Thursday, February 01, 2007

The first day of the Individual World Poetry Slam

Wednesday was a whirlwind day, with unexpected twists and a good ending.

I started out at the gym. Working out always sets me up with more energy and better focus for the rest of the day. I hope I'll have the energy to go again on Friday morning, but maybe I'll need the sleep more than the rev-up. We'll see.

During the day I mostly ran errands. I ordered tournament trophies at the trophy store, did a bit more copying and laminating, went to Costco and got water for the tournament officials, then met our production coordinator at the music store to pay for the rental of sound equipment. While I was at Costco, my cell phone rang. It was a Canada Immigration official who had stopped one of our festival volunteers at the border. I had to fax a work schedule and job descriptions, plus a letter we have citing a section of the immigration policy manual in order to help the official determine that the volunteer did not require a work permit in order to help out for 3 days at our festival. I'm grateful for my cell phone and for fax machines. Without them, this volunteer would probably have been sent home. Getting poets and volunteers across the border has been one of our biggest concerns. The majority of competing poets and all of the tournament organizers come from the U.S. Good preparation and communication have been part of our plan. So far it's working relatively well.

By 4pm I was at the festival hotel to meet with volunteers and help with registration. My friends and fellow host city committee people, Sean and Angus were there, along with a mix of Vancouver and out-of-town volunteers. I finally got to meet the volunteers and Poetry Slam Incorporated people with whom I have been corresponding by email for the past few months. It was great to put faces to names and start to work together. Early registration went well. Poets are cool people. Volunteers are my heroes. I felt a lot of excitement, and everyone was happy with our host city committee's level of preparation and welcoming hospitality.

After a short volunteer meeting we headed over to the restaurant where the Aboriginal and Last Chance Slams were going. The volunteers and I were late because of our meeting, and the restaurant was already packed, with a sign on the door that said "FULL." For a few minutes it looked like we wouldn't get in, which would have been mighty disappointing, but we squeezed in, and in short order, all of the volunteers found seats. People kept arriving at the door, so I spent most of the night asking people to wait outside, and letting in a few at a time. At first I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing the show, and here I was now, after a day of running around and serving people, stuck out in the foyer, being the gracious enforcer. I could hear just snippets of the poems, and lots of laughter and applause... Then I decided to make the best of it. I ordered supper, which the delightful restaurant staff served at the bar with warmth and good humour, and I chatted with the other people stuck in the waiting area. The restaurant servers got into the spirit, and put on a bit of a show for the customers, chatting and joking. The tension began to ease.

There was this vestibule off in the corner where I had to get people to stay put until we could move them into the restaurant, but at least they were warm. I got my schtick going about this little antechamber being the uterus of the restaurant. The people who reached this spot were now warm and protected, not into the show yet, but in gestation. In the fullness of time, they would be birthed into the room where the poets were performing. People were good-natured about the waiting when we started to have fun with it. By the end of the evening the room had given birth to everyone and even the latest-arrivers could get close enough to at least hear the last few performances.

All the while, the restaurant managers and servers were good sports. The place is called La Rocca, on Commercial Drive. The food and wine were very yummy. The people are super-friendly, and got right into the poetry, listening as they were taking care of the customers, and surviving an obstacle course of people parked on the floor and leaning up against the wall beside tables. We gave them all free tickets to the Van Slam at the end of the evening. They helped make a hectic-starting event stay friendly and fun.

Today there's more registration, the bout draw and another volunteer meeting, the Haiku and Mother Tongue Slams (day events) and the start of the official tournament with Preliminary Bouts, followed by the Erotica Reading late at night. In the evening I'm coordinating at one venue, where I'll be posted early on so I hope I'll get to see most of the show. Even if I don't, last night showed me that the show outside the show is almost as good. I would not have missed it for the world.

question - did you every make lemonade?

mompoet - I like mine with lots of lemon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish i could be there, i am on the Island and it sounds like it was an amazing event and imagine, poetry selling out events and people going away wanting more. How strange.
How nice.