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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Downtown free-for-all proves poetry can be fun

    Allen Billups recites his poetry to a packed house on Saturday night at the Red Room. Tusconans filled the Red Room to standing room only to enjoy the bands and poets during the Poetry Fuckfest.

    It was a night of uncanny accessories — from the frying pan hanging from the band Flagrante Delicto’s  xylophone to the artfully rumpled bandana in event coordinator Jake Levine’s back pocket, the eighth Poetry Fuckfest had an atmosphere of deliberate chaos.

    The live poetry and music event held in the Red Room at downtown restaurant Grill, was an education in style, modern verse and good-humored apathy.

    The unfussy drink specials, the poetic profanity and the coordinators’ valiant efforts to imbue ambitious poetry with a sense of irony and hard-won fun all contributed to the English class/neighborhood bar contrast. The event planners had a tough task, playing poetry to a Saturday-night-in-downtown crowd, but the juxtaposition was well-played. These guys tried  hard to inject the night with a sense of humor that they practically made tongue-in-cheek into a sex act.

    The crowd was mostly women, English undergraduates and people who seemed to have noticed something going on in the bar but not really noticed what that something was. More receptive to the pop/rock live music than the actual poetry the event was showcasing, most seemed pleasantly surprised that poetry reading could, indeed, be fun.

    Though the volume in the small, garnet, diner side-room was often above polite listening levels, event-goers were nodding along to the beat of the music and the verse, seeming to just enjoy the pulse of words through the worn wooden floorboards. Flagrante Delicto’s frontman stated the mood of the room well when he addressed the crowd: “”It’s a pleasure to be here, you look ravishing tonight.””

    Looking ravishing appeared almost as important as having fun. One could get whiplash from how ahead of the mainstream style curve Fuckfest fans were. The vibe of artful dishevelment carried over into the uniform of the night. The men especially were styled almost, yes, poetically: Wyatt Earp after a month in the woods seemed to be the style icon of the evening. The look (scuffed boots, satin-backed vests, heavy facial hair) will undoubtedly show up in GQ in six months, by which time the ninth fest will feature pocket protectors, or Peter Pan tights, or something equally droll.

    The poets themselves played well to the crowd; they seemed to read works that let the somewhat reluctant group into the poetry kiddie pool rather than throwing them into the deep end. Event opener Billups Allen’s work featured many pop-culture references to which the crowd could relate, including an especially memorable haiku about 1960s TV villains.

    In reference to a poem about “”The Twilight Zone”” creator Rod Serling,  Allen said, “”Now that I explained it to you, you get why it’s funny, right?”” Whether or not many laughed, the explanation and the poetry were both much appreciated and well-received.

    Jamison Crabtree and Andrew Shuta both treated the crowd to selected works, to which the increasingly loud room listened with more politeness than appreciation or enlightenment. Shuta’s work was the best-received, and included a piece composed of descriptions from amateur porn Web sites. Shuta said of his poem “”Fuck Poetry,”” “”This is for people who love poetry, but hate it, at the same time.”” Most of the content listeners seemed not to care either way, instead enjoying the night, the drink specials and the free live performances.

    Event captain Jake Levine was the uniting force in all the disorder, carrying the night by the force of his good-humored high-on-life and $1 Miller High Life buzz. Opening the event with one of his own poems, he spoke of a few more classically cosmopolitan cities, saying that tonight they were “”wishing for once they lived in Tucson too.”” The heavily bearded, highly styled Levine obviously cares deeply about poetry, but he does it with such casual, charming nonchalance that one can’t help but think that maybe they could love it, too. Levine wants poetry to be fun, but the thing about him that might finally convince people it is fun is the way he doesn’t try to seem like he’s not trying.

    So the next time you’re in the mood to get drunk, or become more erudite, or just have a high- and low-brow good time, check out the next Poetry Fuckfest. Whether you’re a Beat junkie or just like to feel the beat of words through your feet, the event serves up a refreshing mix of “”don’t give a damn what you think”” and “”actually, we really kind of do.”” It’s a lively night, watching poets set their beers on the piano and making love to the mic with their most artfully profane verse that might never have seen the light of day, but the dark of bar. You might not be jumping up and screaming, but you will at least be nodding along.

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