Poetry SlamJune 20, 2008
I entered a Poetry Slam last night for the first time. It was part of the Winter Magic Festival which is held in Katoomba every year. I performed this one slightly modified as it had to be squished into 2 minutes. It was very scary. I have sung in public before but somehow it was scarier just talking. But it went ok. I didn’t stuff up too badly. And it was really fun. I think I’ll be doing it again.
Of course I didn’t win, not even close. But I didn’t expect to. I knew I would be performing to a misogynist and racist audience so it didn’t surprise me in the least that the two winners were white and male. And the runner up was… yep, you guessed it, a white, male misogynist.
But there were quite a few women in the audience who approached me afterwards who said that they really liked my work and praised my performance. One women even whispered furtively, “You should have won.” If I had been free to speak, if I had have spoken freely, I would have replied, “Sister, I know the rules of men’s games, you can only win while wearing white skin and having a dick between your legs whilst babbling goobledegook.” I didn’t reach the age of 26 without learning that my skin and my sex were liabilities when playing games in the malestream. My commitment to women’s liberation and women’s centredness is even less acceptable.
Winning and losing are male concepts. The idea the poetry can be well serviced by competition is completely alien to me. Poetry is spiritual, poetry is erotic, poetry is connection. But the reality is that I did win last night. I made connections with other women poets. Real women who wrote with feeling about earth and sky and women’s power. Our voices shone strongly to each other. We connected and we won.
On a personal level, I faced my fear of performance and I proved to myself that it is entirely possible for me to get up on stage and not make a complete fool of myself. I didn’t go completely blank, like I thought I would, I didn’t stumble over ever single line, I didnt trip over when I walked onto the stage. In short, I won. I conquered my own doubts and self-hatred, two of women’s biggest and most fatal stumbling blocks.
I came away from the night with a feeling of elation. The night confirmed for me just how lacking in music and poetry men really are. They have no feeling for the beauty and depth of language, the subtlety of rhythm, the complexity of the personal and political. Dissenter and I couldn’t help but laugh at the clumbsiness of what men call poetry.
The way the competition was judged was the MC (a Black or possibly mixed racial man, the only other person of colour performing) threw five markers out into the audience. Whoever caught the marker became a judge. Fair right? One of the markers went to a highschool girl (pretty cool I thought), another to a woman who was a birdwatching guide, another hit an elderly woman, her husband picked up the marker and when he tried to give her the marker the woman refused to take it, retired gentleman becomes the next judge, the fourth marker was caught by a woman, her friend’s husband quickly snatched the marker from her, so sexist IT dude became a judge and the last was thrown to a male tree lopper. Three men, one woman, one girl.
I have to wonder how different the judging would have been if the women had held tight to those markers. The wrap up of the night was like some sick joke. The two male winners, the male MC and the TWO WOMEN WHO HAD ORGANISED THE WHOLE EVENT stood on stage to be congratulated. So women are the ones that do the hard yards and organise the events, men are the ones that win, introduce and control the proceedings of the event.
Ngh, I need to organise some women only performance nights. Men’s performance bores me to tears. Even though one of the women’s performances was horrible classist, misogynist and possibly racist, she didn’t hold a candle to the misogyny and homophobia of some of the men. And the audience was laughing and enjoying the misogynist and homophobic ‘poetry’. The most woman-hating poem was voted runner up. Erch.
But I really do have to do it more often. It was great to meet other women performers, women who wrote Mother Earth/Goddess poetry no less. Pretty bloody awesome methinks.