In which the Reverend Hellfire visits an isolated mountain village..
Travelling Poetry Man
Pt 2: Something Wicked this Way Comes..
Morning and the Reverend Hellfire is on the move again. This time he is hitching a lift with esteemed Ipswickian poet, Cameron Logan, towards the Rainbow Region’s capital, Nimbin and the 2015 “Nimbin World Performance Poetry Cup“.
Both are scheduled to appear in the Heats. Ahead Mount Warning seems to be wearing a hat, possibly a Sombrero.
Yes the Reverend is entering a Competition but he is under no illusions about “Winning”. The Reverend may be one of Australia’s finest Performance Poets, but he is an acquired taste, like Gorgonzola or ketamine.
Nimbinites like poems about things like Rainbows and White Light, and instead, to the Ominous sounds of shaking and rattling, here comes the Reverend Hellfire, swaggering out of the Shadows trailed by Spiders, Vampires, Poltergeists and nameless Minions firing compressed air-cannisters of non-biodegradable, fire-hazardous material at the Audience.
The Reverend taunts the Judges and prods and provokes his audiences. Don’t think you’re safe up the back either!
Worse still, this year the Reverend brought his “Horrors” set of “edu-taining” poems to town, guaranteed to terrify the arachnophobic. Indeed, it was gratifying to see the audience reel back in fear as the Reverend commenced his “spider-walk” down the aisle and at least one terrified audience member bolted from the Hall. (Much to the amusement of the street-people loitering outside, who, it seems, circulated the story all over town.)
“Along came a Spider
And sat down beside Her..”
No, the Reverend came not to compete but to demonstrate his Art on stage a couple of times, to terrify the locals and impress his peers. To Network and to watch quality poets from around the country. (In Nimbin at least, the poets are generally professional enough to actually learn their poems by Heart.)
Strangely perhaps, for an event billed as a performance poetry competition, there was little in the way of actual performance.
From my notes only the Reverend Hellfire himself, Brisburgh iconoclast Gerald Keaney and his hilarious attempts to “get into” his poem, fine-feathered Ahliya Farebrother, the ever-vibrant & twirling Vasudha Harte and a curmudgeonly, drunken Len Martin, had an overt performance aspect to their presentation this year.
For the rest, the performance part was reduced to the bare minimum of Delivery and witnessing the Drama of the Poet’s Personality as they declaimed their Words. To this end, some will wear a hat or some other element of “costume” in their attire. (The Reverend also believes this is somehow all related to a growing tendency in modern poetry not to have a Topic so much as to have an Attitude.)
For some talented wordsmiths of the caliber of Tug Dumbly, David Hallett, and Cameron Logan the quality of their Work and their polished delivery allows them to successfully command the audiences attention. Poets like Lou Steer and Robert Conlon also managed to demonstrate a powerful onstage presence.
For other poets, 8 minutes is clearly stretching the uppermost limit of their ability to hold an audience with the “power of their words” alone. Especially when their style of delivery remains monotonously unvarying also, the combination is deadly. Thus, for several poets, I found myself inexorably nodding in my chair like an old junkie, and my only notes for each of those poets are the words:
Which brings me to the Winner.
The historic Nimbin pub
The Rev usually tries not to pay to much attention to the results at these things.
Talk was hot amongst the out-of-town poets gathered in the Nimbin pub that Saturday night, that the judging at the Nimbin Cup always favoured the locals.(Was this why there were only 26 competitors this year?) But all this was put in perspective when those gathered started swapping horror stories of Dodgy Slams and dubious judging from around Australia.
In Truth, the Judging at the Nimbin Cup is only as erratic
as any other Poetry competition or slam.
Thus while some decisions are no brainers,
other choices made by the Judges
are often very strange indeed.
The winner of this year’s world performance-poetry cup, technically, didn’t actually read “a poem” or even perform.
Sadly I have to say Josh Holms, for all his painfully earnest sincerity, just sent me to sleep the first time I listened to him.
The second time, the moaning of pain from those sitting near me kept me awake long enough to make some notes. By an interesting co-incidence I had just written the words, “This isn’t Poetry this is just a Political Polemic“ when Josh ended his speech with the statement,
“This isn’t a poem/ This is a Call to Arms!”
As for content; sorry but it struck me as insipid, pseudo-new-age drivel. Well intentioned pious platitudes
about the Soul and Truth, that mean Nothing and fail even in their stated aim of being a ‘Call to Arms’, for what it really amounts to, my Friends, is Preaching.
And the Reverend does not like being preached at.
The Reverend doesn’t preach himself,
he just tells his little stories and parables.
(Let those who have ears, listen.)
Don’t think it’s a matter of me merely disagreeing with the content.
I like Peace and Love as much as the next person.
I mean, I didn’t agree with the text of Ahiya Farebrother‘s poem, (a tired old “Objectification/Beauty Myth” rave)
but I would have passed her through to Finals at least, because, unlike Josh,
her polemic was actually crafted into a poem, and she delivered it in the form of a beautifully minimalist piece of performance. She actually went to the trouble of thinking up a conceptual piece of physical theatre and putting it into practice, so kudos to Ahiya and indeed I believe she ended up getting the People’s Choice Award.
Otherwise the Cup was much as always.
The same general comments and criticisms I’ve made in previous years could well be made again. See;
In the heart of Nimbin a fire burns.
In the centre of town, on the main street of Nimbin, there is now a vacant lot. Until the Winter of 2014, the world famous Rainbow Cafe and next to it the iconic Nimbin Museum & Hemp Store stood there, whilst in and around
these buildings and their little side lane,
the equally World-renowned street drug trade
had also centred itself and thrived.
In many ways these buildings were, if not the Heart of Nimbin at the very least an intrinsic part of its Soul.
The olde Nimbin Museum should have been in a Museum itself.
Love it or hate it, the open drug market was always part of the Janus-faced character of Nimbin.
But late at night last winter, a fire mysteriously broke out. The old timber buildings were quickly engulfed in flames, and by morning little but ashes and charred ruins remained.
It was a devastating blow for the town’s residents.
But Life goes on my friends, and wounds heal. And Behold! The Reverend has witnessed strange signs of Hope and Renewal.
For example, the street drug trade continues unabated on the very same spot to this day. I’m not sure if all of them even remember that there was ever a building there. Talk about Resilience!
And there is more..
For each night in that vacant lot while I was there, the Homeless would light a big fire and gather around it for warmth and company. The Reverend joined them for awhile of course, and even there the Street People had heard of his Performance that day and were still laughing about the fear-struck audience member bolting from the Hall.
And so the Rev watched the big full Moon sail across the sky, while the boy with amphetamine eyes babbled on, insisting he wanted the Rev to Marry him and his sweetheart at Noon tomorrow, right here in the vacant lot in Nimbin. The Rev humoured the boy good-naturedly, tho he had his doubts about the plan’s reality. And indeed, the last the Rev saw him he was hitchhiking out of town just after dawn, heading to Melbourne and sadly without his Sweet-heart. They shook hands and the Reverend wished him luck.
Oh Nimbin! The Reverend thought, I love you!
Any other town in Australia..the Homeless gathering on the main street of town around an open fire? Without being moved on or hassled by the police or authorities about fire regulations or loitering?
Not in Byron Bay. Not in Ballina. Not in Brisbane.
No way. It just wouldn’t happen.
But in good old Nimbin enough of the Utopian Dream
lives on that the Homeless it seems, are allowed
to keep themselves from freezing to death in Winter.
That may sound like Sarcasm but I’m serious. The rest of Australia just isn’t that Enlightened.
“Do you have somewhere to stay Reverend?”,
gentle Nimbin poet Vincent asked thoughtfully,
as the pub closed that Saturday,
“We like to make sure everyone’s got somewhere warm at night around here”, he added.
Bless you Nimbin.
The Fire that raged in your Heart did not Consume.
For the amongst the cinders are glowing coals
from which the Faith is rekindled anew.
That Hippie enough for you Folks?
The Rev thanks Gerry, Cam, Liz & Dean for their kind assistance as Minions on this occasion. When in Nimbin the Reverend Hellfire stays at the Grey Gums Lodge.
Breakfast is provided by “The Contented Tummy”
Fairy Cakes supplied by “Galadriel”
The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet,
President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,
and an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism
AND the Church of the Universe.
So what’s your excuse?