{Due to problems with WordPress this sermon was posted a day late. Apologies}


Greetings from Nimbin!


THE ABSENT MEMBER (for Kevin Rudd)

The other day upon the stair

I met my Member of Parliament,

who wasn’t there,

He wasn’t there again today,

We basically pay him to stay away.


Greetings Brothers & Sisters! Apologies for the lateness of today’s sermon, but I am writing to you today from The Land That Time Forgot, otherwise known as fabulous Nimbin,

where I have been participating in the esteemed

Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup.

Happily, your humble narrator is proud to report that for the third year running the Reverend Hellfire has walked away with the ‘Encouragement Award’. (This ‘award’ consists of unmarked, non sequential bills in a plain envelope, handed over in an alley behind the town hall. I believe the Hemporium put up the prize money, where they got the cash from I didn’t ask.)

Actually, for reasons that may become apparent in the following poem, I have developed a deep distaste for the Slam format, and the Nimbin Cup is the only slam I bother to turn up for these days.

Partly I do the Nimbin slam because you get a whole eight minutes to strut and fret your stuff instead of the usual paltry 2/3 minutes, partly because the atmosphere is so unpretentious & supportive, partly because the judging here is, in general, taken much more seriously than the usual joke that passes for slam-judging back in the cities, and finally, I just go to see some of Australia’s best poetic performers and to join in the fun.


Anyhoo, instead of a book review this week I’ll be reviewing some of the performances I saw at the Cup. But first, todays Sermon, which by a strange coincidence is entitled…

 * * *




Well, you know how it goes.

I wake up to discover

I’m at the worst poetry slam ever.

Here I feel as comfortable

as Godzilla in a burkha.

Here the air is fouled

by jowled and jaded Art bureaucrats and

humourless hacks,

hunched scowling over their lattes and their

short blacks,

Snubbing the “lesser” poets, who seething with malice,

Glare/stare at the stars sipping from Fame,

(their thrice-poisoned chalice)

while the cronies & sycophants simper and chat

in cliques and claques

in booths at the back.


Down at the bar,

beer swilling bellies and bullies

bellow and belch

in the back ground.

Tonights judges, I’ll bet. The bastards.

The sullen staff slouch and sneer

convinced there’s some special significance to

being queer,

occasionally deigning to pull off..

a beer.

A Methuselah madman

monotonous on the monotone microphone

is chanting & panting his forty-fifth canto,

(wait a that me? Oh no, no!)

while I wait 4 hours for a 2 minute slot,

(better not grumble thats all you’ve got.)



Management, mumbling morosely

at the cash register,

mentally starts putting chairs on tables

in their mind

and wonders..

if the ‘Acoustic Jam Night’ next Tuesday

will bring in a better crowd.





“I could have been a contender!”-Marlon Brando


First up, let me say a big thank you and congratulations to Gail & the Nimbin poetry crew for all their hard work in making this event the annual success story that it is. It’s the little touches that help make this event unique. Like the basket of free throat lozenges for the performers at the front desk. That’s just really thoughtful. I was touched.

I thought I’d arrived late for my heat but then I realised I was just running on Nimbin time and was actually totally in synch with the moment. Or so it seemed.

Local Brisbane poetry legend Paul Milo, founder of the esteemed Kurilpa Poets, had the unenviable job of starting the show off and performed creditably to a sadly still half empty room. But the numbers soon built up in the old Town Hall and stayed pretty consistent throughout the weekend, there being anywhere between 40 to 100 people in the audience at any one time. I couldn’t hang around for the finals but I saw most of the heats & semi’s so I can give an overall general impression. If you want to find out who won check out the Nimbin Poetry website.

As a general positive comment I would have to say that most of the performers there were confident and clear in expressing themselves. I was impressed that most poets didn’t just read but were professional enough to have bothered to memorize their poems. Making allowances for newbies just starting out, I’m otherwise not impressed by a poet who doesn’t care enough about their Art to learn their own lines.

Case in point would be young Vincent Gates in Heat 5. While his delivery was passionate I found his performance ultimately unimpressive. “If he had made eye contact with the audience just once I might have been more convinced” I remarked at the time to a fellow audience member, and that pretty much sums it up. Now I saw Vince last year deliver pretty much the same performance, so to me it looks like he hasn’t progressed. A whole year goes by and you can’t memorize one poem? Tsk. Not that I disapprove of his sentiments.

Having no apparent problem with recall (unless he’s making it up as he goes along, which is possible) Mr Robin Archbold ran through his set in Heat 3 with his usual consummate professionalism. At these events he can usually be relied upon to take the piss out of most things, and he did not disappoint. A series of country-haiku poems had them rolling in the aisles.

Christo performed next; my notes just say, “ a very strange man in a hard hat.”

Shouting & swearing, Fairy Melanie Jane bellowed poems about ice-cream, mushrooms & other fairy like subjects. She was confident alright but far too strident in her delivery. There was no dynamic range at all.

In fact, if I was going to make a general criticism I’d have to say that most of the poets showed little variety in their material or delivery. They were one trick ponies. Whatever their ‘angle’ or persona or routine or style was, they invariably stuck to it right to the end.

No matter how impressive someone might have seemed at the beginning of their set, by the end a kind of monotony usually tended to set in. I could actually appreciate those performers who decided to keep it short and sweet; coming in well under the 8 minute mark, by just doing the one or two poems they really wanted to do, without feeling obligated to read a lot of filler.

Some might argue that 8 minutes is not a lot of time to show a variety of material but I disagree. Eight minutes of spoken word can be a very looong time, especially if theres no variation in the delivery. By way of example, (may as well bang my own drum) during my own set I managed to fit in a Lament, a Shaggy Dog Story, a Sonnet, with a Music Hall Pastiche and three costume changes. Just saying is all. Kids, it can be done!

Deep in the woods the Reverend gathers ammunition for his review

 Back in heat 2, Darkwig Dub got them clapping along to his rap style delivery, whilst beret clad Craig Nelson delivered his surrealistic musings on the preponderance of the letter P.

In Heat 3 I dug humbly Tug Dumbly’s shug-rumbly wordplay.

Back in Heat 2, the judges liked Candy Royalle‘s echo-box assisted vocal stylings, but personally I thought it just a bit gimmicky, and tiresomely she used it throughout her entire set. For one poem maybe ok, but the not whole set please. All you ended up listening to was the effect, who knows what the words were, the vocals just became a muddy wash of sound. Pleasant enough I suppose, but is it good poetry I ask?.

In heat 4 Zelly should have won Best Costume of the Weekend, as he does every year. A man not afraid to dress up in lace. There should be more of it.

Ruthie Shinn impressed as always, investing her words with a sense of dignity and simple sincerity. She’s my “Peoples Choice” pick for 2010.

Newcomer Mieshy P stumbled over his first poem, but with audience encouragement, bravely recovered to deliver a cracking second poem.

Catherine Stewart went on & on. Nice voice though. Liked her hat too,

In heat 5 my favourite performance was from Brisbane poet Doubting Thomas, whose firebrand utopianism was delivered with sincerity and conviction

Over the last 3 years I’ve seen Shelley Bielefeld mature into a confident performer who delivers her material with aplomb. But I can’t say I’m a fan. To me it sits too close to that brand of psuedo post-feminist so called humour that just comes off as whinging. The double standard where a female comedianne can bitch about her lovers impotence & be called witty whilst if a male comedianne complained their lover was “a dud root” he’d be called a sexist prick. {& rightly so} Having said that , Shelley clearly had her supporters in the audience.

Spare a thought for the poor bastards who drew Heat 6 and were still there at 7.45pm waiting for the decision to be delivered. Yep, if you really want to be a slam poet, be prepared to do a lot of waiting. I believe David PeaceOneLove passed through to the semi’s from this heat, but by this stage my vision was starting to get blurry and all the poets and words were running into one big tumbled yarn of verbal silly putty.

I dunno. It might have been those cookies that girl on the street gave me. So tired but happy, we drifted off to eat a hippy style pizza.

PS. If I have one suggestion for the organisers it would be to have some foldback up on stage next year. It was pretty hard to tell what you sounded like from the stage this year.


The Opinions expressed in this review are only crazy old Reverend Hellfire’s idle musings so don’t get too upset by them. Apologies to those I missed out.

See ya all next year!


~ by reverendhellfire on August 2, 2010.


  1. Shit I haven’t been since 06…will havta get back for the laughs.
    Lifeplace link doesnt work Rev!

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