Every September, my home city of Raleigh gives its downtown over for a weekend to the arts. All forms. All flavors. All weekend.
They call it SPARKcon and it is, hands-down, my favorite local festival (and we have so many, the Raleigh Police Department had to start charging for officer overtime to keep the crazy-bad under control while the crazy-good has its moment). At SPARKcon, each art form has its dedicated SPARK—danceSPARK, musicSPARK, filmSPARK…you get the idea.
Over the years, I’ve been part of readings, open mics, on-demand writing tents, and other guerrilla poetry tactics under the aegis of poetrySPARK. But until this year, I had never joined in for the Thursday night-owl event that traditionally kicks it all off—an evening they call Spark After Dark.
Stage Kittens and Unchained Poets
Each year, the silk artists, hoop dancers, acrobats, and burlesque performers of circusSPARK join forces with poetrySPARK (or, this year, litSPARK) to put on an after-hours extravaganza at Raleigh’s haven for off-beat talent, King’s Barcade.
For a lady poet, it’s a place to shake your restraints and channel your inner Sharon Olds, or your inner Sharon Stone, or hell, even your inner Cher. You can wear purple lipstick to match your purple hair, or a leather flower eyepatch, or a dress so red it says…
At Spark After Dark, there’s no need to hide any of the verbal bad habits you picked up in the Army. Nor the words overheard as a kid when Dad broke out the Richard Pryor records after your bedtime.
(That is, if you go explicit in your poems. Which I do not. But I do love a saucy metaphor, a risqué allusion, an indelicate overture, and a carefully chosen, borderline crass hand gesture.)
Where’s Eric Clapton When You Need Him?
The night was everything I’d been told to expect: Packed house, receptive crowd, and a virtual fetish parade of talent. Backstage was a magnificent panoply of body stockings, harlequin face paint, and 4-inch heels. All overseen by our emcee Preston, who wore a blinking red feather boa, rollerskates, a mermaid tail, and a glitter beard.
Of four poets, I was the only one without a decent stage name, so the emcee introduced me as The Lady in Red. And y’know, I’ll take it…if only because it’ll give me an excuse to write another red dress poem and take her out for a spin.
Because no way would I miss a rare chance to take a step or two past my usual lines and pretend, for one night, that I’m not such a normal.
That is, if they’ll have me again.