The first poetry slam I ever entered by Nikki Viveca
This written piece was commissioned by Midsumma in April 2020 as a response to the mass loss of the Melbourne queer arts industry (due to COVID-19). This blog is part of a series of works from our LGBTQIA+ arts and culture community that gives Midsumma audiences an insight into the practice of the queer arts and helps to make queer arts and cultures more accessible to diverse audiences in this time of social distancing and uncertainty.
Nikki Viveca is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work encompasses standup, performance poetry, dance, theatre and improv and in any genre is reliably queer AF. She has been seen recently in her solo show Wasp Movie, in cabaret spectacular Gender Euphoria, in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Cybec Electric and hosting ACEtravaganza at this year’s Midsumma Festival. Nikki was the winner of the 2019 Midsumma Poetry Slam and 2019 Trans Poetry Slam, as well as a runner up for the 2019 Melbourne Spoken Word Prize.
- by Nikki Viveca
The first poetry slam I ever entered I came to in a sweaty rush fresh from dance class. I’d barely had time to put on dry clothes – it was a *really* sweaty dance class – or fix my face and hair. I also, in the kind of oversight one might describe as “classic Nikki”, hadn’t had time to write a poem. I had come to a word fight unarmed.
“You’ll be fine,” said the woman from the audience I was drinking courage bubblies with while waiting to go on. And, while my nerves were riding high I did feel ready. Nothing charges the blood like doing a grinding stripper dance to Warrant’s “Cherry Pie”. I mightn’t have had a poem but I was ready to be on show.
I got on stage with only the loosest idea for what I’d do and improvised, emboldened by champagne, dancers high and the spirit of 80s hair rock. Against all odds, I won the damn slam. I cried with surprise. I hadn’t won a thing since an air guitar competition at a uni bar night. I had performed a lot but doing pub improv and obscure queer standup, one doesn’t expect to win things.
Since then I’ve written and performed quite a lot of poems. I mean I had to didn’t I, now I was officially a poet? It’s not even the only slam I’ve won. I imagine Messieurs Turner, Lane, Dixon et al of Warrant would be surprised to learn their work helped kick off a career writing queer empowerment poetry. Asexual poetry no less, which I’m sure in no way reflects Cherry Pie’s artistic intent.
I always write my poetry to music. Often, like when working on a dance, I’ll pick a song and play it on repeat, sinking deep into it to find the mood and the rhythm that I want. It’s not always the same music which I strip to. Often, though, it is. Sometimes it’s when practising a routine that words come to me
For me poetry and dance go together. Poetry is about rhythm of course but more importantly it’s about freedom, which is also what burlesque is about. Both are about taking all those parts of you which you normally hide away and feel like no one would want to see and putting them on display. I wasn’t a poet before I did strip-tease and I don’t know how I could have been.
Being unlocked physically unlocked my words and emotions too, and through dance I discovered unexpected depths of creativity. It was, as Warrant might say, such a sweet surprise.
(A poem about my happy place)
The click of my heels
The flick of my fans
When I trace my body
With the curves of my hands
When I flow with the music
When I grind with the bass
When I pulse my hips at you
And see the look on your face
When I’m one with the rhythm
When I move like a dream
The way each reveal
Makes the audience scream
When my bra whips off quickly
But I take time with a glove
When I unwrap my body
And bathe it in love
When it all just slides off me
Work, worries and age
And I live in pure beauty
When I’m on the stage.
- by Nikki Viveca
Me performing in my first poetry slam (Asexual Love Poem at the Midsumma Poetry Slam 2019)
~ to find out more about Nikki Viveca, see the social links below