2011 Nimbin World Performance Poetry Cup Review


The Nimbin World Performance Poetry Cup


The peach trees were starting to blossom, so I knew it was time once again to pack up and perform the annual pilgrimage into the Magic Mountains, to Nimbin and the 2011 World Performance Poetry Cup.

My entourage this year consisted of my loyal Personal Assistant, as always, and my old associate, John Treason who came as my Driver, Tax Advisor and Head of Video Production. Our Hopes were High and our Hearts were Full as we joined the small convoy of Brisbane poets wending South.


Happily for the poets performing, the sound on stage this year was excellent. Last year’s problems with lack of foldback were entirely absent. I personally found I was able to judge nicely how I sounded, which really helps with one’s performance. So a big thumbs up to the organisers for fixing that issue.

The competition was tough as always, with even a veteran like Daevid Allen getting knocked out of the running early in the heats. I myself made it to the semi-finals, but was then knocked out on a technicality. Apparently I was some seconds short of eight minutes. Ah, if only I’d stopped to scratch my butt in between poems instead of proceeding in a business like manner, I might have been a Contender!

Does this sound like sour grapes, oh reader? True I have a bitter taste left in my mouth, but I think it was the hippie-vegetarian roll I bought, rather than the ashes of defeat. Well, it was either the roll or the price I paid for it. Four Dollars?! What am I? A tourist?

In the name of full Disclosure of My Interests, however, I will admit

to having been tainted by having some Ambition. For it was my little dream to be a finalist and get a medal, purely as I’ve never won a medal before. I did not dream of winning Ist place, oh no dear reader, my dreams were much more humble than that. I just wanted to win a medal for once. True it was a small ambition, Grasshopper, but it was ambition nonetheless!

Ah vanity! Thy name is Hellfire!

Well I didn’t get a medal, but what I did win were the many kind comments people gave me after my performance, some which touched me deeply. So I won some hearts and the recognition of my peers, and truly that was a better reward than winning a shiny trinket.

But having said that I will have a whinge about the Timing System used at the Cup. It’s bugged me for a couple of years, in fact, and I do believe it should be reviewed. Sure there should be a time limit, but I’ve never seen another Slam where your penalised for running under time. In my case, I had timed my set to eight minutes, but what with the day’s excitement or whatever it ran in twenty seconds early. Were my poems any the less for that? I think not. Similarly for those who ran a bit over time. How would you know? In just about every other Slam I’ve seen there’s a warning bell at least.

Is this the Poet’s Cup or the Timekeeper’s Cup,”my loyal Driver muttered stoutly, and he had a point. We’re not metronomes. I had considered carrying a stop watch but that seemed a bit obsessive. Perhaps there should be a big timer on stage so we all know where we are.

Yes I know the judges have hard decisions to make (I was chatting to former Cup-winner, young Len Martin, who was judging this year, and he was eloquent on the onerous duties of the judge) but I know that as a Contestant myself, that rather than hear from the judges a statement like;

You were all great but Contestant X ran in at 7.59 seconds and so X wins.”

I would instead much rather hear something like, “You were all Great but Contestant X spoke to my heart just that little bit more.”

It’s the poetry, people.

But enough! What of the Other Performers? Ah, their Name was Legion.. I couldn’t see all I wanted, what with preparing for my own performance, so I’m relying to some extent on my Personal Assistant’s notes.

I did see Candy Royalle though, and was pleased to see her sans echo-machine this year. Unchained from the infernal machine, her performance was considerably looser and more powerful this year, and took her all the way to the finals. Surely a contender for the Top Spot, I thought at the time.

Max Strong read three strong poems, including a sentimental reminisce on his Father’s Hat which won him a spot in the Semi-finals.

Maestro Robin Archibold is so polished a performer that he makes what he does look easy. He makes it sound like he’s just making it up on the spot. Perhaps he is. Perhaps he’s got a monstrous mutant cerebellum that allows him to spontaneously compose verse. Always willing to play court jester, I like it when he slaps the audience around 180 degrees into the Serious & Sensitive.

David Hallet is also a polished & confident performer. His rap like recitation of the nefarious activities of undercover cops clearly struck a nerve with the local crowd and judges alike.

Also winning the crowd sympathy was David Pearson’s deeply personal, straight talking poetry documenting his struggle with alcoholism. His performance won the biggest cheers of the day.

Catherine Stewart was brillig and slithy toved her way into the finals.(memorized her material, clear diction, absolutely no idea what she’s on about)

David Peace One Love is probably a lovely fellow but he performed in canary yellow overalls. I’m sorry, but whenever I see a poet in canary yellow overalls all I can think about is Ric the “Peoples Poet” in 80’s Brit comedy, the Young Ones.

Always a fan of Mz Ruthie Shinn’s work, I must admit I found myself wishing this year that she’d try committing some of her poems to memory, then she’d have more confidence in her delivery and could really knock us over.

I recall mildly chiding young Vincent Gates last year for reading and never making eye contact with his audience and to his credit he made some serious effort to rectify that this year. Though he still had his poems on a lectern to refer to, he wasn’t completely reliant on them and he at least tried to communicate with us visually. Good for him!

At this point, however, I might say as a general comment to some of the more, er, impassioned poets, yes, well, I would suggest they need some work on their “Mic-Craft.” ie., more practice in handling a microphone is needed.

Heres a hint; when you raise your voice, you move the microphone away from your mouth, not bring it closer. Otherwise your voice quickly develops harsh and strident overtones that alienates your audience and gives my Personal Assistant a headache..

At least 70 year old, strip-teasing poetess Julie Crow showed she knew what to do with a mike stand.

Speaking of clothing, or its lack, I couldn’t help feeling former fellow-FreeMarijuana– Brother and Hemp candidate John Jiggens let the old Brisbane team down sartorially speaking. Unwashed shorts and a crumpled T-shirt, really John! If your mother saw you like that in public! Still, his picture post-card poems of Mount Warning won him one of this year’s encouragement awards.

At other times Doubting Thomas, Darkwing Dub and Stephanie Petric all turned in strong performances. Savannu as always, marched to the beat of his own drummer.

Flamboyant Zelly Oops turned in an eight minute tour de force, describing humanity’s evolution as called by a racing announcer. You know.. “and here comes Caesar’s Legions cutting ahead..” kind of thing. An amusing conceit but not, of course, original. Alfred Jarry‘s “The Crucifixion considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race” for one thing springs to mind.

Sure it’s funny, but is it poetry? I asked my Driver, “maybe it’s just stand-up comedy?”

Well,” he argued,“ it had rhymes.”

Did it?” I asked, unsure, “I know it had alliteration and assonance. In fact, you could argue that it was one long eight minute piece of Onomatopoeia, in that it imitated the sound of a racing-call. OK, your right, its poetry.”

Which all just goes to show you, I thought later, how Performance Poetry is truly the King of Arts. Plastic, protean, it takes on many forms and can incorporate all other arts and disciplines into its matrix. Stand-up comedy and drama, music & dance, mime & costume, conversation & strip-tease, echo boxes & video cameras, satire & sermons, weather reports & racing calls, all are just colours on Poetry’s Palette, Strings to its Bow.


I would have liked to have stayed for the finals on Sunday night, but my Personal Assistant had been called to reclaim her offspring, and my Driver had to be in court early on Monday morning to confiscate some rich scumbags financial assets, and so it was that come sunset we found ourselves at Sphinx rock and heading north.

Someone lost, someone won. I don’t know who. (Check the Nimbin Poetry website for such details). But a good time was had by all and the Spirit of Poetry danced once more in the Village that Time Forgot.

Finally a big congratulations to Gail & the Crew for making it all happen for the ninth big year without becoming dependent on the Art-bureaucrat Mafia for funding. With the tenth anniversary coming up, crucial times lie ahead, I feel, for the Nimbin Performance Poetry Cup. The original founders will eventually have to find good hands to pass the torch on, and the Cup will need to find fresh ways to grow & renew itself.

In that Spirit, might I suggest that next year a Junior Cup event is held in Tandem with usual competition. It could be run as a stripped down version; a single heat perhaps, with two winners battling it out on the main night. Someone’s got to encourage the next generation of poets and it won’t be the Australian education system.

Hell, I like the idea so much I’m prepared to vouch $100 for prize money. Maybe you could call it the Reverend Hellfire’s Children’s Cup. Isn’t that a heartwarming name? Alright, forget the name but the idea is sound.


To find the results of the 2011 Performance poetry Cup go to;



To read the poems performed by the Reverend at this event go to;


for “The Land”. Go to;


for “Avian Madrigal”

Beautiful Man” is unavailable at this time.

A crude video of the Rev’s performance may appear on U-tube in due course.



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and carbon based life-form from a small planet on the Galactic Rim. An ordained Minister of various denominations, he makes the most of the opportunities presented to him.



~ by reverendhellfire on August 14, 2011.

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