The Curse of the Duck Whistle
Traditionally it is the crow which is seen as a harbinger of evil. Yet in Audlem on Thursday night they weren’t dark “goth eyeliner” feathers of a crow. No, they were the brown, teal and white of “kid with new pack of felt pens” duck plumage. Evil came to Audlem. And it was the sound of a duck.
Yes, Thursday was The Audlem Festival poetry slam. Yes, I had to do the timings. Yes I had to blow the duck whistle when 3 minutes had expired. A honk which signified to everyone in the room that time was up. Maybe the poet has gone too slow. Or an introduction had gone on a bit too long. Or… the audience had responded to a part of the poem slowing the act down, eating precious seconds like a time hungry Pac-Man trapped in a maze of clocks being chased by the ghosts of a single pause for breath. Pac-Man’s inevitable death not being punctuated by a descending series of notes but by a single blow on a duck whistle.
Yes Slams can be fun. Yes they can bring poetry to new audiences.
But they can also be cruel.
And I was the servant of cruelty. I had to blow that duck whistle more than it had ever been blown before. In all our slams we have maybe one or two which go over. It happens. But we’ve never had so many go over as we did on Thursday. As I exhaled breath into that duck whistle every time the clock expired a part of me died. So much of me died I’m now a husk of a poet. A delicate shell cocooning rotten flesh. I await the gentle touch from a caring person which will then shatter me into a million pieces firing chunks of viscera over nearby walls thereby ending my misery. I love performance poetry but I am a slave to the clock.
So many went over that after the fourth I genuinely started thinking my iPad was running fast. This is something I’d fully expect Apple to do. “No,” someone would say while wearing jeans and a sports jacket, “running fast isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It’s a way to get more done. It’s Apple Time.” I laid my Android phone next to the iPad and started the stopwatch on both devices together. These technological behemoths flashed in sync. Counting down the seconds until, yet again, I would have to blow that infernal whistle.
It’s not even a quack sound. It’s more a honk of nasal fizziness and disappointment.
I’m not even a fan of ducks. Ducks are sneaky bleeders. All “look at me being calm” while under the surface they are panicking and swimming like crazy. Like your neighbour who looks happy with his new Jaguar on the drive but you know they can’t afford it on their wage. Ducks are your debt ridden neighbour putting up a pretence of financial stability. We can’t compete with ducks.
And I suppose the lesson here is… nor should we.
3 minutes. Let’s keep it at that and let’s keep the ducks silent.
27th May 2019