(April 22 at The Underground in Philadelphia.)
I know a show's good when I'm exhausted afterward.
Eric "Jellyboy the Clown" Broomfield filled in for usual ULA opener Wred Fright. Eric read from his journal. Despite (or because of ) some sword-swallowing beforehand, Eric took a few minutes to get going-- but his narrative kept getting better and better until he had the entire audience laughing as his story (which included a dramatic and controversial Frank Walsh poetry reading) reached a climax. Eric is a natural writer who doesn't realize how good he is. He has the eye and the ear of a true writer, making us SEE the incidents he describes; doing it with exciting wordplay.
The Idiom Poets, young writers from New Jersey, followed. (More about them later.) Then we experienced authentic West Philly street rap from Steve and Kingsley, words of realities of being young amid the harsh inequities of a distorted society. Next, special guests Rebecca and Supercam of "The Mighty Paradocs" (one of the best bands in the city). For us they read their poetry. Both were outstanding.
Toussaint St. Negritude with the pleasing mellow sounds of his saxophone and his voice closed the first part of our show, before the requisite ULA smoking-and-drinking break. Outside the club it was a beautiful day.
We returned with Philly novelist Lawrence Richette doing a particularly fiery reading of a particularly fiery subject: a fictionalized account of the infamous Philadelphia MOVE bombing, from Larry's excellent novel The Fault Line.
The Finale: A Speed Open Mic, Frank Walsh taking on all comers. Poet after poet stood up to challenge the man, themes appearing from every direction. Walsh had small papers with his sonnets on them hidden strategically throughout the room-- they appeared from behind walls and beneath tables in answer to each assault. Our variant on the open mic format was as exciting as we'd hoped, especially when Idiom writers Mark Baird and Steve McNamara good-naturedly attacked Frank Walsh loudly by name. Walsh responded with powerful recitations of his final two works. The pressure, he admitted later, brought out the best from him.
-Steve McNamara edged out Baird and local Philly icon "Cement Factory" Victor Thompson for the Big Mouth award.
-In a tight race with Colette Fay, Rebecca from the Mighty Paradocs took home the coveted Golden Bear award for the most beautiful poem.
-A young poet named Brett took the Dream Catcher prize as best overall challenger (though Walsh needled him for singing part of his piece).
As always, good fun.