Last night was BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! A poetry slam, my first appearance on stage reading some verses that I plucked from the ether a few days earlier. I was invited by Kyra who I met at a café a few weeks ago, after sharing a journal entry with her she recommended that I get on stage, even more so considering I had never done it before.
The evening came – I was nervous but relaxed, if that’s a thing – I walked to the Phoenix pub from the streets of Canberra CBD and stood outside, a door surrounded by a wallpaper of flyers and show calendars presented me, the front was small, with five paces I could have walked right by it. In I went to be shown a darkened bar space, decorated with bedside lamps, medieval art seemingly in jest of itself and a stage backing against the front wall. I walked by it, the two microphones illuminated by the yellow glow of the spotlights and a few steps leading to the wooden theatre floor – I thought of being up there, what it was like standing behind the mic, my back against the large projector screen, the lights bleeding into my eyes as I gazed over an awaiting crowd. I shook my head, clearing the mental picture and went onward for a beer.
A spare seat at a table found me and I started talking to a pair of girls having a drink, tearing them away from their smartphones. After a few words I discovered they were not reading poetry tonight, nor had any desire to – I looked around the small room, keeping an eye out for Ky, tables, bench seats and stools hugged the walls, mostly occupied. I spied a group close to the stage what looked like the inner circle of poets, every now and then the MC (Master of Confusion) got up to advertise the event and sat back down amongst the group, I approached to say hi and register myself to read verse to hungry mob.
The show began and Ky arrived in perfect timing, I felt better knowing that not everyone was a complete stranger in the moment. The rules were read out amidst casual banter and heckle:
Must be your original work
Two minute time limit
Another thing, if this was a new poem you were to state it and at which point the crowd would yell “I FUCKED YOUR DAD!”, if an old poem “AAAAAH BATS!” – the atmosphere was friendly and supportive, all this, in humour and excitement. The judges were identified, five in all and the scoring system was between ten and negative infinity. A poets name would be drawn from a hat, I felt great relief that I was not the front liner and settled in with a grin.
Great and mediocre alike were welcomed with banter, I had almost forgot my reason for being here when my name was called by the MC. I stood in front of the mic, the heat of the lights intensifying an already hot skin from being on show. I unfolded my printed poem and began, it was memorised but I wasn’t taking any chances on a choke and freeze. The feeling throughout was different than the comfort of reading to the trees from the veranda of my abode or in the car driving to work – I felt a bit cloudy and perhaps I rushed it? Our own worst critic aren’t we.
I conclusively folded the sheet of paper in silence, the last few words ringing across the room preceding a hearty applause. Descending the steps the MC asked if that was my first time then turned and commanded the obligatory three hugs from people in the audience, I was the centre of a group hug and it felt great after being on stage. I got a hurling of verbal congratulations and a high five from Ky back at our table while the MC called upon the judges for the score – I was pretty happy to receive mostly 9’s.
The show went on with laughter, breath holding awe, bewilderment, entertainment and well placed silence as the verse continued late into the night. My prize for the night was a bag of plastic army men as I stood on stage receiving the trophy next to several others, on receiving a dust pan and broom, another a stack of magazines. The technical truth of the situation revealed by the MC, we were all award winning poets. Eventually and happily I returned home some time in the early morning unphased by the theme of late nights and drifted toward my pillow and off to sleep.