It has been a hard season, poetry-wise. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been busy. But the majority of the work has come from readings. The writing I’ve been doing has been down-right execrable. Put together, doing readings and writing badly means I’ve been having a less than pleasant time lately in poetry world.
It’s funny. Normal people (those people who don’t have to do readings) tend to think that they are the glamorous pay-off to writing. Extrovert writers feel the same way. These lucky bastards are actually energised by them. I’m not an extrovert. In fact, I’m one of those bizarre mutants who appear on the surface to be extroverted but inside is lurking a quiet introvert who, while talking animatedly to your face, is in reality fantasising about being at home, curled up on the couch with a book and their dog. Praise be to alcohol – bringing introverts out of their living rooms for the last 9,000 years.
So being invited to do readings, while an honour, definitely falls into the category of work for me. I script and rehearse everything. Everything. Even the witty little throwaway bits in between poems. My aim is to make everything seem off the cuff and spontaneous. Nothing is off the cuff or spontaneous. Heckling is my kryptonite. How do you script a comeback to a heckler?
Which brings me to the last reading I did – Spoke n Slurred. Adelaide is rife with poetry at the moment. It is brilliant. Ditch a rock here and you are likely to take out a poet on their way to or from a poetry gig of some description. Words @ the Wall Readings at the State Library, the excellent Lee Marvin Readings at Dark Horsey Bookshop, Dead Poets Society Readings at Dymocks and the ubiquitous Friendly Street Readings just to name a few in the city – and that’s without getting to the suburban readings – Hills Poets at the Stirling Pub, Recovery Position at Prospect, SPIN at Christies Beach, Gawler Poets at the Pub, Fleurieu Readings on the peninsula, Top Pub in Willunga. Brilliance.
But I’m getting carried away. Spoke n Slurred. The above gigs cater to every flavour of poet you can imagine. Spoke n Slurred is infamous as being pretty much the only gig in town where at the very least you’ll be heckled. Worst case scenario – you’ll be taken down with a random object hurled from the crowd. Plus, it’s a gig that traditionally has showcased spoken word artists and drunkards. I was asked to read as a card-carrying member of the alcoholic set. Plus, I really admire spoken word poets, so I’ve been known to show up to these gigs as an audience member. However, as an introvert nature poet, I thought I was pretty safe from ever being asked to get up on stage.
Word of advice – if you don’t want to be asked to perform at a spoken word gig, don’t go to a spoken word show, hang around getting so drunk with the hardcore stayers that you then take part in a spontaneous open mike (sort of like an end of the night karaoke performance for poets).
So that’s how it happened. The upside of this story is that my lovely drunkard friends were all in the guest line up too and that the heckling was good-natured. Fortunately, I had a vagina poem prepared for just such an occasion – a sort of Spoke n Slurred insurance poem. Like I said, nothing is off the cuff.