September 24, 2012

…When Your Mother’s in the Audience

THIN AIR2012's ForeWords Event

by Steve Locke

Saturday night, the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival kicked off with a sold-out, raucous event that busted a few stitches, and surprisingly enough for some of the performers (myself included), did not result in any audience member’s indignation at our very low-brow humour. Judging by the fits of laughter, Winnipeg, your mind is in the gutter.

THIN AIR2012's ForeWords event filled up faster than an N*Sync album signing, where ticket holders were locked in to enjoy performances by Winnipeg’s Poetry Slam Team, a reading by ex-Pegger Corey Redekop from his zombie novel, “Husk,” as well as the festival’s inaugural Haiku Death Match. With the doors shut and a SOLD OUT sign Jiffy marker’d and taped to the window, this meant that unfortunate stragglers had to be turned away. But given the Cheshire grin worn by festival director Charlene Diehl throughout the evening, this will not be the only event of its kind.

Perhaps on part due to the affable hosting talents of Bruce Symaka, the largely “mature” audience was on board from the get-go. More intense and animated than your traditional poetry reading, none held back, unleashing bad puns, cuss words, and sometimes violent imagery to an unshaken crowd, which, to their credit, prepared them for what was to come.

This meant that local slam team, Steve Currie, Aaron, J-La, Faiza, and Dylan Mowatt and could take a break from their competition-style poetry to flex their performance muscles on home turf. On their first go as a team, these unassuming pedestrians have risen above the curb to distill our city’s ongoing story into five distinct voices, each one confident and eager to represent Winnipeg next month at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Saskatoon.

After a snack provided by the Free Press Café staff, another unassuming pedestrian, Corey Redekop took to the stage with a reading of his unorthodox and impeccably vulgar zombie novel. Taking a step away from the traditional zombie forms employed in modern films, we follow a struggling Toronto actor as he undergoes an unsettling life and death transition while determined to make an impression at his next audition. When you consider that death results in the complete loss of human dignity, Redekop provides unparalleled descriptions of bodily functions in the most awkward and disarming situations, including a failed attempt to use a lavatory on a moving bus, where the speaker became “the astronaut of the loo.” Use your imagination, folks.

 What a better set-up for the festival’s first Haiku Death Match, where beyond the application of a seventeen-syllable structure, the deeply philosophical poetic style was utterly butchered with the best intentions in mind. Here, four competitors including Aaron Simm of the slam team, two drunken louts (again, myself included) and Corey Redekop himself, went head-to-head in rapid-fire succession. Each round of short form tomfoolery progressed with the audience employing paper plates to vote on their favourite “haiku”. Congratulations go to Death Match Champion, the ineffable Matthew Moskal.

I can say that the personal highlights of the death match include the banter of my fellow performers, watching Corey Redekop double over in laughter onstage, and his perfuse apologies to his mother who was largely un-phased by the nasty offerings (which says a lot about that family). Oh, and how can I forget that certain haiku involving a rooster and a vacuum cleaner?

Again folks, use your imaginations. And keep your minds in the gutter, eh?

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