Poetry Slam at Bar Luna

I’m afraid my friends at home will find I’ve become terribly dull. I managed to stay awake late enough to get myself out the door at 6:30 last night, just at sunset, and walk the quarter mile to Bar Luna. This popular watering hole is an expat hot spot in Ubud. The first Thursday of the month, poets gather here to read their works and be judged. I really hate to admit this, but I have never been to a poetry slam even though I love poetry and was writing verse almost before I could talk. I heeded the warning to come early if I wanted a good seat. The actual event was scheduled for 7:30.

My friends and I (Halla from Iceland, and Karin from Manhattan) arrived in plenty of time and took front row seats. We had no more settled into our cushions than in walked a face I hadn’t met but looked familiar. Steve Castley, of course! I recognized him from the photos on the jacket of the book he co-authored with Julie Silvester, A Taste of Bali. I was staring intently, trying to make sure because, frankly, the book photos don’t do him justice. After introducing myself I asked if he was reading tonight. Affirmative. Then he asked if I had a piece to share. I told him I’d brought a poem but had never been to a poetry slam. He assured me it was great fun and I should participate. Kicking myself for admitting I had come prepared, I walked to the bar and signed my name. My anxiety level surged. We know how to fix that, don’t we? Order a drink! As you might suppose, there are a great many alcoholic options at Bar Luna. The Coconut Killer was tempting, but I settled for a mixture of turmeric, lime, and honey in young coconut water. No alcohol. (I know, friends. You’re shaking your collective heads. But I had in mind the walk home in the dark where pieces of the sidewalk sometimes go missing over the sewer below. I needed my wits about me!)

Photo copyright 2011 Rudolph Helder

Did I mention the event was to start at 7:30 p.m? Yes? Well, that time came and went with much laughter and conversation but no poetry. At 8:20, Karin (who turns into a pumpkin even earlier than I do if that’s possible) inquired politely when we might expect things to get underway. She was answered by a laughing face reminding her that Bali operates on ‘rubber time.’ Then added, “We’re starting right now.” And so it began.

Photo copyright Bar Luna

The emcee with charisma and dreads,  got things going with a sort of rappish poem of his own to set the example for those of us needing guidance. He oozed talent which would become increasingly apparent as the night rolled on. I will spare gory details, but suffice it to say the skill levels varied. Men presenters outnumbered women three to one. And here’s a fascinating observation: the men almost exclusively wrote of love, sex, and lust. The women’s themes covered political activism, social injustice, spirituality, and personal growth. I didn’t expect that and was quite delightfully surprised. (The picture shows a Luna Bar audience staring in rapt attention at the presenter.)

When my name was called I approached the mic with a mixture of relief that it would soon be over and stage fright. I have an uneasy relationship with microphones. They seem to suck up the sound of my voice. I don’t know how singers stay on pitch using a mic when they can’t hear themselves sing. I didn’t win the competition, but I managed to face the crowd, smile, read, and sit down without utterly disgracing myself. Major accomplishment! The judges were volunteers from the audience so it wasn’t a test of literary genius, it was more about entertainment. The woman with a sultry jazz singer’s voice who sang her poem won by a narrow margin. In my opinion, the man who came in third was absolutely brilliant.

It was a wonderful evening. Now I can say I competed in a poetry slam in Ubud, Bali. I like that!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Strauss
    May 04, 2012 @ 20:54:36

    Congrats Sherry! Another adventure completed.



  2. Diane Struble
    May 04, 2012 @ 21:10:39

    I like that too. And I think that your Grandmother Edith would have been delighted.



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