The Victoria Spoken Word Festival drew to a close last night, led by festival Poet of Honor R.C. Weslowski. Weslowski, a 12-year veteran of the Vancouver Slam scene, spent the day working with the festival ensemble, helping the poets craft an entirely new show that they presented in the evening’s second half.
The first half was all Weslowski, with his smooth, FM-radio voice and encyclopedic knowledge of colorful language, much of it referring to acts which often involve generous amounts of lubricant.
Weslowski’s opening piece, “Floyd Jones”, began with “Floyd Jones was a Jesus cocksucker” and more or less continued in that vein – a four-letter freight train. The two women next to me froze up and couldn’t make it past the one minute mark – as they left I heard the older of the two say, “Sorry, I just can’t do this.” It was a startling beginning but the shock value was, I think, half the point and in walking out the women missed an opportunity: Weslowski’s readings may have been challenging at times but they were never boring.
There were a number of dirty haiku, the art-house version of the dirty limerick. There was the memorable “Lost in Skullfucker Canyon”, about a man whose plane crashes in the titular rift and how he comes to relish the life of a castaway. There was more to the story, something about eating supermodels and possibly a volleyball named Wilson, but as with so much of Weslowski’s work last night the power was in the performance – the words alone look a bit like dirty madlibs.
The audience was asked to participate for one poem – four members of the crowd were given words, more accurately sounds, and were instructed to shout them when prompted. The poet then conducted the audience members in a symphony of noise, at the end of which the crowd was prompted to shout: “Uncle Nunchuk’s Got a Gravy Dildo”.
His performance of “Beauty Ba-Bo” was a great example of how a poet can bring his work to sharply-defined life. On paper, “Beauty Ba-Bo” reads like dictation from a man having a stroke but, on stage, it becomes a powerful, impassioned message from an artist desperate to connect you with something you’ve forgotten.