Poetry all set to fly
You might have caught the odd piece of poetry among the ever-increasing in-flight entertainment offerings from various airlines. But nothing will prepare you for the force of nature that is Perth-based spoken-word artist Belowsky.
Since starting in March, Virgin airlines patrons have been able to hear Belowsky’s own Beat-inspired poetry as he became Virgin Australia’s official Pop Poet in Flight. “I’m really a first for them, ” he says. “We’re in a new world now and the sky’s the limit for poetry.”
Each month Belowsky, whose show Unbalanced Load featured at this year’s Fringeworld, will provide Virgin Australia with five new spoken-word pieces; these will be available for about three months, so there’ll be a total of 15 poems available to flyers at any one time.
“I and my producer Nicko are always in the studio, ” he says. “It’s not intellectual (poetry); it’s street, it’s real, it’s now.”
Rich in pop-culture references — there are poems about James Dean’s ghost, breakfast cereals, boxing, Coco Chanel and modern gurus — Belowsky’s poems are enhanced by music and sound effects, resulting in an accessible, vibrant experience that’s hard to describe but always entertaining while exuding an impression of spontaneity.
“I might start hundreds of poems but they never make the cut because they don’t entertain, ” Belowsky admits. “For a long time I was only producing about four of five poems a year. It’s in the rewrites that they become three-dimensional.”
Belowsky’s own life story feels like the stuff of legend. “I was born in Manchester, ” he tells me. “Our family moved to Australia but I just couldn’t settle and went back to England. Which didn’t work out either. I hated it and found Manchester oppressive — it felt like a worn-out museum. I had to get away and America was the place. So — this was about 30 years ago — I made my way there with, like, £2 in my pocket.”
He split his time between New York and LA, performing spoken word at the Insomnia Cafe in Los Angeles and the Sidewalk Cafe in (New York’s) East Village.
“I had the pleasure of giving my stolen copy of Howl to Allen Ginsberg when he came to see me perform in the East Village, ” he says. “Ginsberg was like ‘I’ll take it back on one condition: you sign it for me’. So I put on the inside ‘Howl for Allen Ginsberg, Belowsky’.
Belowsky went on to work with the likes of Oasis and perform for celebrities such as Lisa Marie Presley. “I had my own show at The Standard hotel on Sunset Boulevard, ” he says. “I did poetry slam after poetry slam. Always on the road, writing and performing spoken-word poetry and collaborating with artists and musicians.”
After 30 years he returned to Australia, where he met his now-wife, actress Christie Sistrunk.
“Christie and I met at our agent’s in Perth a few years ago, ” he says. “I didn’t give it a second thought until she popped up on Facebook six months or so later and said she was doing a stand-up comedy course and was trying to work out a set. I told her I’d done quite a lot of stand-up and said I’d get a pizza and come over. We’ve been together ever since.”
Belowsky's Unbalanced Load is available as an enhanced ebook at itunes.apple.com.
© The West Australian