Archive for September, 2014

Aaron Kirby eats his own words

“I stood on stage and ate a poem that I had written to make the point that normally at poetry events you the audience get to consume the poem, but today the poem will be consumed by me. I ate that poem and while I did that I projected an image on myself of me screaming my head off while Soul Bosa Nova by Quincy Jones played. I think it shocked and confused the audience and that was enjoyable”.

Aaron Kirby doesn’t scream the stereotype of a poet: grey suit, tie, glasses. Sipping on a beer at the end of a tough day in the office.

With Sherbet supplying the ambiance Aaron runs through his repertoire of stage names: AK Pyjamas, Black Bird, Raphael Obelisk. Different aliases keep the audience on their toes and are useful to lend to friends who miss their registration deadlines.

His entry into poetry began one boozy night at a vegetarian restaurant. A friends girlfriend was doing a feature at BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!  and with his friend leaving early he remembers saying “We’ll all come along, we’ll all write a poem too”. He and his friends wrote poems on napkins. Aaron claps. “That’s how Manuka in ruins was created, and that’s how my poetry career began”.

What inspires him? “I think for me poetry is good for two particular things and in many ways they are not related and in many ways they pull against each other.  The first of those is I think all people feel things very strongly and when we are able to articulate those things, then we’re poets”.

“Poetry is very good for encapsulating in almost raw form strongly held beliefs, strongly held ideas, strongly held feeling. The other reason poetry is very good is that it’s not based in reality at all; it’s based completely in fantasy. Poetry is great for describing things that don’t exist but could. Poetry can act in advance of reality and that’s really powerful, so those two things pull at me all the time”.

As the background track changes, so does the topic. We start talking about the Australian Poetry Slam. The poem that got him there was based off a scene in Trainspotting- the one where Rentons head opened up and swallowed a mountain.

“I didn’t care about winning it, but the crowd seemed to like it on the night and that’s how I made the finals”.

His hands clasp as he reflects on what happened next. “The best thing about the Australian poetry slam final was meeting the poets and hearing their poetry. But there were of course people performing in order to mark out some kind of place for themselves in a poetry hierarchy. I found that weird”.

Which poet dead or alive would he want to have a beer with and why? Aaron looks at me in surprise “that’s a hard one”.

“My favourite poets are poets that I know because I share the world with them. I recognise the achievements of a Blake or a Plath; in an artistic sense they are superhuman almost. But the poets I’m interested in are the people I share the world with. The people I want to have a beer with are the people that I have beers with, because when I hear their poetry I can recognise their lives in their poems and that’s a richness that you can’t get anywhere in any of the great works of genius”.

Next stop: The Crack Theatre Festival to collaborate with Ellie Malbon in their new play Eucapocalypts Now.

arrinkirbyPhoto By: Adam Thomas



7:30pm-11:30pm Wednesday 1 October
The Phoenix Pub
23 East Row Civic Canberra ACT

Canberra’s Werewolf Poet

“I remember shaking so much, I thought my leg was going to fly off into the crowd and kill someone”. Andrew Galan, one of Canberra’s leading poets, has a vivid recall of his first live performance.

There’s no nerve now, though. Confident and wry, he wears poet garb – long green coat, vest, shirt, and tie – with aplomb. The founder and runner of BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! has been a leading light in Canberra’s poetry scene for years, with his signature poetry slam swiftly becoming a must-go event for Canberra’s pub poets.

BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! runs hot, even by the standards of poetry slams. The poetry is snappy, funny, diverse – and all original material. The beer flows free and the energy is high. The event has run for six years, and the organisers know what they’re about.

Poetry slams are about participation, Andrew explains. The audience has an important role to play in ensuring no performance lasts longer than two-and-a-half minutes (long-winded poets swiftly hear the cry of “BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!” from the crowd if they stray outside the time limit). Judges are randomly selected from among the audience, while a Master of Conflict oversees the event and provides additional challenges for the poetically inclined.

There’s real passion on the importance of fun and crowd involvement. “The barometer of a good slam is it’s not about the quality of the poetry or if people are going on to be worldwide famous, it’s all about involving people in poetry and making sure that it’s accessible, and by accessible I mean people come and do it”

The first break into poetry was a poem about desks eating people – written in year five and published in the school newsletter. Years later, a poetic interest was rekindled in the course of role-playing a cowboy werewolf character in a tabletop game. Since then the publications have come thick and fast, and include a passage in The Best Australian Poems 2011.

In all the years of writing and publication, what is the best poetic advice he has ever received? He pauses for a moment: “I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of different advice over the years”. Then: “Make your own way. I don’t know who said that”. He smiles. “Maybe I made it up”.

This advice is certainly heartfelt. Having created BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! from scratch, he now runs the Australian poetry slam qualifiers. These slams are different, organisationally, with more rules. His focus is on running more slams over time, to try and bring in more people. “There are lots of interesting poets in Canberra”, he explains – Canberra is always well represented at the slam.

A final question – could he name a living or dead poet he would most like to have a beer with? He laughs, and, having teased out some clarification around the use of universal translators and time travel offers up Catullus – a renowned poet of the Roman Empire. It would have been interesting to see what he was like, Andrew explains, and who knows – you might get to meet Cicero and Julius Caesar.
One of his BAD!SLAM! co-organisers adroitly pins down what marks Andrew out in Canberra. “Andrew Galan is one of a handful of artists who put as much effort into improving the arts community and creating opportunities for other artists as he does into his own artistic career, and the Canberra arts scene as a whole has benefited immensely from Andrew’s talent and encouragement”.
To best sum up Andrew’s passion for poetry this article will finish with his words.

“Because we want your words on stage, in the audience, at the bar, in the bathroom, all yelling, all arms, all legs and all unshaved or shaved (it’s your choice!). So escape from that mysterious scientific base where we hear the distant explosions. Because this is BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!”


And this is Andrew Galan.


AndrewGalanPhoto By: Adam Thomas

7:30pm-11:30pm Wednesday 1 October
The Phoenix Pub
23 East Row Civic Canberra ACT