Friday, November 20, 2009

Tongues of Fire

"You rat bastard, you’re ruining it
for everybody..."


Congratulations once again to David Zieroth, this year’s Governor General’s award winner for poetry. Zieroth responded with a very nice note yesterday recounting the nervous moments just prior to the announcement. Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with him (to be posted once the dust settles).

Yup. A great week, made even better by my first National Poetry Slam, and getting the chance to sit as one of five judges, volunteers from a nearly packed audience at the Alex Goolden Hall in Victoria. To get an idea of what it’s like judging one of these affairs, imagine your partner, your kids, your next door neighbour and your boss all yelling at you at the same time. I’m seated smack in the middle of a bunch of rabid supporters of the Vancouver team, who display all the grace and understanding of Mike Tyson fresh from a root canal.

But a great night, starting with the amazing Andrea Thompson, whose take on relationships was funny...and unnervingly accurate. Thompson took time during her 20 minute set to acknowledge Canada’s Mama of Dada herself Sheri-D Wilson, seated in the balcony, before a string of spoken word poets took to the stage, kibitzing on everything from personal hygiene to erotic love, from family dysfunction to war.

The highlights remain the wonderful performances of the four teams vying for the title of Canada’s national poetry slam champs, i.e. Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and the Slaughter House Four, a wild card of spoken word poets pulled from the remaining teams. Ottawa ultimately prevailed based on performances by four young men who gave us delicious riffs on memories of a beloved sister, quiet soliloquies on gaining acceptance, and rapid fire indictments on modern society and the travesty of African war. The result all around: laughter and tears.

Every bit as striking as the performances was the sheer inventiveness of the performers’ writing (something that has historically marked the very best poetry and which, dare I say it, many page poets seem to have lost). The other star of the evening: the audience itself, singing the traditional time penalty chant whenever a performer exceeds the three-minute limit: “You rat bastard, you’re ruining it for everybody! But it was soooohh worth it!”

They were right. It was well worth it.

3 comments:

Paul Dutton said...
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Paul Dutton said...

"… four young men who gave us delicious rifts on memories of a beloved sister …"

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word "rift" is used to mean "1. a crack, split, or break. 2. a serious break in friendly relations."

So "rift" is a puzzling choice in the phrase quoted.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language tells us that the word "riff" is used to mean "1. {Music] A short rhythmic phrase, especially one that is repeated in improvisation. 2. A clever or inventive commentary or remark."

So "riff" would seem an appropriate alternative to "rift" in the phrase quoted.

David Kosub said...

Quite right, Paul. Good catch. About the only "serious break in friendly relations" was when I gave a mark which the crowd thought was too low. Much thanks for your comment.

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