So it’s that time of year again. And no, I don’t mean the tinsel and eggnog time, I mean National Slam Final time. It’s the National Slam’s second birthday and I reckon it’s looking: well, like a two year old: charming but filthy, full of irrationally unpredictable tantrums, totally disloyal and like you’d wheelie-bin it if it wasn’t so goddamn adorable. Personally, I’m prepared to put up with it so long as it grows up one day, though God knows what trials puberty will bring.
Now first up, let’s get this straight: I didn’t enter the National Slam this year. Can’t quite say why. That five thou cheque is quite a hook, but somehow, my heart just wasn’t in it this time. One of my loyal blog - spies (and here I should confess that I have, in fact, enlisted an army of underground stooges to facilitate the shocking spoken word expose` that is this blog. Any poet you encounter could be undercover, so if you thought you’d avoid blog-scrutiny by avoiding me, forget it folks) reported to me that the Victorian State final was a great night, but yawningly same-same: lots of the usual suspects, pulling out their best, but tried and tested…
And there lies the thing about the National Slam. With stakes so high (including a debaucherous Sydney weekend for State Finalists and $5000 for the winner), who the fu*k would want to risk new material? I wouldn’t, so don’t get me wrong I’m all for word conservation. Hell, I say let’s re-think, re-cycle and re-use all the poems we have – they’re a precious natural resource. It's our responsibility to be sparing: if we use them all up at once, what will be left for our children? Personally, I’d be happy to slam the same poem at every gig, several times in a row, and have almost been known to do so (thank F*ck Obama got it, now I can recycle that crowd-pleasing swan-song for another four to eight years. Kerching!). Maybe slam poems should become like pop songs, where people in the audience can slam along with you. We could even throw in a bit of audience-participation by way of air guitar.
I say f*ck the National Slam: for the end of this year, and the start of next, I’ve got my eye on a new-comer. One that has you slamming before Buddhist Monks in the grounds of a Temple where a giant smiling Buddha overlooks a sacred Aboriginal meeting place in the Maribyrnong Valley. A slam that has you on the Baptist Church pulpit (oooh yeah, move over Jeremiah Wright...and the Lord said “let there be SLAMMING, and there was”) and greening with the trees in an environmental sustainability centre.
Much as I’ll get slammed for saying it, I reckon us slammers have become predictable creatures. For the most part, we find our groove, and bloody well stick to it. Last year I met this random stalker-slash-groupie at a slam (and if you’re reading this, you psychopath, please avoid the urge to turn up naked at midnight outside my bedroom window covered in Nutella, wildly screaming my name in the middle of my quiet suburban street like last time. I might find it flattering, but it kind of unnerves my partner and small child). The stalker-slash-groupie came up to me and said.
“I’ve seen you slamming quite a few times now and I really like your stuff”…
(at the “quite a few times” point, I slowly started to back away)
“but the thing is….”
(there’s always a ‘but’ with stalkers)
“Your stuff is like…kind of dark sometimes. It really moves me but sometimes I just go home and get so distressed about things that I want to kill myself…”
(and here, I painfully resisted the urge to suggest this might not be a terrible idea)…
What to do? When I thought about it, it was true. I’d kind of become the this-world-is-f*cked-and-all-I-can-think-to-do-about-it-is-lay-the-shit-on-people-about-it-at-slams champion. And let’s not be coy about it, I had become a bloody awesome this-world-is-f*cked-and-all-I-can-think-to-do-about-it-is-lay-the-shit-on-people-about-it-at-slams champion.
But I couldn’t let this I’m-so-depressed-all-I-can-think-to-do-about-it-is-kill-myself psychopath ‘type me like that. So I knuckled down and did the unthinkable: wrote a funny poem. And I mean side-splittingly, undergarment-soaking, drink-snortingly hilarious. Only in my mind. Until I slammed it in front of people. What the hell do they know anyway?
So… my wishes for the festive slam season? New slammers with new material, old slammers with new material, an unlikely winner for the Nationals*, and an awesome start to Geoff Fox’s revolutionary roaming inter-faith, cross-cultural 2009 Melbourne Slam**.
* Notwithstanding my loyalty to capable and deserving Melbournites Ezra and Si, who will ably and dynamically represent our perverted little Melbourne slam-cult at the National final in Sydney on Dec 4th.
** Geoff Fox runs the new Melbourne Slam 2009, and can be contacted through the Melbourne slammers Facebook chain. Heats run monthly at venues open to poetic voices across Melbourne. There is an optional theme for each heat, no entry fee, and the heat prize is $100.