Thursday, December 20, 2007

Live Lit KL - Looking Back, Looking Forward

This has been a year when live literature in KL has gone from strength to strength, and in a way we could not have imagined I think, a year of two back. What follows is an overview of what's happened, and then, if you have the patience to read to the end, I want to solicit your opinions about the direction we're headed in.

The British Council have continued to be major movers and shakers of the local literary scene bringing poets (This year Benjamin Zephaniah, Charlie Dark and Jacob Sam-La Rose) out from the UK to perform and run workshops. There was even publication Well Versed containing the work of some of our fledgling performance poets, and Jasmine Low and Jerome Kugan have worked with British Council to organize entertaining evenings of performance poetry and music under the banner Wayang Kata.

There were signs of our own poets "coming of age". Sharanya was brave enough to put on a one woman show before she had to leave for India, and was invited to the Singapore Writers Festival to give a solo reading. Priya, Liyana and Divya appeared with Charlie Dark at the same festival, and the poet said some very complimentary things about the local pool of talent.

Project OMG proved a great forum for young writers, Klue Magazine continued to run their Words and Tunes event this time in conjunction with MPH bookstores.

I have thoroughly enjoyed organising Readings@Seksan's, which as you know, I took over from Bernice Chauly. It has been a challenge to seek out (bully and cajole!) interesting folks into putting their words out before an audience. Where these readings have, I hope, differentiated themselves from the other live-lit events happening in the Klang Valley is in providing more of a forum for prose writing (fiction and non-fiction) along with poetry. I've also aimed for as diverse a collection of readers on any of those Saturday afternoons as possible ... though I don't think that I've done a good enough job tapping into the Malay writing scene, and this bothers me because I'd like to see writers coming together and sharing whatever their language of choice.

Our international "special" at Central Market was for me one of the highpoints of the year, and again, I have to thank British Council for that.

Bernice adopted a second baby this year, in the form of Readings@No Black Tie, held on the first Sunday night of the month, a more "upmarket" version of the Seksan readings held in a more nightclubby setting with some excellent talent on hand to entertain.

Maskara, the monthly readings event focusing on writing in Malay was started by Vovin and friends, and run along similar lines to the Seksan events at Rumah Pena.

All these events look set to continue running and building on their success in 2008, and lets add one more really great thing on top of them.

Some of you will remember our Cross-Causway Poetry Slam, held earlier this year at Seksan. Well, Chris Mooney-Singh and his wife Savinder who run WordForward in Singapore, will be bringing poetry slams to KL on a regular basis, starting we hope in February. We also hope that there will be a lot of spin-off events such as themed slams and workshops radiating out from this.

Now then, my first (multi-part!) question to you - are we in danger of having too much going on in the city, and how do we ensure that events don't clash or crowd so tightly together on the calendar that we steal each others audiences or cause our fans to overdose on spoken word? Or are the audiences totally different for each event so that the question is academic?

This question bothers Bernice and I a lot, and we decided that we would organise only one Readings event each month, alternating between Seksan and No Black Tie. (So Readings@Seksans will be bi-monthly in 2008 rather than monthly as it has been this year.)

This gives me a little more breathing space and also gives me time to plan for some alternative kinds of literary happenings. (News of one to be posted very soon!)

My second question (equally multi-part!) is which live lit events have you attended this year and which did you like best? How could the organisers (inc. me!) do what we do better? (Please do be honest.) What would you like to see happen in 2008?

What I have found particularly heartening this year is the way that the organisers of these events have networked with each other, and the way audiences (without which nothing at all would happen!) have supported live lit events and made them viable.


Sham said...

To be honest I love the afternoons at Seksan's and would prefer more Saturday afternoons like that:)
Simply because it's gorgeous to spend afternoons with literature and wine;) Sunday nights at No Black Tie have been inaccessible - to me- well - Sunday nights I spend stressed out about the week ahead;) and the atmosphere is really different as well.
Well, clashes between events would be inevitable and it would be left for crowds to choose. But my vote - afternoons at Seksans!!!

dreamer idiot said...

Yes, it's been pretty wonderful to see how literary events sprouting out throughout the year... definitely, there's a growing and healthy interest there, but on the other hand, I do share both Bernice's and your concern of 'clashing', and people getting 'weary', because if I may observe and say so myself, I did noticed that the crowd does vary from time, understandably through project deadlines, commitments and all, but 'staying-power' isn't altogether there, though the good thing is that with other events around, people can pick among those that best fit their schedules and interests.

As for the crowd, I actually think different crowds exist, though I haven't exactly attended all the other events to say so, but there might be what may be called, something of a core crowd of passionate word lovers, and it is this group that will feel divided between the events on which to go to spend their time. Poetry slams and No Black Tie will probably draw a 'younger' crowd, and perhaps those who previously have no experience of such open literary forms, while Seksens' is a more intimate kind of setting, and will definitely draw on various people from time to time, who are either interested in the works of the writers who are reading or are their friends.

Though I would probably personally miss coming monthly to Seksens', I have to agree that it's best to alternate monthly between Seksens and No Black Tie; less tiring for both you and Bernice; though as Sham said, No Black Tie is tricky for me both time and transport-wise on a Sunday night, as much I would like to attend.

Looking forward to the literary events in 2008!