Market House Cafe nighttime kitchen manager Ethan Palmer hopes to bring spoken-word arts to Market Square with the inaugural Electric Pheasant Dreamland slam poetry event at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at MHC.
“I appreciate anyone who has a strong grasp of the English language, who can evoke an emotional response, or who can convey profound wisdom,” says Palmer. “That’s why I’m setting up Electric Pheasant Dreamland this way, because there are so many different means of expression. It won’t just be a night of sonnets, or free verse, or whatever”
Palmer explains that Electric Pheasant Dreamland, while nominally a slam-poetry event, will be open to all comers — poets, spoken word performers, performance artists. “I’m hoping to bring a diverse crowd,” he says. “A lot of slams become very niche-oriented — not comfortable for people who are outside a particular set. This will be more ‘anything goes.'”
A Knoxville native, Palmer left town to earn an English degree at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City some eight years ago. Though he is now a seasoned veteran of poetry slams, he says his own preference is for spoken-word material — i.e. composed, well-rehearsed monologues, as opposed to the more free-form, improvisational verbal arts.
“My own stuff is usually written out; I like to choose each word meticulously,” Palmer says. “But I appreciate people who are into the improvisational side of things. And I’m all for the theatrical performance aspect of any kind of spoke-word art.”
The name of Palmer’s slam, Electric Pheasant Dreamland, was inspired by a similar event he witnessed in Baton Rouge, La. “They had an event there they called ‘Electric Truth,'” he chuckles. “Which, on the surface, sounds really profound. But the name was actually just a nonsensical phrase, a couple of words the organizers put together at random.
“I was trying capture some of that almost satirical element, and take it to the next level.”
Having only recently returned to his native Knoxville, Palmer says he’s not sure what to expect from the arts community here. He hopes to make Electric Pheasant Dreamland a monthly event at Market House Cafe, though; he says he has already approached a handful of talented local poets about reading or performing that first evening. “I’m hoping many others will show up as well,” he adds.
“We’ve got a Facebook event page, and I’ve put out fliers,” he says. “I’m still not sure what will happen, having just moved back here after eight years. But I am excited. Because I love the diversity of language, and I love the idea of tapping into its potential in so many different ways.”
Electric Pheasant Dreamland will take place Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Market House Cafe.