July 30, 2009—Just about everyone who attended Literary Death Match NYC, Ep. 16 stood together afterward in the little restaurant-room at the front of the Bowery Poetry Club and agreed: Episode 16 was a readymade classic. In the end, a special sort of frenzy pervaded the parting crowd as maniac-poet Abraham Smith made his way out, having crushed (squeezed?) his opponent Donald Breckenridge in a lunatic lemonade-making finale. Episode 16 was not an LDM to have missed, and if the lingering crowd was any indication, it won't soon be forgotten.
In the first round, Gigantic's Yuka Igarashi competed against Donald Breckenridge of the Brooklyn Rail. Igarashi read two pert, character-driven stories, which drew rounds of nervous laughter from the audience. Her offbeat, amusing short-shorts hung on her petite frame perfectly as she modeled the stark aesthetic of Gigantic's first issue. And, as performance judge (and celebrity columnist) Michael Musto pointed out, her outfit was also well coordinated, and he was a particular fan of her shoes. Next, Breckenridge, literary-looking and natty in his own right, read the first chapter or so of his new novel, YOU ARE HERE. His rich and inviting performance contrasted beautifully with the jarring, layered element of his prose, which the judges—Musto along with Brant Rumble of Scribner and comedian Bob Powers (The Terrible Horrible Temp-To-Perm Debacle)—appreciated: Donald emerged as the champion of Round 1.
Round two pitted Abraham Smith of Spinning Jenny against Luke Dempsey, who represented Bloomsbury, USA. First was Smith—wearing a day-glo baseball cap and some kind of crazy Carhartts, speaking in weird, whinnying tongues, and bouncing rhythmically on the balls of his feet—who recited an indeterminate number of looping and lyrical poems. His performance left the audience titillated and caused Dempsey to acknowledge Smith's "genius" onstage, in an unprecedented display of LDM sportsmanship, before carrying on with his own reading. Which turned out to be equally as electrifying: soothed by the up-and-down timbres of Dempsey’s British baritone, his eight-minute narrative managed to incorporate a multi-tiered Oedipal melodrama, a partial-viewing of the best pornography in Birmingham, Britian in 1991 (on VHS!), a gross equine whiff, and many direct analogies between erections and sporting equipment. Ultimately, the judges chose Smith to proceed to the finals, partly for fear, they admitted, of being killed by the eccentric scribe if they did otherwise.
The finale brought Breckenridge and Smith into direct—and sticky—competition as they each tried to craft a fresh-squeezed lemonade from raw ingredients onstage, which experts from the audience taste-tested. After the authors stirred and sipped for two minutes, a three-person volunteer panel voted narrowly for Abraham Smith's beverage 2-1, propelling him to victory in what, moments later, was being called the best NYC LDM in recent memory.