Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why I'm not organising anything anymore for the slam fraternity

The Cork Spring Literary Festival was incredibly successful this year. Aside from the quality of the writers and some of the amazing performances (Conal Creedon and Martin Espada especially wowed) audience figures were consistently large between 70-100 attendees at each event. We were obliged to move to a bigger venue for the fourth day to avoid breaking fire regulations on overcrowding. I believe there were multiple factors for the increased audiences this year. I believe rebranding the festival as the "Cork Spring" festival made it easier for people to mentally note where and when it was happening. This was the first year we had significant numbers of people travelling from Galway, Limerick and Dublin just to sit in the audience. We had many new younger faces and faces we had never seen at our events before. I believe the use of Facebook was crucial in attracting a different, younger demographic and many people believe holding the event in a hotel rather than a dedicated arts institution made it appear less elitist and more accessible. The generosity of so many people coming to events and buying almost 3,000 euro worth of poetry books was to be noted.
But once again the majority of the Live Mic fraternity bewrayed their total Me Fein, self-centred interests. We had many of these people turning up just for the open mic competition we organised and no other event, in spite of us bringing the best of Irish writing from home and abroad and eminent American writers from Boston and San Francisco who had never appeared at Irish festivals before. (Watch out for Martin Espada at a festival near you soon, he impressed so much he received an invitation back to Ireland from another member of the audience the night of his reading).
We put up a 200 euro prize, paid a professional thespian-poet judge a modest fee of 150 euro, we had the expense of room hire, sound equipment hire, staff time, all to cater for a group of people who, in the main, had no interest in any other writer except themselves. Were they grateful for our efforts in catering for their rarefied, self-centered interests? Were they fuck!
One complained that she wasn't allowed to read two pieces instead of one like everyone else, another person accused the time keeper of robbing her of minutes in her performance. As I said already a majority of these people attended no other event. I'm delighted to report that the prize went to John Walsh of Galway who did attend other events at the festival (not that the judge would have known).
But I'm left thinking why should I do anything for this largely selfish constituency in the future.


  1. Interesting. Maybe this is why I dislike slam? The navelgazing nature of it.
    Listening to a lot of the 'poetry' at slams leads me to the conclusion that many of these people don't read poetry.
    I avoid them as a rule, though I have acted as judge at 3 of them.

  2. I couldn't agree more. At open mic nights, I have seen people sitting re-reading their own work throughout the other poets' performances, and then leave as soon as they have have given their reading, or even worse, start chatting with their friends. I concur with WOMEN RULE WRITER above that a lot of these people don't actually read poetry.

  3. Yet another so-called culture is born: the very name gives it away. SLAM: to publically throw the gauntlet down and jump on it!
    Slamming has nothing to do with an established poetry scene although slammers will argue they have an ‘established poetry scene’.
    The Slam is consciously structured to ignore the courtesy of recognised poetry etiquette or established rules - a deliberate and forceful anti-poetry exercise.
    In my personal experience, the genre gives any bolshie ego a chance to stand up in front of a usually-inebriated audience often spouting the bastardized words of others. The performers pretend intellectuality and stick their thumbs up to those who dare turn away. And the loudest, drunken cheer usually wins!
    Populated by those who have no chance of publication or main stream recognition, I have been shocked to read some EP’s putting their toes in the water - why instantly destroy your hard-won EP reputation?
    Just another instant gratification exercise typical of the era but thankfully, soon forgotten!
    This too will pass.