Friday's Poetry Slam played to a packed house as usual, but this year instead of Elizabeth Routledge or one of her alter egos running the show, we had national Slam champion Zohab Zee Khan.
No stranger to the Bellingen stage, having compèred the event four years ago, Zohab kept things zipping along at a cracking pace while also encouraging the crowd to give free rein to their finger clicks, foot stomps and 'phwoars' of appreciation.
He also delighted the audience by reciting some of his own poetry in his inimitably deep, mellifluous voice while the final scores were being computed.
Seventeen competitors entered the fray for the first round, vying for the lucrative cheques donated by Officeworks: $500 for first prize and $250 each for the runner-up and the people's choice award.
The winning poets were all locals.
Jason John, who came first, and Craig Nelson, who came second, had contested the Slam before, but the people's choice went to a young woman who had never even seen the event live.
"I've never done a Slam before," Isi Ferguson said. "I've done poetry recitals but they're a bit different. You haven't written it yourself."
She said she doesn't normally get nervous, but on Friday night she felt "pretty freaked out".
"I didn't realise how big it was going to be. I looked at all the chairs they'd put out and thought, whoa, that's a lot of people."
Asked if she'd been in the audience for the Bello Slam in other years, Isi said she'd never attended a Slam before, but she'd loved the idea of doing one.
"I'd seen them on YouTube," she said.
"And they're incredible, super inspiring, and I thought, I'd love to give that a go."
The first poems recited by Jason and Isi are copied below.
Both are grounded in their strong Christian beliefs: Jason of course is Rev Dr Jason John, local eco-faith minister, and Isi attended the Coffs Harbour Christian Community School at Bonville, finishing in 2015.
Jason John's first poem
The C word
A while back I caused a little consternation,
leading to a touch of confrontation
When people heard
Me use the C word
I said it not just once, this was no accidental slip
I said it a whole bunch of times, I really let it rip.
I thought I'd get away with it,
I'm middle class and white
And anyone will tell you that I'm usually polite
That C word
It causes such offense
And so it should, after all, I guess.
Christ was very offensive
He left the temple in a mess
Kicking over tables and
whipping those who oppress
and I mean what else can you do
When you have to
Preach from the bible each week
And Christ - and his mother - just keep
Banging on about injustice, and hypocrisy and greed
And at Christmas time we read about their life as refugees!
It's not my fault the little child
Didn't grow up meek and mild
It's not my fault that Christ said we must forgive to be forgiven
(If we're self-righteous arseholes who assume we're off to heaven)
And that paradoxically, God sends rain on the wicked and ungrateful
So to be kids of the one in heaven we must all be merciful
Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Christ wanted us to do things, or at least to try
And our leaders to lead us
In justice and in compassion
For this world of refugees
Then there'd be no rotting in detention
And we'd stick to 1.5 degrees-
If we only had a Christian prime minister!
I know, I know, we've already had a few.
We got lots of "thoughts and prayers"
And that's going to continue, if I had to take a punt
With our "pray for rain" prime minister
With his "coal won't hurt you" stunt.
Well neither will a cigarette-
Til you burn it
You smarmy... member
But we must remember,
That for every disappointing Prime Member
There's a Miriam, a Byron, a Jacqui, a Jess
And one i Lisa and two iis Liisa, and most of you i guess.
There's Toni and Rachel and there's Pia and Pete
And people all up and down your street
You've never heard of them
And they've never heard of you
There's Christians, Muslims, Atheists Jews
Straights, lgbs and tiqs
All us scraggly little mustard bushes
Getting up off our tushes!
So whether your c word is Christ or compassion
or Climate or community
say your c word loud and clear
live your c word and let's put the fear
of true democracy
right up the jacksie of the fossil fuel plutocracy
Isi Ferguson's first poem
Not without flaw are the locks on this door
Yet still I don't see the cause for all this mess
We might need a mild solution
A patent dilution at best
To patch up these holes
And hide the inconsistencies we all posses
Can we roll paint over our sins?
Can we quick-fix our anguish with DIY kits
Look the same as everybody else's heartwood kitchen
Can we staple the wounds
From which leak all our shame
Oozing up from the cracks in the Lino
Like the dead thing in the cellar
I can smell that rotting fillet under the grill
That toxic drink we spilt
From that mouthful of bitter grime, silt and grit
That we know we should have forced back down to the basement
All this guilt
These spirits of flesh
Weren't built to withstand so much decay
Yet it seems humanity is going there anyway
Test us with storms and we'll struggle till we bleed
All the while what we really need is rest
Just a break from these fake walls each of us erects
Our attempt to take control over the flames
But the nails of clamour we hammer, like splitting frames
Only make the whole house shatter and break
Leaving a little, unsheltered soul
Exposed, fragile, not much
Touch me, and I'll cry
Tell me a lie, and I'll swallow it
Like poison disguised as a pill
From the fragmented medicinal cabinet that just might kill me
However, tell me the truth
And you might as well drill away at all I've got left
Because until this moth-eaten, weatherbeaten dwelling
Finally crumbles into ruin
It's all downhill
And this ramshackle human heart can't stand it
Our minds see the message
But over time we tend to coat it in varnish
Reflecting a trend that's only skin deep
It's the one thing we were always taught
We ought to know, how to build a house
We thought freedom was a box, far away from everyone else
Without realising the ball has always been in our court
And this freedom we fought for so long
Is crushed into dry dust in our hand
Dust that we bought with our very own blood
What's it all worth in the end
The real estate of your soul
We'll never stop
We start from scratch, hoping to patch the old house
When in fact it's actual solid foundations we lack
So this time, build your house on the Rock
And all the horrors and terrors and humanity that
Flock to your home, don't hide them
Lay it all out under the sky, let the fresh air wash over
And dry out all this old stuff
Like mould dies under the sun
Clean out your cupboards, spring's barely begun
Then you won't be afraid to display your heart
Like the unique piece of art that it is
Here's a chance for the start to begin again
And make sure those doors stay wide, wide open