lunch, the exact smae page that I had read that afternoon, which caused me to mouth his lines like a telepathic mofo! The host was really nice and led us in a weird church-like ritual reading off powerpoint slides why we liked poetry.There was a guy who called “That Brown Bastard” with poems about nose picking and taking a shit, and I wished I had thought of tha name for myself first, Except that I’m not brown, and generally not widely considered a bastard. I was one of three women and came in runner-up. .
Feature: Montreal/Vancouver poet CHRIS MAISSON who opened with a fantastic subversive piece called Career Day (“from the people who brought you climate change…THE GROWNUPS”. If you do your homework every day you too can become a pirate!”), with a combination of light and heavy rhymes,who has written a show about long-distance dating his now-fiancee while she was being diagnosed with cancer.
Best Line: “The roof is/on fire/pour gasoline in the basement” (to the rhythm of “the people united will never be defeated”…in solidarity with the student protest in Montreal.. yes I am a sucker for protest poems but this one really hit the nail on the head, and that doesn’t always happen. I wish I could remember all of it.
….in other news, see the section called ‘Where to Find’ to see where I’m next performing. Because I have updated it after long last. I probably will update it in the next few days when more dates become clearer.