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.
THE HADLEY MEMORIAL AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY AUSTRALIAN POETRY SLAM FINAL
(BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! versus THE AUSTRALIAN POETRY SLAM)
7:30pm-11:30pm Wednesday 1 October
The Phoenix Pub
23 East Row Civic Canberra ACT