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Amsterdam, Ep. 1

April 28, 2011 — In a silly-string funtastrophe at SMART Project Space, Literary Death Match's Amsterdam debut (presented by Versal) ended with Poetry International's hand-picked reader Tsead Bruinja out-fired the equally worthy Dina Viergutz (representing De Bezige Bij) by a narrow count of 598 grams to 594 to win the LDM crown!

But before the first string was sprayed, the night kicked off with co-host Megan M. Garr (Versal's editor) intro'ing all-the-way-from-America! novelist Lucinda Rosenfeld leading off against Netherlands Poet Laureate nominee Bruinja (author of Angel / Sting; representing Poetry International). Rosenfeld read an excerpt from I'm So Happy for You in which she described one character, Mitch, as having "the sulphurous complexion of a golden raisin." Nice. Then came Bruinja, who, in a LDM first, read poems in Dutch, English and Frisian, one featuring the line "I drank til I was simple enough to be loved." 

The mic was then passed  to the judges: TimeOut Amsterdam's editor Nina Siegal (author of A Little Trouble With the Facts), storyteller-for-the-ages Sahand Sahebdivani, and easylaughs quick-quipper Peter More. Siegal described one of Bruinja's poems as "Bukowski goes to the zoo" while Sahebdivani said the Netherlands is too small to have multiple languages, so clearly Frisian is a language that's made up in the long winters in the north of Holland. While the judges loved Rosenfeld's sexual playfulness, they went with Bruinja as the Round 1 winner. 

After a boozy intermission, Round 2 commenced, with Garr introducing fictionista Viergutz (representing De Bezige Bij), and the mind-blowing Mark Schalekamp (author of De Parvenu). Schalekamp kicked off with a charming story of how his first publication came from sending a poem to a girl (who sent it on, without him knowing, to Hard Gras), then read from his novel — in Dutch — which he described as a "psychothriller" (when talking to men) and "heartbreaking" (when explaining it to women). Then up stepped Viergutz, who read from her novel (coming out in 2013) about an Iranian boy who leaves Iran after the war, and goes to live in Oklahoma City in 1992. He has to work hard, because he's "too dark and too hairy" to prove to women that he is "not a predator."

Again, the judges were at center stage, with Siegal saying it was ironic that the gorgeous Viergutz was writing from the point-of-view of someone "too dark and too hairy." Sahebdivani felt Viergutz's story had the kind of violence and anger of a nature documentary, and said, "You were writing about me. Your character's a boy who moved from Iran to Oklahoma City. I moved from Iran to Hoofdoorp. He goes to university and is accused of a violent crime; I went to university and dropped out after a year before I could commit a violent crime." Peter More chimed in saying about Schalekamp: "Mark, that girl didn't become your girlfriend, but if she had been smarter, she could have become your agent."

Again, a difficult deliberation followed, but after a long back and forth, the judges decided Viergutz would be the night's second finalist. 

Then LDM creator Todd Zuniga took the mic to present a madcap finale never-before-seen that tasked Viergutz and Bruinja with firing silly string into the posterized mouths of two brilliant Dutch scribes: Remco Campert and Gerrit Komrij. In the first round, Viergutz and Bruinja stood six feet away, firing the string in, in what seemed like a virtual tie, but all would be decided in an epic and stirring Round 2, in which each finalist was blindfolded while their audience half directed their string's fire. After the shouted direction, and when both cans were empty, the scales were brought out: an antique scale set atop a digital one, and while it appeared from sight that Viergutz would be the champion with 594 grams, Bruinja's silly string density was heavier, winning him the Literary Death Match title with 598 grams, and literary immortality!

We love Amsterdam, and can't wait to come back. So, follow LDM on Twitter and/or Facebook now! 

Reader Comments (2)

Great Literary Death Match in Amsterdam, but i am out of town, have a killing match, great to read that Tsead Bruinja is being one of the judges! Say Todd how long are you in Amsterdam for? keep up the great work, olga

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterolga

Sadly, only tonight (after introducing myself to this place last night). It's so great here!

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Zuniga

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