Going Down Swinging survived the worst excesses of the 1980s and 1990s to arrive in 2001 alive and kicking. As befitting its reputation as a Melbourne underground institution, the Old Colonial Hotel on Brunswick Street was packed with writer types and assorted hangers-on.
It could be something about breathing the same passive smoke, or knowing that you're among fellow bedroom (study, office) dwellers. Whatever the cause, welcome reminders that you're part of a community of writers happen at launches like these. You can be late because everyone else will be. And you can read at the table.
I don't write poetry or short stories. I missed the jellybeans because I came in the wrong door. (And I didn't go back and pay the entry fee either, but I'll waive payment for this article to make up for it). But there was something comforting and familiar about the launch of the 19th issue of Going Down Swinging — faces half memorized from other launches, or faces that seemed familiar if only you could see properly through the smoke.
On stage, Ed Burger and Emilie Zoey Baker had just donned shorts and boxing gloves for a verse-off. That was where Ed said a few lines of poetry and Emilie Zoey took them on the chin, then she said a few lines of poetry and Ed took them on the chin. This went back and forth until Emilie Zoey beat Ed, because most of her bits had the word wet in them, and she was boxing about all the different ways of being wet and it was very sexy. So she deserved to win.
But Ed did put up a good fight. I suspect anyway that he might have agreed to lose beforehand, making it more like the World Wrestling Federation than boxing, but that's okay.
As I was late, I missed Crazy Elf's break dancing, and Andy Jackson and Paul Mitchell's readings. I've been told since that they were very good and I wish I'd seen them. I can say, however, that it was Barry Dickens who launched Going Down Swinging.
I also read Going Down Swinging for a while.
Then after a while I went home.