Overloaded’s Maxine Clarke recalls last night’s Overload Poetry Festival slam heat in the lead-up to the September 11 Overload Poetry Slam Final, and the September 12 Skype Slam with Bristol Poetry Festival:
Last night’s Overload Poetry Slam heat at the Northcote Social Club brought home to me what this festival is all about. Slam MC and Melbourne poet, Crazy Elf (aka Joey Kurtschenko), ran the gig in his typical haphazard and obtrusive manner, his masked ninja by his side ready to throttle poets who went over-time. The ninja frowned a lot. She spanked poets. Hard. She threw plastic crates at Crazy. She was seriously in need of a truckload of valium and an anger management class.
As usual, judges were chosen at random from the audience, who were sprawled out over the musty (read: filthy) floor of Northcote Social Club, and encouraged to wreak havoc with the scoring system. I can’t remember the highest score of the night for any one poem by any one judge, just that they were abysmally low scores. Both audience members and poets seemed sadistically delighted at that fact. At one point Crazy, with his ripped biceps bulging out his black vest, giggled manically as he read out the added-up scores remarking “Oh my god, somebody almost got a double digit score. But oh no, actually when you look at it, you’re all pretty crap really.” The lowest was negative infinity, which went to Santo Cazzati, for partly plagiarising a government website in his poem satirising the Centrelink and the Work For the Dole scheme.
My pick, West Australian Gabrielle Everall, was overlooked. The woman’s shockrollercoaster of images, and the hypnotic drone with which she delivered her work fascinated me. I do hear tell that she has already earned a place in tomorrow night’s Overload Poetry Slam Final, but this is poetry grapevine talk so who really knows? I did manage to track Gabrielle down and beg a copy of her poetry book Dona Jaunita and the love of boys, which kept me up till the early hours.
By far the biggest highlight of the evening was when, with two poets left to slam, Crazy Elf asked the audience whether to bring Steve Smart or Santo Cazzati to the stage next. “Both”, the audience chanted, and Crazy did just that, the two poets alternating sections from their completely unrelated poems in an absurd call-and-answer that seemed at once perfectly synchronised and jarringly ridiculous. This dual-performance summed up the collegiate, anything-goes atmosphere of the Melbourne spoken word community I know and love.
While we waited for the ninja to add up the final scores, Crazy serenaded the audience with a spirited rendition of his much-loved ‘Easter carol’, the chorus booming: ‘Oh when you kill Jesus, he turns into chocolate eggs. Yes, when you kill Jesus, there’s cocoa there instead.’
I can’t remember who triumphed. A man by the name of Shane did alright. He confessed to have never read his poetry in public before, and then proceeded to reverse-heckle the audience with foul-mouthed witticisms after every second line. Matt Hetherington’s poem spoke to Thornbury vegetarians, and was a hit. Michael Reynolds, who already has a place in the final tomorrow night, fared well. A poet called Max walked naked through a casino and snorted crushed glass with boggle-eyed model wannabes, his feet peeling away from the casino floor like two glue-covered fingers repeatedly pressing against each other and schlucking apart again. That I remember his poem in such detail should clue you in to it’s power. Took a while to work out he’d won a place though, as ‘red-pants girly with glasses’ was called out in place of the poet’s name. Who knew what that was all about. Who cared? I don’t even know who made off with the ten dollar ‘jackpot.’ It was all insane, inconsequential, slightly disturbing, strangely uplifting and completely, deliciously anti-poetic.
The Overload Poetry Slam Final takes place on Friday September 11 (9.30pm at Dante`s), and will be followed by a Skype Slam with the Bristol Poetry Festival on Saturday evening at ACMI. Photos of Gabrielle Everall and Joey Kurtschenko (Crazy Elf) taken by Michael Reynolds