I was invited to perform at Lisbon’s Poetry Festival, ‘Silencio.’ Yay, ye gods of good fortune.
Lisbon is different. Of course it is; it’s in that part of Europe where the sun is a real friend, not a facebook friend; a real friend who visits regularly (read: anywhere but the UK). The streets are draped on hills, there are rickety, rusty trams stuffed with tourists like metal turkeys on rails and wearing socks is stupid, because sun. And what tiny streets; a lot of people’s window view must be other people’s business. I felt drops of water on my neck at one point. ‘Ah, it’s about to rain,’ I said, certain I had brought English luck along with me. ‘No,’ said Pedro, Festival Silencio host, ‘that’s air condition exhaust.’
He shrugged. I went back to my hotel and took a bath.
Course I didn’t do that. I’m not rude, and I come from Nigeria. I’m cool with Air Conditioners. See what I did there?
Festival Silencio was a series of talks, slams and gigs featuring poetry combined with other media forms; music, cinema, art. One of the talks, ‘Poetry converted into drawing/comic art,’ took place in a brothel. I took pictures.
Bear in mind, the last spoken word/poetry talk I went to was the Pernassus at the Southbank, which could have done with more tassles on the wall. Haw haw, snarf, snarf, etc, I’ll get my coat.
I landed on a Saturday. I was due to perform at a spoken word slam in a club called Musicbox that night. The event started at 10pm. 10pm. In the UK spoken word scene, that’s headline hour. In Lisbon it’s open-mic time. As Alice probably would say, Curiouser and Curiouser.
The main feature of the night was friendly dude called Silva O Sentinela. I knew he was decent because he wore this T-Shirt:
His show consisted on his reading, with a collage of projections behind him showing urban scenery, as well as actors reciting certain lines from his poems. With no obvious audio cues to guide him and with his back to the projection, Silvo had synchronized his performance so perfectly that his words matched perfectly with the actors’ lips. Either that or I’m terrible at lip-reading Portuguese.
Speaking of the language: obviously a large amount of the poetry went over head because, well, I don’t speak a lot of Portuguese (read: none), and I could only take so much concentrating on rhythm and rhyme before I started worrying if I left the fridge open before I left London. Awkward and frustrating. I had to bail repeatedly to my hotel room across the street.
To tweet write poetry.
The slammers slammed, the judges judged and the winner got a bottle of champs and a chance to read another poem. And then came another worry: would they understand me? I was due to perform at 2am. 2am. The host said I was the ‘headline’ act, which is what open mic hosts call the last poet; it’s supposed to make you feel good about performing to two bald men, a few hundred paper-fliers, an empty toothpaste tube and an imaginary penguin. I was okay with this; I spoke English, this is Portugal. I already had a free return ticket, hotel accomodation and dinner. To ask for a large enough audience to satiate my raging ego would be asking too much, really.
2am. The place was rammed. Lisbon was different, I said.
After what I’d definitely call one of my best gigs ever, a petite, pretty lady walked up to me. What she said I’ll probably never forget: ‘English? no. Feel? Yes’ and she shook my hand and air-kissed my cheek. She stayed through my entire ramble-on about love and what-nots even though she didn’t get a word. This did not make me feel ashamed. At all.
SEGWAY! A picture of what I was reliably told was Pig Dick Soup. Tasted brilliant
Also: Two mall cops on segways.
On my free day I noticed someone’d written this on a bin:
I looked up, and lo and behold, it wasn’t a clever jab: this bin belonged to a Hostel called… The Poet’s Hostel
On the final day (sunday) I supported what was essentially a heavy metal/industrial/punk version of the Smiths fronted by a Portuguese Musa Okwonga. Mao Morta, translated as Dead Hands, had a frontman by the name of Adolfo Cannibal Lust. Adolf and Cannibal AND Lust. Fiction, begone, real life wins again!
They’ve been going since 1984. That’s longer than all the spoken word bands in the UK put together. We performed at the Sao Jorge cinema (think Leicester Square Odeon) and it was sold out. They were by turns dad rocky and brilliantly chaotic, and the guitar skills were nothing my bony fingers could accomplish in a lifetime. Again, I didn’t understand a word said, but thank ye gods for the music; tune out, rocked on, and thought very nicely dark thoughts.