Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Andrea Gibson - Wasabi

At the last Traverse slam I did a cover of Andrea Gibson's Wasabi. I usually avoid covers - I have a hunger to keep creating new poems and I don't feel that each poem is complete until I have performed it at least once. The precious opportunities to perform my own work are important to me.

But I love this poem and I found that memorising and performing it has given me more insight into how it is structured - its secret scaffolding.

Wasabi has everything I enjoy in a performance poem, starting with a coherent theme. The images build upon each other, creating a whole. I find some contemporary American poetry arrogant and incoherent. Metaphors come at you out of nowhere, leaving a discordant ring in your ear that you are trying to resolve while the poem plays on. Andrea's poems are not like this.

Another thrilling aspect is the pacing of this poem, the way it accelerates and slows, weaves and races. The colours and textures of the rhythm create a performance that transfixes the listener.

Finally, Andrea uses rhyme just right. She doesn't force any rhymes and uses some of them in unexpected but perfect places.

I would like to emulate Andrea in my poetry. By putting myself inside Wasabi, I am hoping that some of her talent has entered me.

This youtube vid starts with a lot of dialogue. To go straight to the poem, skip to 4:05.

I first heard Andrea on the IndieFeed Performance Poetry podcast. You can find IndieFeed podcasts on iTunes and also here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Phrase Trains

On Friday night, at the usual monthly Traverse slam, we competing poets had a surprise: as there was only five of us, Arbitrary Andrew (yes, that's his real name) decided there would be two rounds. So we all had to pull out a second piece to perform. And so, we did.

The poem I performed is an old one that I posted here previously. Here it is again:

I really like this poem, although it is nonsense. I enjoy the stream of consciousness lyrics of Stephen Malkmus (from Pavement) and Beck, so I tried to replicate them. I had a rough idea and then let it flow. I think it worked out well. I went back to smooth out the rhythm and change some of the words and phrases to align roughly with the broad theme (which only appeared after I had drafted the poem).

This is a great poem to perform (the recording does not give any indication of the possibilities for gestures) and it has grown as I have performed it.

Choo choo!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chickenshit Conformist

Sidney left his spine at a punk rock gig
In a 1980s basement tavern
His fist in the air, or during that stage dive pause
Mid-air, before landing on outstretched palms and spiked heads.

Sidney left his spine at a punk rock gig
By night, entrusting his fight to hard core chords and ramming speed beats, bouncing off sweaty shoulders like a pinball

But by day, he moved like a teddy bear, shuffling to his employment where he fulfilled his role well as beige stuffing for a cubicle

Sidney wore his Nobody Likes a Thinker shirt to bed and brown cardigans to work
At home, he pounded his head to Bad Religion LPs,
In the office he nodded, so meek and eager to please the boss
Oi oi oi! fist-punching the air by night
Became yes sir data punching by daylight

When Nickelbak Steve bullied the office floor into a shark tank,
Sidney shook in a locked toilet stall, holding the tooth that was elbowed free when skin heads crashed that Hard Ons gig in the CBD clenching the tooth in his fist until the enameled tip bit.

Sidney left his spine at a punk rock gig
To fill the gap, he slowly fled to drink
He drank at home to Black Flag and DOA
If he drank enough he’d go out, become corner fluff in some bar or club.

Until last Friday,
When Sidney was tossed from Mooseheads for shouting ‘Chickenshit Conformist’ at 30 seconds from Mars on the flat screen TV,
‘Chickenshit Conformist’, his face so close his spit sprayed on his own reflection, over the fake Mohawks and eyeliner.

Ten minutes later, he was glassed in Shooters by a guy in white canvas shoes and an Ed Hardy tee.

Sidney left his spine at a punk rock gig,
But the ambos couldn’t silence him and didn’t understand him, his split cheek flapping torn like a ripped tartan sleeve
As he screamed for Nancy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Corners Parts 3 and 4

Here is the second half:

3   I have an interactive concept: a dot-to-dot verse painting. Here is a stanza, with every fifth word a point. You join the dots in your mind, use straight lines and the curved form of the poem will appear.

Got it? Here we go:

      corner          cycle      
     complained        tangential     
                          slid      sparks       fire      cheek.



4   My mother told me to marry a trapezium.
Trapeziums are sure and safe.
Just enough corners to hint at danger,
But stable, solid-based.

She said never trust an ellipse.
An ellipse flips between two centres
And rocks between heaven and hell.

Mobius strips give me nightmares.
Death is a dot.
Eternal life is a mobius strip.

No, I’m more of a straights man.
I never made good Hot Wheels tracks when I was a kid,
But in the face of a strong breeze I flew a mean kite.


I like the third section and I think it works. I actually wrote two sentences and then selected every 4th or 5th word. (I cheated a little to make it sound better). I know what the original sentences are, but now that I read it I can see different meanings and nuances in it. Some minds of a certain persuasion (you know who you are) read an entirely different meaning into it. I think that's cool.