September 22, 2013

Sentiment and Bodily Fluids

By Courtney Stevens

Some participants of the Haiku Death Match, including winner Mike Johnston.

What would soon become an emotional and truly memorable evening began with a trip to Smokes’ Poutinerie in the Exchange District. There, my friend Tiana and I crossed paths with two random strangers dining on the poutine that our stomachs suddenly desired, and we had to have some. We finished our meal and thought nothing of the women until we entered the Winnipeg Free Press Café, and Tiana started flipping through her program. Upon glancing at the last page, she whispered to me, “Isn’t this the lady we ran into at Smokes’?” As if on cue, she walked in; the director of the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival, Charlene Diehl.

The evening continued with a buzzing café and a line-up of readers preparing for performances and the Haiku Death Match. After an introduction from Bruce Symaka and Charlene Diehl, the members of the Winnipeg Poetry Slam team took their turn on stage. 

Local poetry slam legend T'ai Pu conducts the audience.
First was T’ai Pu, who taught us the power of the people by cleverly conducting some enthusiastic audience participation.

Next, Mira Black glided to the stage and captured the audience with her romantic styling, looking stunning as always. She utilized her liquid velvet voice to entrance the audience and deliver her innermost thoughts like none I have ever seen before. 

Then, changing the tone was Steve Currie with his witty body - I mean - brain, sharing what truly was the worst date in history. Steak Tartare. That is all.

The evening took a turn towards the intimate when Mike Johnson dedicated his second poem to his wife, who was present at the event. The poem centred on their experience of losing a child to miscarriage, and we could see how wrought with emotion he was during the performance. He received everyone’s standing ovations as we all sympathized with the couple and their loss. I remarked to T’ai Pu how an audience can change the entire performance, for we had seen Mike perform it just two weeks earlier with a much less intense reaction. Here, some people had tears in their eyes and many others felt the punch of pain as he came off the stage and into his wife’s arms.

As emotions settled in the room, Aaron Simm took this opportunity to sneak onto stage with a poem that commented on American foreign policy, and brought Disney to Bagdad. Its gun for the entire family! M-16-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-A! Yes Sir! Yes Ma’am!

Genni Gunn with an encouraging message to a fellow poet concerning undergarments. 
In a change of pace, Genni Gunn seized the crowd with a series of poems based on the miraculous true story of a woman who was delivered from suicidal death by none other than her canine companion. Though this resulted in the mutilation of half her face, a strange irony resulted in how reconstructive surgery involved a transplant from another woman’s face – a woman who had committed suicide herself. She finished her performance by delivering the Panty Poem, which was a response to friend, Sheri-D Wilson’s Panty Portal Poem. Try saying that one five times fast.

Topping the evening off was the featured Haiku Death Match. Blood, and other bodily fluids were left splattered everywhere, and some people left the building with some serious wounds. It was Mike Johnson who returned to the stage to split our sides and steal the proverbial cake to win the title as Haiku Death Master.

Overall, the evening was happy, sad, intense, provocative, and only slightly offensive. But aren’t all lasting memories constructed from great sentiment?

Photographs of the event were provided by Anthony Mark Schellenberg. Visit his website here.

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