Face it: Poetry readings are boring. Unless the person onstage is a friend or family member, it's a struggle to listen to that tedious, self-indulgent drama - stuff that could easily be sorted out in a shrink's office - without constantly checking your wristwatch.
But despite the sogginess of most sit-and-clap sessions, I somehow found myself squeezing into the dark, dishevelled Press Club (no foreign correspondents, just scruffy hipsters and local drunks) last Wednesday night in Little Portugal.
How else can you get out of the house in February? At roughly 8 o'clock, my agenda dictated it was, in fact, not the last resort - but the only resort - in order to escape, ever so briefly, my roommate blasting Buju Banton.
Turns out, the End of the Internet reading series isn't a snorefest.
Local poet and DJ Louis Calabro has been hosting this quarterly event since last March, and instead of inviting the same old down-and-out poets, he throws comedians and performance artists into the mix.
Just as the Internet series is lax and lighthearted, so is Calabro's style of emceeing. Best known for his Hijacking Reading Series at the Victory Café, at which he bursts uninvited onto the stage in melodramatic-Shakespeare-mode, he introduces poetry acts (which have included award-winning poets Christian Bök and Paul Dutton) with the same shtick. When he steps onstage, he morphs into a cocky, tactless character who obnoxiously munches on pretzels while slurring into the microphone (all while wearing a baby-blue blazer, calling to mind a 1970s wedding singer).
Last week's reading was dramatic. Attendees were buzzing that it was "hilarious" and "the most exciting poetry reading" they had ever been to because the performance wasn't recited from a page or book. Rather, it unfolded onstage like a Jerry Springer episode - there was vomit, heckling, flying furniture and physical violence.
First up was Jeremy Hobbs, a wisecracking performance artist whose plan was to do a satire of a nervous amateur poet stuck in a "worst-case scenario" (think Grade 11 drama class). Equipped with an asthma puffer and swigging Pepto-Bismol between reciting purple prose ("Toasted crust, entrust/The stomach thrusts/And thrust it must"), his set was themed around emetophobia (the fear of puking) and resulted in - you guessed it - him sticking two fingers down his throat.
"What a douche, who is this guy?" asked one tall hipster in the back row. "Is he actually going to puke?"
"Blegh!" Just then, the dapper, fair-skinned Hobbs spewed yellow bile into a bucket.
"That's not art!" jeered poet Margaret Christakos, who was sitting with fellow poet Rachel Zolf, the headliner, promoting her latest chapbook Shoot and Weep. "I'm sorry," Christakos turned to the audience like a schoolteacher. "You are all being very polite, but it's been done!"
Hobbs wiped his mouth like a trucker and pointed to his bubbling barf. "This," he said, "is art."
Half the club screamed in applause, the rest groaned and left. The Zolf entourage set up a paper sign bearing "The Angry Table" in bubble letters. "Support Political Correctness Ltd."
After a pop-culture-inspired poetry reading by Eye Weekly writer Liisa Ladouceur and a break to watch the lunar eclipse, Calabro returned to the stage - in character - to introduce Zolf.
In his usual facetious manner, he mused, "She has been short-listed for a Trillium Book Award," his tone chock-full of mock snobbery. The audience laughed. "And she was the founding poetry editor of - we all know - the Walrus magazine..."
The Angry Table had had enough.
"Fuck this, we're leaving," grumbled Zolf, putting on her coat and kicking chairs out of the way. She bolted out the door with her posse - all but one, a short, feisty, pixie-like woman with a buzz cut, who jumped onstage. She grabbed Calabro by the collar and started shaking him. "This is some seriously insulting shit!" she yelled, then started swatting his cheeks with a rapid flurry of slaps. Calabro, with the mike in one hand (and a bag of pretzels tucked under his armpit), used his other hand to hold her wrists together. "You're a girl, I'm not going to hit you back," he said. "Want some pretzels?"
She broke free of his grasp and pushed him. They both stumbled into a nearby table and lampshade. The bag of pretzels slipped out from between them, sending salted twigs flying into the audience.
"There's no fighting in here," said an audience member, who stepped in to act as security and escorted the woman out the front door.
Calabro took the mike. "Now that's art!"