Angry Ma’am at Slam

The ebullient Nigel Ford organised, for the second year, the excellent Goolwa Cup Poetry Slam last Sunday. There was a great turnout, a fantastic workshop by Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold and some top class performances in the slam.

I didn’t prepare anything special for the competition, but decided to take advantage of a large, captive audience, and to read my ‘adaptation’ of Billy Collins’s “Taking off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes”. My version is called “Taking off Tony Abbott’s Clothes”.

I’ve performed this piece three or four times in Adelaide, and it has been well received. The audience cringes, and laughs uncomfortably and then picks up the political message of the poem. Goolwa (a lovely river / coastal town about 90kms south of Adelaide), however, is a different demographic – older, more conservative, in fact a Liberal (that’s Australian Conservative) stronghold.

So I should have foreseen that it might not be quite as receptive an audience, and should have known that conservatives tend (broad generalisation I know) not to have a great sense of humour.

At half time in the slam, I was confronted by an irate, older woman, and had the following exchange:

“That was truly disgusting” she says.

“Why thank you” I say (thinking that she was being complimentary!)

“We’re not all lefties down here” she says

“Clearly not” I say

“It’s disrespectful to the office of the Prime Minister” she says

“Not my Prime Minister” I say

 “I’m glad it got through to you” I say

“No it didn’t” she says

“Clearly it did” I say.

Woman storms off, dragging her adult son with her, muttering all the way out the door, and does not return for the second half.

I await her letter to the Victor Harbor Times, and her complaint to the Alexandrina Council. As a friend of mine said, “You haven’t made it as a poet until someone’s reported you to the local council.”

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014
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Pashtun Podcasting

Pashto Landay – Afghan Women Poets from Franco Pachtoune on Vimeo.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I found an app called Stitcher, which you can load onto your smartphone. It allows you to search by topic and will return any matching podcasts it can find. You can then listen on your phone whilst out walking, running, at the gym or relaxing on the couch. I tend to listen whilst at the gym – lets me feel I’m getting some mental stimulation as well as a physical workout, takes the mind off the tedium and mostly blocks out the terrible piped music that they blast out (despite the fact that 90% of gym goers are, like me, listening to something else on their phones).

Anyway, the Poetry Foundation has a great series of podcasts and one in particular grabbed my attention. It was about a form of poetry handed down orally from generation to generation of Pashtun women. Anybody who thinks that Afghani women are timid, conservative things should listen to this. The poems, called ‘Landay’ are often bawdy, angry, rebellious and downright hilarious. The word ‘Landay’ can be translated as ‘a short, poisonous snake’ – which tells you that the poems can have a bite. For example:

You sold me to an old goat father
May God destroy your home, I was your daughter

and

You wound a fat turban around your bald head
To hide from me your age and that you are nearly dead

and

Slide your hand into my bra
Stroke a red and ripening pomegranate of Kandahar

The landay is a two-line poem, of 22 syllables. Though I think this applies to the original Pashto version, because the English translations are not necessarily 22 syllables. There is a detailed description of landays here.

The podcast I listened to was an interview with Eliza Griswold, who collaborated with photographer Seamus Murphy to document Afghan life through the prism of these landays. Above is a beautifully shot short film made by them, which provides great insight into the lives of Pashtun women.

Upturned Stones – Dissatisfaction



Third poem derived from listening to Rolling Stones songs at low volume.
There’s an Islamic flavour to this one. As if Mick had become Mohammed.

Dissatisfaction

 

Shiny skinned and cherubic

A fat man wins first prize

in the baby show

 

Goats are astray

In the nation’s capital

Devouring stray pedestrians



Pressing prose is a chore

Counting words provocative

But I’m high on pagination

 

I’m clad in a PVC burka

An Islamic man turns up

In a hair shirt just for me

 

But he can’t be an Imam

‘cause his mosque don’t have

the right minarets for me

 

I’m driving at the world

I’m trying to dance

and I’m deep in debt

 

I’m trying on fake pearls

Hoping to charm the ladies

with my boozer’s cheek.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014

Too Rolling Stoned

Any excuse to mention Robin Trower, who was NOT one of the Rolling Stones, but is, in my opinion, a great guitarist. Here is his great song “Too Rolling Stoned”:

Like many rock and pop songs, the lyrics are somewhat opaque. For instance:

“A stitch in time / Helps to unfold me /Circus starts at eight so don’t be late”

Which sort of justifies the opacity of these ‘poems’ derived from listening to Rolling Stones songs at low volume. This one’s based on “Paint it Black”

Paint it Black

I’ve been a force fed thing
A pin cushion for you

Heaving in the sack
My stealer’s race is up

I’ll vomit rum and snot from high
onto a sea of plaintiff hacks

Hunting the parking zone
Cliff side nooks are for sale

Icy steeples turning red
And stick men looking gay

I flaunt it on my back
A hook inside my vest

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014

Turning Over Stones

Adelaide Oval Stones Concert (ABC)

 

The Rolling Stones have been in Adelaide. I didn’t go to the concert at the Adelaide Oval, but friends who went say it was brilliant.

In a podcast recently, I heard a poem which was the result of listening to a song at very low volume, and writing down what the poet thought they heard.  So I decided to try it on a few Rolling Stones classics. The initial results are quite weird, so I thought I’d post some examples over the next week or so. This is raw material. I intend to cull it and maybe turn the pieces into a single ‘poem’ if that’s what it can claim to be.

The first one is based on “Honky Tonk Woman”


Honky Tonk Woman



Arm in arm we enter

a harmonium scene

a dentist plies me

with steak and kidney pie

 

we plateaued, evenings, nights

sucked croissant soldiers

lusting for pink

tossing rhymes

 

I was a long conquered human

looking for a long conquered muse


later, inner blues

sated with chilli pork

my cousin shoots up

to some kind of high


our ladies came in

covering their noses

threw red roses

from colder climes


I was a long conquered human

looking, looking, looking for a long conquered muse


 Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014