Steve Smart and the Bitter Disappointments
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Steve Smart and the Bitter Disappointments


Band Spoken Word Alternative


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The best kept secret in music


"Unprinted article from Scum On The Run"

Down-To-Earth Eccentric
An interview with Melbourne’s own Steve Smart

“I think generally people are really nice to me, and I’m not entirely sure why. I seem to be forgiven for certain eccentricities…”

If you look in the right place at the right time, you’ll find a certain breed of creature. Lurking around smoky pubs under halogen lit bars, in the shadows of draped archways, in the back alleys behind. These creatures are both harmless and dangerously emotive. They are Melbourne performance poets, and every show is live on a makeshift stage. Complete with all the blood, sweat and beers, whether you like it or not.

Although you can find an open mic night or organised gig in most parts of this city, the creative hub centres around the CBD, St Kilda and Brunswick street scene for us ranting poets that refuse to get off stage. One such ranter, a self-professed eccentric abomination, is Steve Smart. An iconic part of the Melbourne Poet’s scene.

I’d met Steve several times at open mics and poetry slams where everyone mills around for hours afterward. Poets circle around the night’s bar tab winner and share stories, patting each other on the back like a mutual appreciation club. Once Steve gave me some invaluable advice on performance at an Old Colonial slam, another time I ran into him at a Halloween party and he wrote in my journal, ‘So much for the quiet night and yet here we are at this lovely party feeling all the hell exuberant. I must say I missed the exuberance (or is it ‘ence…hmm?), Love Steve.’

Part of the reason you immediately note Steve as a poet is not just because of his world-weary and humorous lines, but because he both sounds and looks as a poet should. Over coffee at Kent Street Café I asked Steve the secret of his local and interstate success when his performance is much as he is in everyday life; calm and rambling.

‘I think it’s because I look like a poet. People are like; hey that guy looks like a poet! Well we’re here at a poetry gig, we should look at the guy who looks like a poet.’

Steve orders a green tea and keeps his trademark detective hat over his eyes as he rolls a cigarette. He dresses neatly in characteristic black and responds in articulate and thoughtful undertones to each question. His style of performance is much like his dress, with a consistency that catches the eye. I appreciate this about Steve when I’d seen other performance poets on where their poetry came as an afterthought. They jump up and down on stage slushing their beer everywhere, screaming out lines of obscenities, more like animator comedians.

‘I don’t really perform per say. I don’t really know any other way of doing it, I just do it and people seem to like it. The Mouth Off show in Sydney for Noise was a lot more movement based. That was really different for me because I don’t really do it. People in the poetry scene think it’s a big act, but it’s more like you exaggerate certain things.’

Steve, only twenty-seven, has been doing performance poetry around Melbourne since 1998. As a figure recognised for his little eccentric styles and mannerisms, he marvels at how people are generally ‘really nice to me, and I’m not entirely sure why.’ But you will never hear a negative word spoken of Steve or someone interrupt him during a set. I marvelled at his ability to quieten a room so effortlessly whilst the rest of us use practised gesture and tone to grab an audience.

‘I think a lot of it is spending so much time on stages, after a while you’ve either got to get good at it or stop. I’ve done some shitty gigs, but by the same token I’ve also done some gigs that I thought were lousy, and I didn’t feel like I was in the room. You’ve done the pieces so many times that you’re just kind of doing them, and then you come off stage and they’re like, that was great, and you’re like, oh good to hear that, where was I? Sometimes that’s because you’re in the zone, but sometimes you’re reading a poem on stage and you’re thinking about dinner…’

I ask Steve what values he prizes above all else. He pauses from rolling himself another smoke and considers the question seriously. With such concentration he answers, ‘Politeness.’ I’m surprised and push him further and he tells me also, ‘Conviction or belief. That idea of believing in something enough to follow it through, regardless of what people think.’ We don’t discuss this much further as Steve reiterates, ‘But politeness is particularly important to me, it doesn’t cost anything to be polite, tired cliché, but true.’

There is wisdom to what Steve says as he goes on, ‘Just being aware you have an audience. You watch some people and you can see they’re lost in their own thing. It’s a live performance and if you’re going to do it, you need to acknowledge there’s an audience there. It pisses me off watching people and it’s like, who gives a fuck about the audience? Well, if you don’t give a fuck about the audience what are you doing here? You are usin - Caroline Dart

"Reviews for Fucken Poet on JJJ Unearthed site"

rating: 4/5

Hey - nice sexy voice! Not a huge fan of poetry, but this is really deep and beautiful and heart-felt. I really like trippy funk music in the backgroup and the words are really full-on. This is really new and different. Good work!



rating: 5/5

This is an excellent piece of spoken word with some terrific funky backing music. This reviewer would like to hear the sound quality to improve a bit, but it's "lo-fi" sound kind of adds a nice ambience to the deep and poignant lyrics ... its richness, its pain, its grief ... this a beautiful ode to a loved one. Deep and amazing. 5 stars.

TheSugarfreeMasons -

"Words to Heal The Hurt"

Enigmatic young poet Steve Smart is the director of the Overload Poetry Festival. It is a time of pressure and great loss, writes Jen Jewel Brown.

If you've stuck your head inside any of the scores of regular Melbourne poetry gigs, you've probably spotted Steve Smart. He's the tall young bloke in the slanted trilby and sweeping coat, a poet if you've ever seen one, hovering nervously in the background as his well-wishers take turns with the hugs and kisses.

His name has been popping up more and more regularly around Victoria over the past few years as his renown as a performer spreads. Off stage Smart is retiring and polite, with a history of tongue-tied schoolboy confusion behind him. On stage, however, his passionate, often acerbically funny tirades against conservatism, frozen chickens, Paul McCartney and indeed himself, leave his audiences in stitches. This dichotomy at first caused some confusion.

"I'd go to a reading and I wouldn't speak to anyone. Then I'd get up on stage and just spew out this torrent of God knows what, and people would just go, 'where did that come from?'

"People thought the whole quiet, shy poet thing was this crazy act that I'd come up with. I think people thought I was actually like how I was on stage . . . What was weird to me was that anyone would think I was actually doing this by choice. No, I'm just like this. It's very sad, but it's true."

Three years ago Smart had the brainwave of creating Overload, a poetry festival that has turned into a 72-event happening of poetic gigs, workshops and celebrations. Just before organisation of the 2004 festival was about to go into hyperdrive, Smart's partner, the highly respected Melbourne poet Sandon Mcleod, died from a virulent cancer that took her within two weeks of diagnosis. Theirs was a love affair both of the heart and of Overload.

"We started the festival and Deadline (poetry street press) together," says Smart.

"As far as the festival goes, and all the rest of it, Sandy was pretty irreplaceable really. She did all the design work, all the accounting . . . Tons and tons of stuff that I have to get other people to do. She's very organised and determined."

Smart is 26 and Mcleod was 50 when she died, but the 24-year age gap counted for nothing when they met.

"I'd seen her do readings," Smart remembers with a wry smile. "She didn't know, but I followed her around like a lost puppy. She thought oh, he's too young, he wouldn't really be interested, and then I gave her a kiss goodbye, when we were leaving, and she sort of went whooh . . . She was this amazing person. I feel very lucky to have spent as much time around her as I did."

Running this year's festival while coming to grips with Mcleod's death has been an intense challenge for Smart. Fortunately, the great affection the Melbourne writing community felt for the couple inspired many people to volunteer and help make this year's celebration the best so far.

"I can see people are really excited about it because it's the third year, and they've seen how it runs. People are eager to be involved. They're willing to pitch in and help out, and really understand that it's a difficult time."

Arts Victoria, Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip councils, the City of Ballarat, Eaze Multiarts and the Linden Gallery are helping make what is generally a labour of love for Smart and his volunteers a paying concern for the hundreds of poets billed this year.

Canadian-born, Melbourne-based Ian McBryde, whose work is regularly printed and featured overseas, is in a good position to judge Melbourne's thriving poetry scene from an international perspective.

"I think you would be safe to say that Melbourne is the absolute poetry capital of South East Asia, and I do believe that Overload is indeed now the biggest festival in the southern hemisphere as well."

Smart has never been overseas but he puts Overload in the top three with New York and Amsterdam. "I think Melbourne generally as an artistic cultural centre is pretty amazing," Smart says. "There's stuff on all over the place. Any night you can go to an exhibition opening, a poetry reading, a play, dance . . . There could be less stuff on in Melbourne, like we could have time to, I don't know, just sleep, but it's good, it's OK. We survive."

Overload started as a tertiary project for Blackburn South-raised Smart after he left Forest Hills Secondary College.

"I did the Small Companies Community Theatre course at NMIT. The Festival actually came out of that."

Smart ended up having to drop out of the TAFE course. "Overload overtook it." The festival overflowed into galleries, rock venues, libraries and coffee shops - even Myers Place in the city.

Overload 2004 began last Wednesday and runs over a fortnight to August 25. Nearly all the gigs are either free or cost about $5, with workshops (mostly at the Victorian Writers' Centre in the city) ranging from $8 to $20.

The Canadian rock'n'roll po - Published in The Age, written by Jen Jewel Brown


Diatribe (2002 independently released)
Aint That A Kick In The Head (2006 independently released)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Crawling out of the swamp somewhere between 1856 and 2003, Steve Smart is your best friend from high school who was imaginary. Words are very important to him as someone with limited social skills. This has led to an interesting stage style which could be described as cartoon-poet. It's not all jokes though, there are serious bits in there. The poetry comes from life and life can be brutal.

Over the past decade Steve has performed his words from barns to taverns across the globe (including the Sydney Opera House and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe). Over the years he has been lucky enough to share bills with some of Australia's best bands and spoken word artists and developed a reputation as a performer unafraid to take on the chaos gigs. He has released 2 CD's independently as well as various zines and chatbooks. His first book is due in Septemebr 2007. Steve is currently seeking a record label to take him under their wing, so if you like what you hear feel free to get in touch.