Pushing Boundaries: Part 2 – Crossing Genres


Following on from my post about a couple of Adelaide Fringe events, both involving a workshop, and a live performance:

2 . Crossing Genres

Last weekend (Saturday 17th March 2012, St.Patrick’s Day), as part of SPOKE, Jenny Toune put on a ‘cross genre’ event, consisting of a morning workshop, and an evening performance.  She brought together writers and performers, paired us up (apparently randomly, one writer with one performer), and sent each pair off to choose one of the writer’s pieces of work to perform.  I was paired with the very talented Petra Szabo.  I’d never met Petra before. She has a background in dance, theatre, singing as well as being a writer herself.  We had about 45 minutes before we had to present our piece to the rest of the workshop.  So we quickly picked a poem I’d written that week, called “The Skin I Live In”, which we thought was suitable.

An interesting process. Petra certainly drove the performance side of it, thankfully. She constructed a routine involving each of us reading parts of the poem, with Petra dancing various sections. The only prop was an umbrella, which she used to great effect.  The run through in the workshop went quite well, given that it was the first time through.

And that was it, until the evening performance before an audience on the stage at Shimmering West!  No polishing, no perfecting, no extended practicing. Jenny emphasised that this was not theatre, this was an experiment in crashing two genres together and seeing what happens.

Come the evening session, after an open mic (with Open Mike), session, we were into the live performances.  The others I watched were really good. The performers and poets working well together, interpreting, connecting, presenting.  Some very talented people and a receptive audience.  As for my performance with Petra, there were a few dodgy moments where one or other of us wasn’t quite sure what we were meant to do next, but it went fine, and the feedback was positive.  I believe Sean King filmed the whole day, so there may be video available at some stage.

Here’s the poem we used:

The Skin I Live In….

is not the skin I was born in

but a version of it

the latest instalment

of a long running story

The skin I grew in

was bruised, burnt

soothed, hugged

scalpelled and stitched

The skin I played in

was pushed, stretched

inked, smeared

muddied and bloodied

The skin I fought in

was pinched, spat on

kicked, jeered

punched and pricked

The skin I loved in

was bared, revealed

oiled, massaged

caressed and kissed

The skin I work in

is clean, shaven

good and proper

white and regular

the skin I write in

is naked, exposed

sensitized, susceptible

reaching and probing

the skin I live in

cannot be preserved

processed, prolonged



nothing can save my skin
the skin I die in

will not be the same skin

that now envelops me

but a descendant

A frailer husk, a drier casing

a peeling parchment

etched with symbols

a final, still shifting shroud

shedding inexorably

from the surface of what

was a life

 Copyright Mike Hopkins 2012

Pushing Boundaries: Improvising and Crossing Genres : Part 1 – Improvising



The Adelaide Fringe came to a screaming conclusion at the weekend. My attention over the last week was focussed on the west end of the city, where the SPOKE mini-festival was going on.

Two events caught my eye, both involving a workshop, followed by a live performance.

1 . Improv Poetry

The first was Improv Poetry. Teri Louise Kelly and Daniel Watson gave an excellent morning workshop on how to improvise poetry.  The idea is that a word is thrown at you from the audience.   The challenge then is to speak for a minimum of 40 seconds, and maximum of two minutes.  If you don’t like the first word, you can reject it, but then you HAVE to take the second word.  You have 10 seconds maximum to gather your thoughts.

Daniel Watson of Paroxysm Press

Daniel Watson

So, for instance, in the workshop I was given the word “face”.  I managed to cobble together a passable two minute story about being able to order a new face from an internet site called “Faces ‘R’ Us”, and have it delivered to your door, so that you could be a new person whenever you wanted.  Went down well with the workshop attendees. I was feeling good.

When it came to the live event however, on an open air stage at Shimmering West in the evening, faced with lights and an audience and traffic noise (and a few beers), it goes to another level of difficulty. Added to this is the extra pressure of a $500 prize for the winner! Thinking on your feet becomes a great deal harder.

This time, the word thrown to me from the audience was ‘garbage’. The trick with this sort of thing is to stay calm, think laterally, find a good entry point, make your mind up quickly, and keep talking. Easier said than done. I managed to burble on about rubbish bins for about a minute, before I dried up. I wasn’t alone. Very few competitors made it to the two minute mark. Even our most succesful slam poets were struggling by their own high standards.

Needless to say, I didn’t win. The winner was a nice young man called Kiefer Rodriguez, an Adelaide stencil artist, who was attempting this challenge for the first time and was given the word ‘nose’.  He spoke about the pain of having a broken nose.  He was convincing. I asked him afterwards when he broke his nose.  “I’ve never had a broken nose” he replied.  That’s the secret: spontaneous creativity.  Good on him.

Full Results: 1st – Kiefer Rodriguez, 2nd Annie Fox, 3rd Nicki Bullock

Teri Louse Kelly

Teri Louse Kelly

Jenny Toune aka Red Uncensored

Jenny Toune aka Red Uncensored

An interesting event, and one I will have another go at. Well done to Teri Louise and Daniel for the workshop, and to the excellent MC-ing and organisational skills of Jenny Toune.

Part 2 on “Crossing Genres” will follow in my next post.

Upcoming Event

If you’re in Adelaide tomorrow (Wed 21st March), I’m MC-ing a great Friendly Street Poets event at the State Library of South Australia: Words@Wall with Mike Ladd (of ABC fame) and Rachael Mead, two of our very finest poets.  5:30-6:15. Followed by the Australian Poetry Slam at 6:30.  Should be a great evening.

The Best Thing on the ABC News ………

…. is sometimes the newsreader.

Here is one of my “greatest hits”.  Written about 3 years ago, it is a poem that people seem to like, and ask to hear again.  The name of the newsreader in question has been changed, to avoid charges of stalking.  In any case, since I wrote the poem, she went off and married some tall, dark, handsome reporter.  Jealous, me?

I’m in Love with the Television News Reader

7 pm every evening
she appears in my living room
bringing me the news of the world
Juanita Cox
looking at me with her large green eyes
gently tossing her coiffured blond hair
demurely enunciating ugly words
through her beautifully shaped mouth

another insane event has occurred in some far off country
and Juanita Cox has red lip gloss on tonight
another boat load of desperate people has reached our shores
only Juanita Cox can make the word “asylum” sound erotic
another paedophile released on bail
you shouldn’t have to read such filth Juanita

more bikie gang trouble in the city
if I had tats and a Harley Juanita, would you ride off with me?
the Government’s economic policies are working
who did you share your stimulus package with Juanita?
another loutish sportsman has disgraced himself in public
Juanita, let the sports reporter read that stuff in future
debate continues about the best way to tackle climate change
would you trade emissions with me Juanita?

she is telling me that tomorrow
it will be warm and moist
and Jesus Christ
Juanita Cox has two buttons undone on her blouse

There will be a news update in an hour
but not from Juanita Cox
and without Juanita Cox
no news is good news

“Last of the Cat Poems” meets Eureka Street

My poem entitled “Last of the Cat Poems”, has been published by Eureka Street today, paired with fellow Friendly Street poet, Karl Cameron Jackson’s “The Feral Cat”.

You can see the two poems here:


and you can hear them read in the mellifluous tones of Philip Jones, here:

Audio from Eureka Street

And here is the poem itself:

Last of the cat poems

Please, not another cat poem
no more couplets for cuddly companions
unless to recount the leftover birds which litter the lawn
whilst puss sits inside with blood on his claws
and purrs satisfaction

I plead with you desist from that paean to pussy palship
save to summon up that stench in the yard
which neighbourhood moggies love to bombard
with tom spray and cat shit

I beg of you no more veneration of feline affection
but to catalogue each Australian creature
which through cat predation wobbles and teeters
on the edge of extinction

I implore you, no more tributes to Tabby Tom and Persian Cleo
except to decry the midnight caterwauling
the screeches, the wails, the quarrels appalling
below my bedroom window

Not more T. S. Eliot like whimsical narration
unless to promote the wearing of flat cat hats
with fur flaps and tails which help to combat
the proliferating kitty population

No, no not even a moggie haiku
until we bid the last cat in Australia farewell
with a tolling not a tinkling bell
a ding dong dell
an obituary, a eulogy, a remembrance will do

 copyright Mike Hopkins 2012

Youtube Video of 60 Second Slam – Adelaide Is….

Thanks to Mirek Krejci, who filmed the Paroxysm Press 60 second slam event last weekend, the performances are now up on Youtube (some still to come).

Worth checking out.

This was my debut under the pseudonym of “Open Mike”, suggested by fellow football (round ball version) fanatic, poet and ironing champion of the U.K., Crispin Thomas.

Always interesting to see a video of a performance. Note to self: slow down a bit, enunciate a bit more clearly, do away with the notes.

This is my performance:

The rest can be found on the Paroxysm Press channel.


Reading at Adelaide Writers’ Week on Saturday

Adelaide Writers' Week

Adelaide Writers' Week

I’ll be on the East Stage at Writers’ Week this Saturday (3rd March) between 5 and 5:30, reading my piece “The Adelaide Taxi Driver’s Prayer”. It’s part of the launch of the 2012 Friendly Street Anthology “Flying Kites”, in which I have two poems.  Thanks to the editors, Judy Dally and Louise McKenna, for inviting me.

Not sure there’ll be too many taxi drivers there, but you never know.

I’m really pleased to have been asked to do this, as it’s a poem that still makes me laugh, and hopefully will get the same reaction from the Writers’ Week crowd.

I’ve put the poem on here previously, but here it is again:

The Adelaide Taxi Driver’s Prayer

(after Ian Dury)

Our cabfare, which starts in Cavan

Hallett Cove be thy aim

Thy Kingswood come

Thy Willaston

In Hove as it is in Hendon

Give us Largs Bay and Birkenhead

And forgive us our Crafers West

As we forgive those that Crafers against us

And lead us not into Keswick station

But deliver us from Frewville

For thine is the Findon

The Paralowie and the Salisbury

Rostrevor, Rostrevor

Mile End.