Sunday, November 11, 2012

Karlsruhe Poetry Slam

You do strange things when you move country. You start eating different food and talking another language. You drive on the wrong side of the road and if it is Germany you have moved to, before long, you start wearing sensible shoes and thinking that it's perfectly normal to hang out naked with strangers in a sauna.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when I found myself coming out of my retirement as a poetry slammer and performing in very bad german to incredibly large audiences who show up to see a bunch of the oddest people in the universe spout about anything at all for seven minutes. In Ireland it's three minutes, but that would be an Irish three minutes so it works out around the same.

But it's not just the time that's different, it's all a bit German over here. Last night I was invited to participate in a slam that took place in the castle at Karlsruhe. I mean, hello, the actual big huge castle, in a proper posh room with big chandeliers and about 200 people in the audience. A proper audience, with seats and tickets, it was even sold out. Not a room upstairs in a pub with a handful of people who have wandered in off the street because of the rain. And ah yes, rain. It was raining last night so I presumed that nobody would actually turn up. But they did. It was planned, they had tickets, they showed up.
I told them not to smile
It was like being a real performer. The 9 slammers were in a back room behind the stage. It was a room that also turned into a bar at the break time and it was full of drink, so the first real culture shock was being in this room with 8 other slammers and none of them ripping into the gargle. And they were young dudes, like all at least young enough to be my children - which made me want to say things to them like 'have you not got a belt, those pants are hanging down your arse' or 'your hair is a disaster. I know you think it's cool, but it's just not working for you, and I know, because I'm your mother.'
But I didn't. I silently reminded myself that I was not their mother, I was their co-slammer, and probably if anyone in that back room with the free drink that nobody wanted (they were laying into the chocolate and pretzels though) needed an overhaul, it was my good self.

The Slam itself was judged on the loudness of the clapping from the audience, so although they only used it to pick who went into round two and who was the overall winner, I would make a rough estimate that I came about last. Last is good. Last means you are an eccentric nutter. Second or third place is the worst you can get, it means that you almost made it but just didn't have the edge. So lets, for arguments sake, say I came last. Very last. Straggling in last way behind anyone else.
Afterwards was a bit like being famous though. A few people came up to me asking when I'd be performing again. I felt important. I thought the answer 'I don't know' probably sounded better than 'I guess never.' Afterward I thought it might have looked better had I said 'I need to check dates with my manager.' The biggest culture shock of all though, was when I got paid at the end of the show. Getting paid for slam is a rare occurance. Slammers are not really suited to having money. Let's face it, if I had money, I'd replace the need for recognition from small rooms of people with the need to go around the place in a flashy car. I could go shopping and I could have a therapist.  But there it was, with my name on it: Mags Treanor 15 Euro. I had performed for about 7 minutes which works out at 2 euro per minute which is 120 euro per hour. A handsome hourly rate of money for a wandering minstrel you must agree.
Then all of a sudden the room was empty and I had that anti climax feeling that you get after you have gone through the mad nervous adrenalin rush of fear, followed by the buzz of performing and getting a reaction out of the audience. Now they were all gone home. But I had 15 euro, and there was  a pub up the road, and my friend Ollie who was only too willing to go there with me.

In the end you're on your own

Yes, you do strange things when you move to a new country, but cycling home drunk at 3am, I couldn't help thinking that really, the world is the same everywhere. At least my world.

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