Going Down Swinging has been out and about recording during the 2009 Overload Poetry Festival. At the end of it all, they’re left with hours and hours of audio, which will be culled down to twelve or so tracks to be released later in the year as part of a new Overload/Going Down Swinging highlights disc. In the early hours of the morning after the last event of Overload 2009 had finished, Going Down Swinging’s Lisa Greenaway sat down with myself and Overland Overloaded’s Alec Patric to chat. It was a very informal affair: I had my dictaphone with me, but the place was noisy, and we kind of just looked at it helplessly and began chatting. Lisa looked tired, but not that kind of exhausted, broken tiredness, it was a satisfied weariness that let us know she realised exactly what Going Down Swinging had accomplished in recording so many spoken word performances in such a short time.
Our musings skipped and jumped all over the place, but we kept coming back to several issues that have interestingly been both catalysts for, and points of discussion on the Overland Overloaded blog. The first of these issues was the debate surrounding the term ‘spoken word’, and division between those who consider Spoken Word to be a separate and distinct category from ‘page poetry’, and those who reject this distinction. Greenaway, in the former of these categories, spoke about her decades long campaign to distinguish spoken word from page poetry. It’s a stance that’s embraced by many performing poets, but also one that attracts ongoing criticism from other performing poets who see the debate as divisive, and a key contibutor to the view that those who perform their work are somehow not ‘real’ poets. For me, the jury’s still out on this issue, and having frequently heard TT.O assert the latter it was fascinating to hear Lisa’s opinion on the topic.
It was also intriguing to talk to Lisa about her roots in radio (she was the original host of what is now Aural Text, on RRR), and the rise in international submissions for Going Down Swinging as the spoken word audio disc (which is accompanied by a print journal), becomes more internationally known. As we stood around one of the high tables in near-deserted Dante’s, gazing at the cover of the last Going Down Swinging, Greenaway declared herself the Buster Keaton to her co-editor Klare Lanson’s Roscoe. We threw around poetry ideas as if we had the bankroll to do anything…setting up a major spoken word prize to rival the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Would Overland somehow be able to back it? Why hasn’t it been done yet?
Lisa, Alec and I spoke about the Overland/Overload blog and the fact that, as a performing poet, you perform month after month, sometimes week after week, without any kind of feedback or validation beyond those present on the night. A poetry collection, a novel, a work of non-fiction, can be plugged endlessly, express mailed to every potential reviewer. Many poets have been reviewed here at Overland for the first time in their lives, despite a substantial body of work. The partnership has allowed people a minute glimpse into the crazy, wonderful and diverse spoken word community of Melbourne. Going Down Swinging has the real stuff: hours and hours of it, the words we spoke, the way the audience responded. Going Down Swinging caught everything I dearly, dearly wish us Overloaders had been able to catch: the bilingual reading ‘Universal Tongue’, Graham Nunn and Sean M Whelan’s musical collaborations, Warren Burt and TT.O at Glitch, Andy Jackson and his trio. A slice of Overload will end up on the Overload Going Down Swinging, which I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated about, but now that I’ve finally had a full night’s sleep I’m excited at the possibilities. I look forward to speaking with Overland about where we might go from here.
As Alec and I walked Lisa to her car and we loaded the audio equipment and a small stack of Going Down Swingings into the boot, I couldn’t help thinking what a fitting end it was to Overload 2009.