September 8, 2011 — In a northwest literary love-in, it was Live Wire's Scott Poole's elastic mouth that led him to a narrow and momentous victory over fellow co-finalist Fiona McCann in a battle to consume giant marshmallows while pronouncing giant words. It will go down in PDX literary history as the sweetest duel of all time.
But long before the first marshmallow touched McCann's lips, the evening heated up with poet Scott Poole, reading three fanciful poems that ranged in topic from 1970s corndogs to having his corpse shot out of a cannon. Then, clad in an unforgettable blue dress, memoirist Cheryl Strayed struck a serious note with a powerful and lyrical excerpt from her latest book Wild.
The mic was turned over the all-star cast of judges, which included small press overlord and publisher of Future Tense Books, Kevin Sampsell, punk rock icon Rozz Rezabek, and Live Wire! Radio's goddess of hilarity Courtenay Hameister.
Hameister gave Poole props for making her think of bees stinging vaginas, and also for pushing a child into the mud. Rezabek wanted to see Poole “move or dance around” while reading his poems. Then, after praising Cheryl Strayed’s elegant, “meaty” prose, both Sampsell and Hameister commented, “You made me hate God,” but disagreed as to whether that was a good or bad thing. Performance judge Rezabek wanted to actually see Strayed fall to her knees and sob while raging at God (Rezabek proving his innate punk-itude). After a hushed debate, Poole cannon-balled into the finals.
After a booze- and flirt-fueled intermission, G. Xavier Robillard bathed our ears in his memories of discovering hair metal—a reading that culminated in the actual singing of “Sister Christian.” Then Fiona McCann charmed us with a smartly funny account of an unhappy camping trip in Ireland with a flatulent canine.
Again the judges took the mic. Hameister deducted -40 points from Robillard’s score for disparaging “Sister Christian,” then gave him +300 for actually singing it, while Rezabek was disappointed that the piece failed to reference Winger or Skid Row. McCann received big props for her original prose style, though Hameister did deduct points “for thinking Europeans can compete in any way with Portland in passive aggressiveness.” By a narrow margin, McCann sallied forth into the final round.
LDM Executive Producer Alia Volz introduced the finalists to their impossible challenge: speed-read 500 words of 18th Century philosophical text while giant marshmallows are crammed into your mouth. McCann quickly broke from the text into somewhat strangulated version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” marshmallow clouds billowing from her petite maw. Poole got farther into the text, but ultimately swapped the mushmouth philosophy for tuneless humming and dancing around, as Rezabek had earlier suggested would improve his performance. Unbelievably, both contestants spit out the mush after exactly 1 min, 16 secs, which proved something scientifically (though we aren’t sure what). But as Poole had gotten significantly farther into his text before going sugar mad, it was he who took the Literary Death Match crown, along with all the glory he can eat!