Confessions of an Open Mic-er

The Open Mic competition at the Groove Café on Friday night can be a tough gig. It’s an outdoor venue set in a shopping mall that is a gathering place for long-grassers, Indigenous people mainly, who wander back and forth throughout the evening. Even your amplified voice can be drowned out by these passers-by who often yell out sociably to one another during your performance. Occasionally, there’ll be someone who comes up to the stage area and starts up a drunken rant at the world in general, or you in particular.

Since it was November 5, the theme of this last Off the Page for 2010 was Guy Fawkes. I thought about reading Territory Night, a poem about the chaotic and irreverent cracker night held to celebrate the Northern Territory’s independence from the administration of southern states. It’s lively, has a simple narrative and could compete with long-grassers or that other challenge to the Open Mic-er, the chatty audience who treat you like background music to their night out.

As a rule I don’t read prose at Open Mic, and prefer the compressed sound bites of poetry. But a piece of writing I thought a better fit for the Guy Fawkes theme, was from my novel about the anti-war protesters in 1916 who were setting fire to buildings on the eve of the conscription referendum. I was thinking about the scene in which Amy, a young activist is about to set a fire at the Mark Foys department store. It had fire, protest and is about a woman, not a Guy. So I cut out extraneous references and tightened the extract until it was down to three minutes.

I arrived at The Groove with both pieces and waited to see how the audience, and locals were behaving. There was music by local band, Jigsaw and visiting Vogel Award winner, Lisa Lang, was the guest writer. The remainder of the evening was given over to fifteen Open Mic performers. It seems the police had been cracking down on public drinking, and there were no outside disturbances throughout the night.

Trevor, the homeless rapper (and NT finalist in the National Poetry Slam) won first prize for Open Mic and I won second for my prose piece about Amy the incendiarist. My winnings included a ticket to Tracks Dance Company’s Allure of Paradise and a copy of See My World, Writings by young Indigenous people.

I also won a bottle of red, and as there were no police to move us on, it was shared with four other writers after closing time, in the quiet of the kids playground in the shopping mall.

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5 Responses to “Confessions of an Open Mic-er”

  1. Rohan Says:

    Great atmospheric piece Bron and congrats on getting second, hope it inspires you to keep working on that novel.

  2. Dael Says:

    Ohhh, I’ve gone all goosebumpy and nostalgic for Off the Page and the noisy Groove. Congrats Bron, an excellent piece of writing – I remember its former incarnation well

  3. CAroline Reid Says:

    Congratulations, Bron, on a well deserved win. And thanks for sharing the vino – noisy poets in a children’s playground – there should be more of it! what an excellent final 2010 Off The Page. x

  4. Robbie Says:

    Congrats Bron. A very evocative description of a well known scene. If I didn’t know it was the Buildup there, I could certainly feel homesick.

  5. Ali Cobby Eckermann Says:

    website live soon
    Thanks for such a vivid picture of Nightcliff; I love the ramshackleness of old Darwin and its habits. Congrats on yr reading, Trevor is always a worthy candidate! And hope you enjoy reading See My World!

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