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