Well, now. Until Saturday I would have said (nay, shouted) NO!
However, the Inky Fingers A Knife Fight in a Telephone Box changed all that. This was an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event at the Forest Café. This is a hot little dive at the best of times, but it has great atmosphere.
On Saturday all sorts of things were going on there. Kevin Cadwallender, for example, was in process of masterminding a record-breaking 48-hour continuous poetry reading event, for example – a new poet every fifteen minutes – and carrying on most of Friday night. Now THAT takes dedication. It was easy being one of the readers. Turn up. Have a nice cup of tea. Listen to a couple of poets. Read for fifteen minutes and go off to have dinner, attend an event … whatever. Meanwhile, Kevin sat there nobly welcoming, liaising, introducing. Of such stuff are poetry heroes made.
Then at 7.00 the seriously competitive bit started. That catchy title – ‘A Knife Fight in a Telephone Box’ – was used by one of our major poets to describe recent events at the Poetry Society. I didn’t know it was actually the title of a song. My informant was poet and HappenStance subscriber Jim Brown, who knew immediately this was a reference to an album by the American band Bleed the Sky.
The original album was Murder the Dance (2008), and the track in question was in fact A Knife Fight in a Telephone Booth. I hope the original music's better than the lyrics, but fortunately at the Forest Café event no blood was spilled, though the competition was intense.
The two competing teams were Andrew Phillip, Sandy Hutchison and Rob A Mackenzie representing Salt Publishing. The opposing side comprised Martin Figura, Helen Ivory and myself. Order was established and maintained by the redoubtable Tim Turnbull -- a marvellous master of ceremonies. (Martin has a particularly good Fringe show of his own each afternoon, so he was on overtime).
There was some ordinary stuff – yeah. We read poems like poets do. But in between, things happened that were more unusual. For example, one member of each team read a poem while two others interpreted the poem in terms of contemporary dance. It's a long time since I’ve laughed so much.
And there were unforgettable moments when Rob Mackenzie and Helen Ivory read a well-known poem aloud, while competing to see how many ice cubes they could put in their mouths during the performance.
Really, poetry should be much more competitive. You can see the light of ambition in their eyes as they prepare to take on the Enemy. It takes determination to be a poet, you know.