WORD Christchurch 2020 – Ray Shipley’s Late Night Poetry Hour

A confession right up front, gentle reader, the aforementioned poetry "hour" went on much longer than advertised and, after a day at the coal face and a previous WORD engagement, I was flagging and the first two poets, Dominic Hoey and essa may ranapiri, both provided a cascading cornucopia of images and ideas that wore out my tired old Boomer brain.

MC’d by Ray Shipley, no surprises there (Ray is spread like tasty Aotearoa butter over the Vogels toast of this compact festival) this event featured poets from outside Ōtautahi, namely Dominic Hoey, Mohamed Hassan, essa may ranapiri, and Freya Daly Sadgrove. Apparently, there was also a surprise and possibly personally-curated Open Mic posse as well.

Dominic Hoey drew a lot of laughter from the audience. He opened with poems he claimed to have written on toilet paper in the toilet just prior to the show. These were almost one-liners, uttered then tossed aside. He then read a number of fast-paced, zeitgeist-inspired poems featuring such things as a love affair in LA with Channing Tatum who was promoting a film called Sex Army, an anti-vegan poem, one called "Mother Says" (which he claimed were true sayings from his mother) featuring such hilarious sentiments as "wouldn't the world be better if we killed all the f***in' people" and a poem called "Gay Dog" about his rescue Pomeranian. Perhaps the biggest hit of Dominic's set was a poem called "Tinder in Dunedin" which compared a Zombie Apocalypse to the aforementioned title. Dominic and his Zombie lover eventually make their way to Bulls, "the last remaining civilisation". Anyone who has been to or passed through the charming hamlet of Bulls in the Rangitikei District in the lower part of Te Ika-a-Māui would realise that Dominic's poem was risabull (sorry, Dad Joke alert).

It is hard to describe the poems of essa may ranapiri. "Imagistic" is the word that sprang to mind. Through a succession of poems, essa presented us with a wide, technicolour landscape of the mind's eye. There were poems about a poet who wrote books about bridges entitled, "Brigi(t)", a poem called "My Dream of a Non-Binary Prison" where essa concluded that there was "no safe place for me to die as a criminal", a poem where the poet is so self-loathing that they urge their partner to leave despite the fact that they want them to stay and love them and other poems with such excellent titles as "Out or Not Out" and "Love Letter Under Darkness".  Sometimes the imagery came at the audience so quickly it was almost like watching cars race around a racetrack. essa is a young poet who wrestles with issues of race, identity, sexuality and self-image in a world that can be very cruel, vicious and unable to understand or unwilling to understand the width and breadth of the vast and true human experience.

My sincere apologies to Mohamed Hassan and Freya Daly Sadgrove and any other poets whose work and performances I missed. Old but well-meaning horses sometimes stumble in the poetry steeplechase.

WORD Christchurch