An aggressive life-sized badger (the mascot of the Bristol Poetry Festival Slam), and a pixie-sized deranged masked ninja (mascot of the Overload Poetry Festival Slam), the impromptu staccato sound-poetry caused by technical glitches and web-cammed rooms of mad, excitable poets evidently weren’t bizarre enough for Overland Overloaded’s Simonne Michelle-Wells. Embracing the true chaos of Slam, Simonne emerged from the Overload-Bristol Skype Slam on Saturday evening seriously lamenting the lack of commitment to mayhem and disorder:
The idea was a great one. In theory. A cross-continental Skype slam, replete with warring mascots, muscle-bound Aussie alpha males and pudgy, pink-shirted Englishmen. Not all good ideas are destined to come together though, are they? I mean, there’s mayhem and then there’s just plain annoying.
Not that the Overland Slam was ever touted as being anything less than slightly organised mayhem: you get beaten by a ninja (the Aussie mascot) if you stay on stage too long, the scores are between 10 and negative infinity, and they’re judged by people who ideally have no interest, or better yet, a slight disregard for, poetry.
The four brave finalists who made it through the heats ended up at ACMI on Saturday night, going head to head with a slightly less pandemoniacal crowd in Bristol for a skyping slam-off of disappointing proportions.
If you’re going to commit yourself to chaos, commit, people, that’s my beef. If you’re going to dress in full ninja gear than BE a ninja with the commitment of a Shakespearean actor. If you have technical issues, don’t stand there and call people c*nts and laugh at how funny it is that nothing’s going to plan. Not that the technical issues seemed to be anybody’s fault. It’s just that every poem by the English team sounded like this: Th.. te.. ba.. ee.. fft.. spt.. tug.. pls.. th.. Yup. Riveting. Although, we did get to hear almost the entire rendition of a spunktastic extravaganza Nil By Mouth by Bristol’s Molly, which was all about how long a girl could hold onto a mouthful of cum before having to spit it out on the kitchen floor in front of her parents. It was a hit. As I’m sure you can imagine.
Our guys rocked, of course. Randall Stevens, Michael Reynolds, Timothy Train and IQ all seemed very worthy finalists to me. Timothy Train’s global financial missile midlife crisis poem was a well performed word-flurry. Michael Reynold’s list poem elicited several ‘God Save the Queens’ from the audience (a mark of great acclaim). Randall Stevens was the performer of the evening for me, with a deliciously husky delivery of his poem Meet Me, chock full of textured lines like ‘…when frayed ends of sentences left unfinished, bit back.’ IQ’s words gave me goosebumps and he was the only poet from either continent to command silence with a lyrical and inspiring piece about music: ‘It’s music. We owned it once… We all wanted to have a Ben in our life… The world is a tongue… put the needle on the record, sing along.’
Who was the ultimate winner? I don’t even know. I think it was a draw between Michael Reynolds and Molly. Did anyone care? Not really, by the look of it. If Overload wants to bring poetry into public view, I’m not sure this event, populated mostly by poets, is really the way to do it.
Photos: Randall Stephens Struts his stuff before the skype screen, and the ninja listens to a Bristol slammer, poised to karate chop.