Saturday, September 10, 2005

Article - The Sydney Idiots Guide to Overload Poetry Festival.

For the last six hours or so you were talking shit, and you’re not sure why. This is what comes to you as you wake on a dirty worn patch of Collingwood carpet. Your tongue is as stale as a hostel mattress, your head as heavy as German bread, your liver a sewer. Somewhere in the night you remember there were poets, poets, more booze and poets.

“There are too many poets in Melbourne” you say to midday, and a body rumbles a fart on the couch.

Welcome to Overload.

Only Melbourne could host a fifteen day spoken word and poetry festival on a budget of next to nothing and with pretty much no promotion. Perth wouldn’t see why, Adelaide would assume, correctly, that it would screw it up, and Brisbane and Tasmania would probably just push it into a corner and pick on it.

As for Sydney, she’d do the sums, add the cost of a new outfit, do a few lines of cheap coke, and ask “so, where exactly is the money in all of this?”

Melbourne didn’t care, Melbourne just did it.

Ok, so it wasn’t the slickest show in the world. The festival had been going for a week when the website ( finally got it up. There were no sponsored fly outs, hotel rooms, and Bacardi Festival Clubs or Spiegletents. Just lots of poetry, camaraderie and people living and drinking in the present tense. (You see, it’s a play on words; what I did there… I’ll just get on with it will I?)

It was in this atmosphere that four plucky Sydney poets went up against the Victorians for the Word Wrestling Federation belt. God bless that Melbourne team; they did manage to organise a festival after all, but lets face it – those Sydney kids were slicker, tighter, and had more rhythm than James Brown at a Crystal Meth dealers’ convention, and, in a very Sydney/Melbourne comparison, there was not a piece of paper, or ‘cheat-sheet’ as they’ve been called in the shallow city, to be seen.

As for me, I need my cheat-sheets. Sometimes they don’t even save me, such as when Gemnastics and I attempted the blend of Lewis Carroll and Raymond Chandler we’d write one muggy Chardonnay afternoon in Surry Hillism: “Jabbernoir e Lychee Whine.” The backing track CD, kindly sampled and looped with the permission of those charming “Good Buddha” boys, was the wrong version, and ended prematurely, throwing the brown little bicycle of Gemma’s brain off track.

“Just keep fucking going,” I said away from the one microphone that was briefly working, and she giggled like a schoolgirl on cheap vino.

It was a slick gig kids.

Ah yes, and we all talked about moving to Melbourne, where the weather was milder, the rents cheaper, the people nicer, and better read and the public transport actually existed. Pity that the beaches are more like flat swamps and the beer was so expensive. ($3 for a middy!) Whatever.

You may, at some point find yourself refused entry to Melbourne Writers’ Festival, despite the fact that one of you is on a panel, just because you haven’t slept for a day or so…

“and, Sir, you’re carrying a bottle of whisky.”

“Do you know who I am!”

“No Sir, now if you don’t have a ticket please move back.”

Retched itch.

Yes, you’ll think to yourself, there are too many poets in Melbourne, particularly during Overload, but you’ll like it that way, especially in the early hours on the ground floor of a bar in Chinatown, when they all, for some reason, start break dancing.

I would have joined in but I would have spilt my whisky.

Besides, I was having too much fun watching the domestics, but that’s another story, to be told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Cheers.

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