“Hey, you’re a cartoonist, why don’t you enter the Climate Change Poetry Slam?” And with those words, my career as a performance poet began. A chance encounter in St Kilda with the “Resident Poet at Dog’s Bar” (no relation) led to an invitation to an upcoming Climate Change Poetry Slam at the MeMo Theatre.

But was it so surprising? I mean, I’ve always fancied myself as something of a rhyminista. Mrs Hines, my fifth grade teacher at Yarralumla Primary School was effusive in her praise of my poem “Leafy”, a mournful (and completely rhyming) tale of a leaf named Leafy who succumbed to a tragic and fatal case of deciduousness. The poem itself was even decorated with actual leaves and clag. And for good or ill, here was my chance to show I wasn’t just a one-poem wonder.

Poetry, apparently considered boring (even by some poets) has, over the past 15 or so years, been turned into a contact sport by the emergence of Slam Poets, brave souls who willingly test their wits and words against each other in a kind of literary cage match. Now it was my turn. The Climate Change Poetry Slam is showcasing a diverse mob of Melbourne’s finest and funniest minds using their various Spoken Word Super Powers for good and/or evil, performing “poetry” loosely linked to the subject of climate change, all for the benefit of St Kilda’s Sacred Heart Mission for the homeless. How utterly terrifying.

There are poetry associations and events all over the place these days — poetry is the new knitting. It’s not that hard to get up at an open mic or free-range performance evening. It is of course much harder not to make a complete fool of yourself, something I suspect looms brightly in my own future.

The MeMo Theatre is a beautiful art deco auditorium hidden right in the middle of St Kilda. Locked away for the past 50 years, a chance discovery by a local promoter has seen it reopened and returned to the community. Over the past few months it has hosted swing dances, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and this coming Friday night — blood on the floor in the Climate Change Poetry Slam.

I’m still writing my “piece” and trying to figure out how to get cartoons into it so I am somewhere near my comfort zone. I’m just hoping to get enough laughs to avoid disgracing myself and then spend the evening enjoying the contributions from actual comedians, musicians, writers and even some real poets. And best of all, I’m on the same bill as Krackerjack Themadbastard, Australia’s greatest professional wrestling superstar. What could possibly go wrong?

The details: The Climate Change Poetry Slam is at the MeMo Theatre in St Kilda on Friday night. Tickets are still available online.

Peter Fray

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