Spoiler alert! This blog is supposed to be for your entertainment, not a pseudo-diary, but this post has become a bit of a ponder. I’m posting it anyway. You’re not my Mum! (Apart from you, Mum. Hi. You are. Unless you’ve been lying to me. Hope not.) So if you’re after instant gratification, just scroll down to the link at the bottom, or to the next post. If you think you can make it through a few hundred words, then off you shoot. K? K.
So I just received the recording from the most recent Wordplay, the final show, and listened through it. It’s all feeling a little bit emotional, really. There’s this…thing…that I made, and then there’s not. I’m a tragic nostalgic, and endings are always sad. But especially something that’s been such a big part of life. I described to someone today as like raising a child from infancy and then abandoning it by a highway because it became inconvenient. All the feeding and changing and answering questions, says the bad mother. It was just so much work… That’s why she skipped the country.
I spend three years living and breathing it. Obsessing about line-ups, pitching to performers, pushing promotion, rambling to people at parties. I got (some kind of) reputation on the back of it, got involved in the Writers Festival, got an OzCo grant. I got together with my girlfriend through Wordplay and that went two years and more. I made a few of my closest friends too, and have made a bunch of other friends who I firmly believe will become close ones. I pissed a few people off too, but that’s the inevitable collateral damage of being alive. There were friends who came to almost every show – Dutchie, Rahn, Sensible Man, Sally. My parents would show up to rep my hood, and Denice Smart, bless her heart, missed about one gig in three years. It was great how, within different groups of my friends, some who were much less close to me were still often in the audience, moreso than closer friends. It meant I knew they were there for themselves, not for me. We collected so many random professionals – teachers, office workers – who stumbled upon the gig but then kept coming back.
So I’m really proud of what we did. We gave them something completely different to everything else in their lives. And we did it well. It went from about thirty of my friends in Blue Velvet to repeatedly packing out The Dan with 150-odd people, half of whom I’d never met. We had top-shelf comedians, and rappers coming in fresh off headline tours, and we got them on with poets who most of the audience had never heard of, and would never have encountered. We gave the poets a crowd, and the crowd the poets, and a beautiful romance developed. They loved each other. So now at least those people know that they can enjoy poetry, and we performers have had that spine-tingling experience of a packed house hanging on our every word. The archive of recordings we’ve got online is pure gold, and we’ve had web surfers from 54 different countries tapping into it. We’ve given something to a whole lot of people.
And so that part of it ends. But that last gig – what a way to go out. I’ve listened through it and I’m still digesting. I mean, Mantra – what a mindfuck. My trusty videographer had told me by email: “Mantra rocked; loved the way he dealt with spiritual themes – it’s certainly very refreshing to witness an artist who’s dealing with such subject matter and I imagine that he’s in a bit of a league of his own here.” I think the G-train is on the money. And after some thought I can say I don’t think I’ve ever heard such tight construction and complexity from an Australian rapper. Maybe Suffa in a few spots here and there, but even then not usually for such a sustained period. Mantra’s lines were delivered with complete poise, and the dude’s a comedian between tracks to boot. And it’s not like he’s doing some in-the-club track either, it’s metaphysics and humanity and a world of bigger thoughts.
I’ve been here for three-point-three billion
Ever since early bacterial beginnings
To the present multicellular material we live in
Till it’s all done and we in the ethereal dominion…
And I’ve always loved hearing Eleanor read but this was her best show – material with both consistency and variety. Equal access to humour and emotional depth. As she finished her last piece, I simultaneously let out a kind of strangled yelp of approval, like I did when Paul Chapman snapped that goal in the last quarter of the Grand Final, and at the same time actually cried a little. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry”…but it never actually happens, does it? I had to take a moment and walk around the house before continuing. And these are my honest reflections, not even me trying to pump the thing up. Archie is always super-confident, and swings between the ridiculous and the meaningful as he pleases. “My love is like a parson’s nose…” kicks off some of the best rambling ever. And Briohny’s just one of my favourites. I think it’s because she doesn’t go round thinking of herself as a poet. It’s just a thing she does, usually when I make her and give her money. Which sounds like a different profession, but it’s all about the words, people. She’s so…normal. She just says “Hey. Listen to this.”
So anyway. It’s done. I’ve had a little sniffle. Exacerbated by the fact that everyone on the recording was saying nice things about me even though I wasn’t there. Totally warm and fuzzy, that experience. Except Anthony who insulted me continually, but that was entirely expected. So, to the people who applauded me, I applaud you right back, because we wouldn’t have had a show without an audience, we would have had five poets in a bar. Which is just the precursor to someone getting rolled. I’ve also podcasted that gig now, and if you weren’t there then do yourself a favour and click this link. It is in all seriousness , it will be the most productive thing you’ll do this week. They’ll take you places. You should go.