What It’s Like To Be A Poetry Gig Convener, Love From A Poetry Gig Convener

(Alternate Title: Part Two of the MSW article A Guide To Behaving Poetically Correct, in case you clicked on it but didn’t actually read it.)

The poetry gig convener is both a revered and detested breed of poet on the Melbourne poetry scene. He/she/they are a poet turned event manager, for little to no pay. We are somewhat saint-like creatures, really. We are the wheel that keeps it all moving, organising a night of poetry that is not our own (though that doesn’t stop some of us from making it about us. We’re only human…)

Often we don’t know if you’re being friendly to us because you genuinely like us, or because you’d like a gig. As poets, we are astute observers of the intricacies of human behaviour and see through your faux charm immediately. We simply smile through our tears, and soldier on. For poetry.

However, we would rather the slightly exaggerated interest in our work and chit chat that wouldn’t otherwise happen, to the unsubtle “How do I get a feature here?” or “I would like to feature here.” It’s like requesting sex without taking us out on a date or at least exchanging a few niceties. It’s a bit frightening for us. If we could afford security, we would call security.

The convener then feels uncomfortable. We are quite sensitive, you know. We’re poets. We wrote about our feelings in a notebook since we were six. If the convener does not want to feature you for some reason (which would be a perfectly reasonable one, be assured), they are now in a position where they must either reject you directly (not advised) or reply with polite excuses. Awkward. Contrary to your intention, it is not helping your career. It will only make the convener walk in the other direction when they see you. If the convener was intending to feature you already, you will never know that you were about to be asked. You will think you got the gig because you asked for it…and you are kind of missing out on the thrill of being thought of and asked.

You see, the moment of approaching a poet to feature is a great delight on both sides. When you think about it, it is akin to the angel Gabriel approaching Mary to birth the Messiah. Except the Messiah is your poetry. Anyway…it is a magical, anointing moment. If you ask for a poetry feature, it is like the angel has arrived and before he/she can open his/her mouth, Mary is saying “Can I birth the son of God? Could you ask?” While Mary is being very proactive and enterprising, the golden moment has been somewhat ruined.

Having said that, interstate and overseas poets: hit us up! There is no other way we’re going to know you are in town unless you tell us. We are not psychic, we will concede that. It doesn’t guarantee you a feature, but we appreciate why you would alert us to your presence in the state. However, if you are a Melbourne poet, chances are we’ve seen you perform or we will shortly. It is a small community. We know you’re there. You guys are just being pushy.

Gig conveners are not going to poetry gigs with their eyes closed. We know what the role entails. We are listening to the open mic. We are attending gigs, looking for the next potential feature. Sometimes we have you in mind, but you don’t fit with the line up or we can’t feature you immediately. We generally book our features well in advance, so we are not going to let you know in January if we can only book you in November. That would be silly.

By the way, Melbourne poetry isn’t going anywhere. The poetry scene is not some kind of Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus travelling sideshow circus, that’s about to be folded up and moved on. So what’s the hurry? Keep reading and honing your craft. You will only be more ready when it happens. We are listening and watching and waiting until it feels right to walk up to you and say “Would you like to feature at [insert gig name here]?” Ah, yes. The look on a poet’s face when you ask them to feature at your gig, when they least expect it? Priceless.*

* This MSW article is not sponsored by Mastercard.

Photo by Dudley

Amanda Anastasi