This ought to be good: a little like a pick-up game, a little like a barroom brawl, with the bonus that a bunch of my friends are involved.
I’m talking about “Love is a Burning Thing,” the Valentine’s day poetry slam and jam at the Happy Dog. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, two teams will face off, taking up opposite sides of the pro-vs-con love argument. Judges will be chosen from the audience. One side will win. You know what that means.
I have no idea who gets which side of the argument or how those roles will be assigned, but the teams will be led by Erin O’Brien (whose new book The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts includes a spectacular recipe involving cucumbers), and Playhouse Square Slam-U poet Andre Clouden. Clouden would seem to have the advantage of competitive poetry slam experience. But that Erin O’Brien, she’s got
the cucumber experience on her side, and that is not to be discounted.
Slam poets tend to shout their identity politics, but this –in the name of love–seems like it might depart from that mode of delivery. The event is put on by Ohio City Writers. If you haven’t heard of this fledgling nonprofit, it’s worth showing up just to learn about that. OCW is about teaching kids to write. They’re formed in the style of Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari’s 826 Foundation–a front room full of schtick, which in Cleveland will be a Rock Star supply shop, and a back room full of free writing tutelage for kids. OCW is run by my friend Frank Lewis, who was editor of the Free Times and Scene for some very good years.You might even want to send some money their way.
Poet and well-traveled performer Ray McNiece will serve as emcee, backed up by members of his band Tongue-in-Groove. Apart from the competition, poet George Bilgere will read some of his work—which you may have heard on Garrison Keilor’s show, A Prairie Home Companion. Bilgere will also record the whole shindig for his WJCU radio show, Wordplay.
If you want to rub shoulders and mingle voices with those professionals—and hear yourself broadcast mightily around the East Side on WJCU, all you have to do is send some poems to Ohiocitywriters@gmail.com. And if your poems are found worthy to be slung about the stage in front of a rowdy crowd, well you’re in.
And did I mention that “Love is a Burning Thing” is free?