If I swirled my red wine before sipping, and scribbled away with this ball-point pen until the night felt heady, could I pass as a poet?
Possibly, I thought as I waited for the August Caravan Poetry Slam to begin last Thursday night. I’m scruffy enough. And fairly unhinged. I even wore my Frida Kahlo socks.
From the moment the MC, Lou Steer, publicly wondered, “If androids dream of electric sheep does that mean they have electric blood too?” I knew the Caravan Slam was a community I wanted to be a part of.
Caravan Slam is a performance poetry event where poets – everyone from long-time literati to self-professed “slam virgins” – are given the chance to perform three minutes of original work. This month’s slam was held in Django Bar, Marrickville. When I lived in Marrickville the most exciting thing to do was watch the doughnut machine poop out cinnamon doughnuts in Marrickville Metro. But after the gentrification of Newtown and the subsequent hipsterisation of the industrial fringe, Marrickville has undergone a slap-on-some-street-art type of renovation.
Lou determined the running order by pulling names of the “chosen ones” out of the Sorting Hat which, due to an unfortunate absence of hat, became the Sorting ALDI Shopping Bag. Then the chosen poets delivered the goods. A dreadlocked “starchild” was upfront about how he couldn’t possibly connect with poetry whilst wearing shoes.
Remy Phillips, who introduced his poem by telling us, “I recently ended my relationship with my father. I highly recommend it”, reminded us that poignant poetry doesn’t require a melancholy ballad about your unrequited love for the moon.
Guest poets Tug Dumbly and Gabrielle Jones proved that delivery matters – Dumbly’s piece could almost be classified as stand-up comedy, and Jones broke out beatboxing. Elizabeth Routledge’s “poem about Facebook,” which tumbled onwards until it had nothing to do with Facebook, snagged the first place prize – “bragging rights”.
The audience responded with proper slam etiquette: clicking your fingers like high, hyperactive crabs is the ultimate compliment.
I admit, I enjoyed the slam because it let me rewrite the mundanities of my life into a pretty piece of fiction, what with the dimly-lit red interior and the grainy black-and-white projection of the poets, this could be 1920s Paris or 1950s New York. But, in the end, my reason for wanting to weasel my way into the Caravan Slam community had more to do with their ridiculous finger-clicking-clapping, a bizarre form of encouragement newspaper writers seldom receive.
Simply put, turn up at Django Bar on September 1. Entry is free for performers and $5 for plebs. Go because the atmosphere is quixotic, and because it is nice. I know that’s a prosaic thing to say. But I was only ever posing as a poet.