It sounds like the start of a joke - a Scotsman, an Aussie, and a Kiwi walk into a bar - but on Friday 15 November the bar in question was Cassels Blue Smoke at the Tannery, and they were there for an evening of performance poetry at its very best. Michael Pedersen, Omar Musa, and Dominic Hoey met for the first time at last year’s WORD Christchurch Festival when they performed together at the legendary Hell Fire Club in Lyttelton, an evening that is fondly remembered by all of us who were lucky enough to be there. That evening, along with lots of others, has been preserved in the wonderful Hell Fire Club anthology put together by local poetry superstar Andy Coyle, possibly my favourite book published this year. It was at that event that I rediscovered a love of stand-up poetry, and since then I’ve been going to readings and open-mics whenever I can, so when I heard about this repeat performance, I couldn’t resist.
On this occasion, the three poets were coming towards the end of a national tour and there was a definite end-of-term feel to the evening. They had been driving down from Golden Bay all day, and were clearly tired, but that didn’t diminish the firepower of their performances.
First up was Michael Pedersen, who was in a mood for banter. Ribald, sweary, and extremely funny, the audience loved it. He bounced about with kangaroo swagger (his own admission) regaling us with stories of sex, seafood, and romantic liaisons gone wrong. His recollection of sharing a gargantuan platter with two close friends on the west coast of Scotland was deeply affecting, and a highlight of the evening for me.
Omar Musa followed with an extraordinary and powerful performance that took in rap, mellifluous singing, and a beautifully articulated thirst for social justice that was a bit more overtly political than what had gone before.
Rounding off the set, Dominic Hoey treated us to some old favourites, including the wonderful How To Lose Money & Entertain People, A Manifesto, as well as poems from his new book I Thought We’d Be Famous. Clearly these three poets have become great friends and the real star of the show was the strong bond that has formed between them, showing the power of poetry and the arts to transcend cultural differences and unite people from diverse backgrounds.
The presence in the audience of Behrouz Boochani, who got a shout out from Omar Musa, only served to reinforce this message.