It’s unclear at what point the performance — of poetry, no less — became the best stand-up I’d ever seen. It wasn’t when the poet in question, Eddie Hopely, pulled track pants and a hooded sweatshirt over his suit while being introduced, but that definitely set the mood. It might’ve been when he read out a script for a conceptual film about hang gliding, together with directions and camera cues. More likely it was when his rehearsed banter began to pile up like so many fragments of speech: “Hey, I just wanted to say for real, um, thanks to, um, okay, you know… end of quotation”.
Hopely’s performance was for Avant Gaga, a semi-regular experimental gala hosted by Toby Fitch. For these events, Fitch likes the poets to push the boat out. “I encourage them to put out their most challenging work, because there’s an audience there to see it and be challenged by it.”
The Avant Gaga events are part of the Sappho’s Poetry Night series, for which Fitch programs a broad range of styles. “I do like to mix up more traditional poets, or more accessible poets, with all kinds of different poets.” It’s this diversity that strikes me as unique about the night, with performance poets plying their craft alongside lyric poets and conceptual ones, emerging poets next to established ones, followed by an open mic section. Attendance isn’t dependant on a particular poet or style though. It’s always full, with a generative energy that draws in new punters and regulars alike. Says Fitch: “Every month the audience is so different.”
The next Avant Gaga is on July 11, featuring Canadian sound poet Christian Bök, as well as local conceptual poets A.J. Carruthers, Amelia Dale and Amy Ireland.
Sappho’s Poetry Night is the second Tuesday of every month, 7-10pm, Sappho Books, 51 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe. It’s a free event.