FOMO Report: At Street Level #3 – Cabaret Playhouse

Image by Garrett Lockhart

Image by Garrett Lockhart

A hybrid event of readings, bands and DJs, organized by Roland Pemberton. Strobe lights flickering across an informal, late night.

By Jay Winston Ritchie

I know James Goddard mostly from his solo project Skin Tone and as a member of the not-for-profit, volunteer-run show-booking collective Loose Fit, though he seems to be involved in many other projects, and apparently writing poetry is one of them. He opened the night with six colloquial and poignant pieces. His last and most memorable poem flipped the activist slogan “I can’t breathe”—words spoken by Eric Garner as he was murdered by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo—to a litany of “I can breathe”, shifting the narrative from victimhood to resistance and adding emotional nuance to a story that usually comes out cold and detached in news media. It left me breathless.

On the heels of a great poetry reading was a great Twitter feed reading. Rachel Shaw read selected tweets from her @rachelmshaw account (formerly @G4RFI3LD, or something). My favourites were:

the sad thing is, I really do want to stay home and earn six figures online

Always the corpse, never the bride

Pimp My Grave

Klara du Plessis read an excerpt from her Metatron Prize-shortlisted manuscript Hell Light Flesh, a long poem with visceral imagery and dark humour. She ended with a bilingual poem, using false friends (homonyms across languages) between English and Afrikaans–her first language–to create an exceptionally multivalent work.

Julie Mannell ended “the culture portion of the night” with a long introduction to a short poem by an eight-year-old girl she used to babysit. The poem was written after her (the eight-year-old’s) dad wouldn’t let her use his iPad after he promised her she could. Full of vitriol and panache, the poem casts aspersions on patriarchal authority while questioning late capitalism’s prioritization of work over play, concluding with a promise to her unborn children to be a less despotic parent.

Mannell’s own poem was an ode to aural poetry’s second cousin once removed: stand-up comedy. “Erasmus the Clown” was a sort of creepy, sort of lyrical exploration of the last 40 years of stand-up comedy and how they have influenced Mannell’s love life and poetic practice.

I left before She-Devils, Kid Aristides, DJ Maya Ignlis and the gracious host himself could perform because I was tired, but some friends texted me about a “dance afterparty” at Cabaret Playhouse while I was in an Uber on my way home, so I’m pretty sure the night came thru.

FOMO rating: I can breathe.