Friday, 4 March 2011

Bang! Smack! Wham-bam!

"I'm a poet. I know bugger-all about boxing," said my fellow judge, got up, put down his scoring pad and walked out.

"But we all know bugger-all about boxing!" I called after him. "I thought that was the point!"

At least I hoped that was the point. Admittedly, we were all a bit surprised by the fact that there would be real, actual boxing. As in: mouth guards, padded head protection, a makeshift ring in a dark Parisian basement, vicious blows to the face, a punch in the stomach that landed with a loud "smack". I thought that only happened in films where they'd gone a bit overboard on the sound effects.

"Let's take into account the poetry as well. Just to encourage them not to blindly smash each other up. We should judge the overall package of the performance," I said in our pre-match judges' conference. We were crouching on a low wooden bench, our noses inside the ring, the beer-sipping crowd pressing up against us.

"I like that," said Terry, a cheerful book-seller who revealed an unexpected fondness for martial arts. "I like the idea of the overall package. But I'm also hoping to see some good action." He punched his palm.

"Perhaps we should move away from the ring a little."

In the end, the idea of the "overall package" went out the window because we were too busy counting blows. This was a bit of a shame, as the theatrics before the fight deserved a special mention. Jess "Sleazy Martini" read out "The Glove Song of J Alfred Prufrock" ("Find blood in this tedious argument of pure and violent intent... There's a time to create, and a time to murder."). Georgina, dressed in a natty brown suit, listed all the problems she'd faced for saying yes too easily: "'re tied to a bed and not only is the other person holding a whip, but he's forgotten the safety word." Peter and Chris slipped in references to a mysterious episode in which a cow was (accidentally) killed. Beth "Silver Spandex" had dug out an early poem that began: "I want to hurt". Kirsten, wearing an enormous Sid Vicious style wig, speed-read a piece about a brawl in a supermarket. Her coach dabbed her gloves with Marmite for good luck.

As for the bang, smack, wham-bam: I'd expected it to be a bit like a ballet brawl. You know, two men in tights dancing around each other, until one pretends to be mortally wounded, does a pirouette and falls over. It wasn't like that though. The gong went, Georgina punched Jess's head, Jess countered with a left hook, Georgine landed a smacking punch on Jess's stomach, and I sat there and winced throughout; although, in a perverted and horrible way, I was kind of enjoying it.

Afterwards, I asked them if they were ok. Yes, they said, totally fine. "I was just amazed by the violence," I said to Jess. "And you're from Kent! I always thought of Kent girls as being nice and sweet and going around picking strawberries - but then you had such a vicious fight."

"Oh," she replied laconically, wiping some smudged mascara off her cheek. "That's easy to explain. I went to an all-girls school."


  1. It feels even more brutal - or, to use your characterisation, perverted and horrible - when you're in daylight and sober: Though I too enjoyed the evening.

    In retrospect: best night I've had in an age...

  2. Ha! Yes, it was an excellent night, but I don't think I could watch it again in broad daylight... What happens in the basement, stays in the basement, as they say in horror movies and literary boxing circles.

  3. I assumed that the boxer-poets and boxer-writers were men! How sexist of me! Don't know if the visuals of girls and girls vs boys makes it better or worse. Thanks for sharing your fight club adventures, Sophie. :)

  4. There were more girls than boys! We've come a long way since Hemingway...

  5. I'm SO glad I didn't go. I am horrified that people find violence entertaining. Do other animals?

  6. I heard that ducks are shockingly violent. Honestly. And yet they look so cute with their little beaks.