September 6th, 2011 | by EMILEE BOOHER Arts & Books | Posted In: Books, Theater

Them's Fightin' Words

Portland writers talk smack before Literary Death Match.

LET'S GET IT ON, C'MON!Sluggers Scott Poole and Fiona McCann, with judge Kevin Sampsell
Literary Death Match is an author reading that packs a punch. The goal is simple: to join writing and comedy in literary matrimony over the course of one raucous evening. Co-created by Todd Zuniga, founding editor of Opium Magazine, the reading series has spread to 37 cities around the world and will be making its second visit to Portland by pitting four established local writers in a battle of words and wit. With their fate in the hands of three local literary luminaries, the authors will come armed with original material in hopes of advancing to the Death Match finale, which promises "an absurd and comical climax."

“Every single time we catch at least one bolt of lighting in a bottle,” Zuniga says. “It’s been magic from the start.”

Slugging it out in this week's bout is Live Wire! radio show house poet Scott Poole, journalist Fiona McCann, novelist G. Xavier Robillard (Captain Freedom: A Superhero's Quest for Truth, Justice and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves) and novelist/memoirist Cheryl Strayed (Wild). Making sure it's anything but a good clean fight will be judges Kevin Sampsell, Rozz Rezabek and Courtenay Hameister.  

In anticipation of the big event, WW asked the Death Matchers a few important questions about the verbal brawl.

Cheryl "Vavoom" Strayed.

WW: What is your ring name?

G. Xavier Robillard: Ro-beast.
Scott Poole: Poetor The Destroyer 7th Prince King of the Free Versians.
Fiona McCann: Me Hoop McCann.
Cheryl Strayed: Vavoom, after the character in the old Felix the Cat cartoons who shattered everything by simply bellowing his own name.

How are you preparing yourself for battle?

Robillard: Whenever I'm stressed for any reason, my body's immune system goes on the offensive and attacks itself. The morning after I was invited to participate in this LDM my mouth was rotten with canker soars. Like a minefield. Now I'm nursing a sore shoulder, lockjaw, and hope to slip into a brief but restorative coma before the bout.
Also, I'm polishing my skull scar.
What nobody can prepare for is the surprise final round of the LDM, if you're lucky enough to make it that far. It usually involves some whimsical physical challenge, like unpitting an olive with your cleavage, and I'm uncoordinated and have no sense of rhythm. Hence the skull scar.
Poole: First, I put on my lit-fighting underwear, the ones with the picture of Emily Dickenson on the crotch. Then I drink a shot of whiskey and 73 cups of coffee. Then without haste, I drive to the Literary Death Match arena at 130mph on a rocket powered tricycle named Brenda.
McCann: One does not prepare. One takes even oneself by surprise.
Strayed: Fifty jumping jacks every morning. A bottle of good pinot every night.

What is your pre-fight diet?

Robillard: These days I've been imbibing the "Steampunk Speedball," which as everyone knows is that heady mixture of absinthe and the vapours* collected from the offgassing plastic lawn furniture sold in the upper level of the Hawthorne Fred Meyer.
*the drink isn't prepared correctly if the recipe spells it vapor.
Poole: Other LDM competitors. And if that can't be arranged, snacks stolen from their purses.
McCann: Lolcats. I can has magically delicious!
Strayed: Kale. Quinoa. Water tinted with the menstrual blood of a virgin.

What is your fighting strategy?

Robillard: When I face my enemies in the pit I will embody the spirit of the modern Republican Party: accidentally burn the place down and call it victory.
Poole: 1.Lie. 2.Cheat. 3.Gamble 4. Cry. 5. Wet Pants. 6. Take undue credit.
McCann: Never go to bed angry.
Strayed: In the words of Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never give up."

KUMITE! KUMITE! G. Xavier "Ro-beast" Robillard vs. Scott "Poetor the Destroyer" Poole.

Which competitor do you consider your greatest threat?

Robillard: The literary scene in Portland is quite tight, and everyone's either worked with/performed with and/or accidentally boinked everyone else. I've had the pleasure of doing at least two out of the three with both Scott and Cheryl. Though I would never underestimate them, Ms. McCann is the masked Gladiatrix. An Irish journalist? Seriously? There's that sexy accent and she'll spin some delightful story about the small village of Clondrohid O'er Colcannon where the townspeople gathered together to levitate a church so they could free a group of trapped clover miners.
It's better than 'French Poet,' but since the LDM organizers were drawing nationalities and professions out of the Scrabble bag I was hoping for someone more along the lines of 'Ukrainian Gynecologist.'
Poole: Greg Robillard. He is the 'x' factor because he regularly wears a cape. Also he's been known to wear Superman Underoos over his jeans. Even at Whole Foods. This worries me.
McCann: G. Xavier Robillard. He's been trying to intimidate me in 140 characters or less.
Strayed: Threat?

Any last fighting words?

Robillard: I'd like to quote convicted gambler/baseball enthusiast Pete Rose, who said, “I'm just like everybody else. I have two arms, two legs and four-thousand hits.”
Poole: As the philospher Chewbacca once said, “Hmmmmwwhhhheeewwhhhhmmmmmmwwwhhhheee.”
McCann: Ask me hoop.
Strayed: Though I'm the only competitor who hasn't slept with all three of the judges (at the same time), I'm confident I'll take the day.

SEE IT: Literary Death Match will be held at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449, disjecta.org. 8 pm, Thursday Sept. 8. $6 advance, $10 day of event.  

 
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