Wordsmiths duke it out – literarily
Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 13:03
The pen is proven to be truly mightier – not to mention, stranger – than the sword as Opium Magazine's very own Literary Death Match (LDM) shocks and awes downtown Savannah on Thursday, March 11. The shenanigans take place at barbecue hangout Blowin' Smoke at 514 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Tickets to the 8 p.m. event are $5 for students.
LDM attempts to delve further into the established eccentricities of literature by introducing humor-centric, performance-based elements to readings of four authors' works, all while being critiqued at the sharp end of a panel of judges' rapier wits.
The helter-skelter form results in a thoroughly riveted audience lingering on every word.
"To me, the overall idea of Literary Death Match is to make literature fun and accessible, and the entertainment factor is quite important," said Zach Powers, Emmy Award-winning writer and participating reader in the competition.
For some of the readers, the competition presents an unconventional challenge – taking the reclusive writing experience and thrusting it into the spotlight.
"I'm going to read something short, simple and playful. I'm hoping my excitement comes through when I perform the piece on Thursday," Powers said. "I figure that if I show up and have fun, the audience will have fun along with me."
The informal nature of LDM lends itself to what some would consider "graphic" content and language; something largely deemed "arbitrary" to Thursday's readers.
"If you come to a literary event, especially one boldly named ‘Death Match,' prepare to be challenged," Powers said.
This particular episode on March 11 marks the first time Opium Magazine has invited Savannah to join the fray which promotes literature as a brilliant, unstoppable medium. For most of Thursday's competitors, the focus rests less in pressure and more in entertainment value.
As for Savannah's maiden voyage on this absurd ship, Powers said, "I do hope the writers who perform are able to show that there's more to the Savannah literary scene than Flannery O'Connor."
Novelist Maryanne Stahl, a reader for LDM, expressed similar concerns about Savannah's image when she said, "Did they watch an episode of ‘Ruby' or ‘Paula Deen' and decide the competition could use some fried food?"
Despite fierce competition, Stahl is optimistic and levelheaded, even in the face of possible literary "death."
"I am scared and I expect to be blown out of the water, but I don't mind," she said. "It should be fun."
LDM is well-known for its masterful choice of expertise, combining eclectic talents in humor and intellect, with past panels including Todd Barry and Moby.
The "Death Match" strikes a balance between a humble reverence of the written word and an often outrageous spoken performance, a smoldering amalgam that the judges are obligated to stoke and prod with genuine critique and amusing discussion.
"I've judged plenty of talent competitions before," said Shawn "J. Chris" Christopher, gregarious radio personality and a judge for the event. "The spoken word in Savannah is no joke; I know for a fact that they're going to bring it. But I also recognize that this is art and is some of these people's livelihoods, so they really need to bring their all to the competition."
Christopher also addressed the importance that lies in attending events such as this, in an attempt to transform Savannah into a staple destination of entertainers and culture.
"I hope a lot of people come out because this is great for the city," he said. "You just have to get out to events like this for them to happen more."