Blacktip Island Poetry Slam winner Reg Gurnard’s West Indian whistling ducks prepare to take the stage Thursday afternoon on the small Caribbean island. (photo by Charles J. Sharp)
Five Blacktip Island residents were hospitalized and an estimated 14 chickens and four ducks were injured Thursday after flyers for the Heritage Society’s annual Poetry Slam were incorrectly printed as “Poultry Slam.”
“We called the order in to the print shop, same as ever, and I clearly said ‘poetry,’” Heritage Society president Doris Blenny said. “Clete Horn read the text back to me, but he was slurring his words at the time and I guess we both misunderstood.
“The first sign of trouble was when twenty-plus people showed up at the Heritage House with poems in hand and birds under their arms,” Blenny said.
“The announcement said ‘poultry,’” island poet Alison Diesel said. “It seemed odd, but it is Blacktip Island, after all. I practiced for days – thawed Cornish hens, mostly – and wrote two sonnets set to the same beat. Rhyming with a live hen, though, in front of an audience, it’s harder than you’d think.”
Organizers proceeded with the event as advertised, but the performances were halted by animal rights protestors.
“It was crazy enough, with our local bards spouting verse and waving their chickens,” the Heritage Society’s Blenny said. “Then the PETA people stormed the stage and the feathers really flew.”
“Abusing birds so flagrantly, we had to cry foul,” local People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “Sure, some of our folks got a bit out of hand, but really, thwacking chickens like that, those so-called artistes deserved a sock in the puss.”
Thirteen participants were charged with animal cruelty. Eight protestors were charged with battery. Several poets also were disqualified due to their over-reliance on duck-related rhyme schemes.
“This is a family event, after all,” Blenny said.
A handful of contestants dodged legal trouble by opting for figurative interpretations of the event’s theme.
“I slammed my Rhode Island Red rooster but good,” contestant Led Waite said. “Insulted him every which way, in rhyme royal, no less. I should’ve won some sort of prize.”
Other finalists substituted fried chicken and roast duck for living poultry. The winner used a gentler approach, with live birds.
“I trained each of my West Indian whistling ducks to quack a different note when I smacked them on the head,” Slam champion Reg Gurnard said. “It made for excellent counterpoint, me rapping and them quacking. And none of them the worse for wear.”