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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Did I Mention There’s a Poetry Slam Tonight?

posted by on October 8 at 15:00 PM

Over at Maisonneuve, there’s an interesting essay about how literature readings are not interesting at all.

One of the best depictions of how a literary reading becomes something to be endured instead of enjoyed is to be found in Russell Smith’s comic novel Noise. The protagonist attends a poetry reading in an unventilated room with a strong “odour of feet” and a drunken patron who shouts invective at the small gathering. The distractions mount:
The dishwashing machine at the bar came to life with a mighty buzz, and Dick’s voice was drowned. Simultaneously, someone in the front bar put money in the Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine, and it awoke with a synthesized William Tell overture and a fanfare of bells. …Another drunken shout from the bar, and a chorus of shushes from the crowd. “Whatsamatter,’ came the drunken voice, ‘am I in church, or what? Thought it was a bar.’

Smith’s description is funny because it happens to be entirely accurate. It captures perfectly the stifling atmosphere one often encounters at readings: the tiny, self-conscious audiences; the improperly set up sound systems; the readers who don’t know how to project or crisply enunciate; the forced laughter; the sheer tedium of it all. When readings are well-organized and the authors good performers, the result can be memorable. But this happens so rarely that I’m compelled to ask: what’s the point?

You should read the whole thing. It’s a pretty good case against readings. I disagree, of course; I think once you attend enough of them, you have a pretty good idea about who’s going to be a good reader and who’s going to be bad. And a lot of the readings described in the post sound like the author is talking about friends’ poetry readings, and so attended out of obligation. It’s never a good idea to attend a friend’s poetry reading. This is an important rule of thumb everyone should remember.

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Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 8, 2008 10:10 PM

Clearly, this guy has never been to "Cheap Wine and Poetry." There are drunken shouts (Blame it on the cheap wine!), but no dishwasher and certainly no poetry that will bore your ass into rigamortis.

Posted by Brian | October 9, 2008 8:43 AM

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