Oct 11 2011

Who does it better, poetry or prose?


The last session on the last day of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was a boisterous debate between poets and prose writers about who was better at writing about that age old affliction, love.

No one ever reads poetry, right?

Arguing for the poets was Geoff Lemon, Australian poet and general ne’er-do-well, Russian writer and poet Oleg Borushko, and Alicia Sometimes, Australian writer, poet, broadcaster and musician.

Defending fiction was American author Melanie Westerberg, Pakistani short story writer Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kunal Basu, Indian novelist and loudmouth.

Australian stand-up comedian, actor, writer and pottymouth Corinne Grant was the host of the debate and presented some hilarious and confusing cut-ups between arguments.

Lemon started off the debate by stating, “We live in a world of simpletons, and love knows that.” He went on to declare that the brevity of poetry made it a better agent of love.

He had the room in stiches when he stated, in full poetry slam form, “My mother liked her children the way she liked flour — white and self-raising.”

Kunal Basu replied “The baking soda forgot to stop, just kept rising and rising and rising.” Whether this was in reference to the fact that Lemon is absurdly tall or an accusation about the size of his ego was unclear.

Alicia Sometimes read a poem defending poetry and ended with a quote from Beavis and Butthead: “Uh huh huh huh what’s prose?

On the side of fiction, Daniyal said “My first point is that no one ever reads poetry. No one values poetry or poets…would you want your daughter to marry a poet?”

Melanie Westerberg, in defiance of the poets’ claims that prose writers are inherently long-winded, railed the poets for their obsession with white space and the “breath of the page”, saying that love needed more space, and words, and then promptly sat back down.

Clearly fired up, Kunal Basu said “Brevity leads to premature ejaculation…there’s nothing like a good novel that goes on and on and on and on.”

And in his closing argument, Kunal announced to much applause “Poetry is everywhere, but so is malaria.”

After (just barely) taming the room, Corrine Grant measured the applause and had to declare a tie. The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival audience gave full points to both teams for their ability to address love and bring a hilarious close to the festival.

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