Bill Arnott’s Poetry Beat – Airwaves & Verse

RC Weslowski is a clown. No, seriously. I’d never met a real clown before. Sure, class clowns, but they rarely got to hit their creative stride, shows invariably cut short by a trip to the principal’s office, the stage-left yank of a shepherd’s hook wielded by some humour-quashing teacher – you know the type – hit ’em with a cream pie or squirting flower, they simply don’t appreciate the subtleties of performance art.

I admit, when I walked into the radio station for a guest spot on Weslowski’s Wax Poetic I was expecting (hoping?) he’d be adorned in a foam ball nose and enormous red shoes. I was ready with an opening salvo. (Hey, it takes a big guy to fill those shoes!) I would’ve settled for angry Joe Pesci. (What, you think I’m a clown?!) I even had a Snickers to calm him down. In other words, I’d done my homework. But no. If the radio host/slam poet extraordinaire was wearing make-up, it was subtle. No white pancake. No droopy mouth. There may’ve been a little something to help his cheekbones pop above the beard, but it was discrete and expertly applied.

When asked to do something like this I assume the actual guest cancelled, as well as the backup guest. But once more, no. This had been scheduled for a while. I knew the program. I’ve enjoyed it online, its podcasts, and when I’m near an actual radio. RC, along with frequent co-host Kevin Spenst, have created a very special show on Co-op radio 100.5 FM, showcasing a range of poets – laureates and up-and-comers alike. It continues to build and grow an established community of writers and performance poets, sharing the written word on the airwaves – adding an auditory element one only gets usually at a reading.

As a writer I enjoy sharing my work in my voice, literally, the most rudimentary of multimedia deliveries. I can add the cadence I intended. Put the emPHAsis on the right sylLAble as Mike Myers would say. But the reader in me likes absorbing other writers’ work in my own way, a tempo that enables me to savour, ingest at a comfortable pace – take the time to figure out what the hell’s being said, or alluded to.

I appreciate writers wanting, needing, to read – ensuring someone doesn’t bugger up their craft. That’s where the performance part of the medium comes into play. Which is what Weslowski brings in spades. A trained voiceover expert, facilitator and astute comedic actor, it’s no wonder this guy is a multiple world slam poetry finalist and winner of the Golden Beret. I knew about Green Berets, from Chuck Norris and Delta Force, and asked RC if he knew how to kill a guy with his thumb. Turns out he does. Not because of his Golden Beret but rather from his work as a corporate workshop facilitator. I believe. My mind may’ve wandered as I gawked at the technical studio gear. Plus I have a very short attention span.

The interview went well. RC ensured it did. Same as co-host Lucia Misch. They’re good at what they do, along with everyone else that’s helped produce this solid piece of poetic radio. I felt privileged to experience it firsthand – share some space with experts present and past – humbled, in fact. Every poet, performer or not, should be thankful for programs like Wax Poetic – talented artists going above and beyond to create shared artistic space in a convenient, accessible format. We owe this program, this crew, and this clown, our gratitude.

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Dromomania and Gone Viking. Sales generate donations to numerous charities. His poetry, articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Bill’s column Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers.

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