by Nevs Coleman

‘So what’s Tofu Eating Beret Wearing Motherfucker about then?’

(listen to the song here)

When I realized I had neither the attention span nor the ability to stay in for long periods of time, I decided my idea of being a comic creator probably wasn’t going to happen. For all the crap i throw at people who work creating comics, I can see that comics are fucking hard work to do. And unless you’re a Todd McFarlane or an Alan Moore, most people aren’t going to stop you in the street and say ‘Oi, mate. that last mini-series was top stuff!’ It’s a low paid job with little attention from nubile female fans unless your name is…

Oh, I’m meant to be keeping quiet about that, aren’t I? Ah well…

The realization that I can’t be bothered writing or drawing comics came around the same time that I left one of the shops I worked for. I’d been in comics and retail for about ten years at that point, really needed a break from the world I was in, and left comics entirely. I still wanted to keep doing stuff in the underground though. And one afternoon in Richmond Library, I figured what i was going to do. I had an idea of story and structure and character that I wanted to express already, so..

I’d become a poet. (Small p mind.) I read this huge book on the Beat Generation, I drank coffee. I smoked. I wrote in cafes. I contemplated a beret. I wrote bloody long poems. I realized I was bored reading them, so I went for shorter ones. Then I found a copy of Time Out and went along to as many gigs as I could. And found something less than I’d been hoping for. But the great thing about doing poetry is that it’s a bit like comics but without the need for editors or publishers or high prices or the like. It’s literally the cheapest art-form except for stand up comedy to do. Can you speak? Write words? You’re IN!

You want to be a poet? Dead simple:

Go do something. Go to the park and watch people. Sit on the 29 for a while. Talk to a homeless person. SOMETHING. Failing that, make up some shit about Monkeys and/or Boobs. Worked fine for me.
Get an idea of what you’d like to see a really good performer talk about.
Pretend to be that really good performer.
Buy a pen, also paper.
Write poems on the paper. DON’T write them straight onto your laptop. It doesn’t work. I don’t know why. Magic or something. You’ll get the text but the soul will be missing.

Read poems. What do they LOOK like? Why are they set up like that? mainly because it works. Work out what the concept of structure is before you start fucking it about. Otherwise you are not being experimental, You are being someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Go watch other poets before you make your debut.
Work out how to be better than them. Not ‘as good as’. BETTER!
Watch the ones you don’t like. Why don’t you like them? Can you hear what they’re saying (I know, You’d THINK that’d be the first thing you’d do, right? ‘Make sure you can be heard’. is apparently optional Who knew?) Are they talking about things you don’t care about? Good. It’ll make you write things that YOU care about. Don’t waste people’s time being ‘right on’ or ‘funny’ unless you actually are. There is nothing worse than an unfunny poet. Or terrible diatribes about the homeless from people who don’t know what sleeping on a park bench s like.

Who IS good? What are they doing that makes you think they’re good? You don’t need to steal their act but you should be learning and picking up tips each time you’re watching a show. That guy knows how to time his ad-libs, she knows exactly who to look at so it looks like she’s looking at half the room in the eyes.

Remember, you’re not in a bedsit now. It’s a PERFORMANCE. They need to hear you (i’m not going to let that one go!) But you need to draw them in as soon as you start. My act normally has started long before I’m near the stage.

Being hot is a surefire route to the headline as any degree of talent. Yep, it’s shit, superficial blahhdblahhdy . Tough. Whine or get better or look hotter. One girl opens with sounding like she’s going to shag each member of the audience with her first poem then gets into the real stuff once she has the full attention of the crowd.

She headlines a lot now..It ain’t, after all, what you say, but the way that you say it…

Keep adapting, shift your act, try new stuff. Keep writing new stuff and throwing it into your floor-fillers.

Inflection is your friend. Really.

‘Iwascoldlastnightandyouwe

ren’tthereandiwishedicouldtouchyourhairbutmumblemumblemumble…’ AAAARGH! I’m going to the bar. And it’s your fault!

There are dozens and dozens of poetry magazines about, lots of places to go perform on any night of the week. And much like the mainstream comics scene, the small press comic scene and the music scene, it’s utterly riddled with crappy little politics, gangs and the like. If you’re any good, you’ll annoy someone higher up the food chain who’s scared of you taking their spot and will talk shit about you to try and get you not booked. (Yes, I do mean you.)

But if you’re the type who wants to write something and get feedback on it instantly or be a bit like a pop star but without all the work of learning how to play a guitar or any of that an just wants to write things that will get girls to jump on you, Rock On, and indeed, Tommy.

I’m being a bit glib of course. There are some amazingly good poets on the circuit. That’s high praise from me. I’m as harsh on poets as i am on comics. More so, because when a comic is shit, you can put it down and stop reading. When a poet is shit, you can put them down, but they won’t stop reading…

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