Karen Andrews ventured in to review an afternoon at the Dan for Overload Poetry Festival:Melbourne's iconic Dan O'Connell Hotel in inner city Carlton is the home of our longest running poetry reading. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, punters and poets can sip on a schooner as they listen to hand-picked feature poets and cheer on regulars and first timers at the open mic. Slam Up Overloaded's
This past Saturday, I ventured into town with a girlfriend to watch the Dan Poets as part of Overload Poetry Festival 2011 and the three hours passed in a blink. We didn’t get to see everyone who wanted to participate in the open microphone – but that was simply because there wasn’t enough time in the program to fit everyone in!
An event like the Dan Poets showcases for me just what it is that I like about poetry events when they work: the talents of the practised and the still-practising poet are equally applauded. There was the usual fumbling of papers in plastic sleeves as newer performers stepped up; a clanging of glassware, the gurgle of a washing machine, a ringing telephone: these almost domestic familiarities made a cosy, convivial atmosphere. Gentle ribbing among friends between microphone and audience doesn’t threaten to alienate the newer viewer, and the bending-of-the-elbow takes a lesser priority to a lending-of-the-ear to the words and language.
The featured poets were Steve Brock, Kristin Henry and Ian McBryde, each with their distinctive styles and tone. The only tense part of the afternoon came early in Ian’s first set when a female audience member objected to what she perceived as the themes of violence and abuse in his work: an unpopular opinion, at least to the audience, who made their own displeasure known. She left voluntarily (“I’m a blow-in; I’ll blow out again”) and the questioning began. Who was she? Was this an artistic or a personal gripe? With poetry, there is often little difference.
Overall, I enjoyed Kristin the best, I think because I appreciated the subject-matter of her poems best (“Where do cracks begin/ and why?”). I also liked the more experimental work, like Kerryn from Adelaide and her suite of poems based on Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Caps.
On a sadder note, it was barman Toby’s final shift after almost four years at the Dan. He was given a fitting farewell: a signed photograph of the Dan poet regulars and a poem composed in his honour. Lucky man.
* Phrase from a poem by Patrick McAuley.