Literary Death Match Is a Bloody Good Poetry Reading

​Opium Magazine's Literary Death Match evokes images of bloody pencils, torn up books, and trashed typewriters. But LDM is less like a poetry MMA battle, and more like an interactive reading involving judges and dart guns (maybe).

The LDM has made its way around the globe, from London to San Francisco, New York City, and soon to Amsterdam. Their stop in Miami this Thursday will be the first time South Florida experiences this sort of literary action. The event, which has been called "gloriously ridiculous and spectacularly smart," is part of O, Miami, the month-long poetry festival. We spoke with the LDM's host and executive producer Ann Heatherington about what we can expect this Thursday.

The combatants at the Miami edition of LDM are journalist Dave Landsberger repping Jai-Alai Magazine, the great radio voice Matt Gajewski of Pure Imagination, Hialeah Haiku's Foryoucansee Collective, and Zombies Organize's Mary Sheffield with The Rumpus.

Think those names are impressive? Check out the judges. They include PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award-finalist and author of Vida Patricia Engel, Broken Social Scene's guitarist/songwriter Andrew Whiteman (nice), and New Yorker editor and author of Celebrity Checkhov Ben Greenman (who used to write for Miami New Times).

Cultist: How long have you been doing the LDM?

Ann Heatherington: I've been involved for over a year now. I went to an LDM in New York where my friend, poet Melissa Broder was reading, and was hooked. I introduced myself to Todd, who was hosting, and offered my services in coming up with finales. After a couple of weeks, he told me he was relocating to Paris and needed someone to run the New York show, and so it all began...

How did it all begin?

Literary Death Match started in 2006. Todd Zuniga, Founding Editor of Opium Magazine, came up with idea over sushi with friends. Basically, he wanted to find a way to turn the typically dry, boring literary reading into something truly entertaining, with mass appeal. LDM is a way to showcase emerging and established writers, but infuse it with comedy and hilarity, and keep literature from taking itself too seriously.

What's your favorite thing about LDM?

LDM is gloriously ridiculous and spectacularly smart. As opposed to straight poetry readings, it's exciting to bring a mixed bag of writers -- journalists, novelists, memoirists, poets, etc. -- to the same stage. And rather than just shuttle one writer on stage then another, the judging changes the dynamic.

The judges come from all walks of life (editors, actors, musicians, comedians, chefs, etc.) and the audience relates to them, their humor and commentary. It's a competition in name only, since the whole thing will come down to who wins at laser tag, for instance, but people in the crowd still end up discussing the merits of one writer over another, find themselves entranced by a poet when they thought they didn't like poetry, and rooting for their favorites to win. Instead of sitting apart, the audience is fully engaged, in on the joke, part of the game.

What do you feel like it brings to the audience and offers the performers?

The audience gets a smart, funny evening out, where, if we do things right, they feel a little bit smarter when they walk out the door -- and hopefully go buy a book! The writers connect with the audience in a way they don't at other literary readings I think (the cocktails don't hurt!) and they get to let their hair down and have a blast. They often bring sexy and/or scandalous work - something they wouldn't read at Barnes & Noble. They get to act a bit ridiculous, and if they're lucky, they go home with a medal. As silly as it all is, I invariably see the winning writer hours later, still wearing the medal and basking in the glory.

Have you ever competed in a LDM?

I haven't. I'm perfectly happy being the host and producer. We've got more than enough talent to fill our stage without me throwing my hat in the ring.

Have you ever hosted a match and no one enjoyed it?

Nope. But then again, maybe no one would complain to me -- I'm usually the one with the dart gun.

Literary Death Match takes place on Thursday at 10 p.m. at Purdy Lounge (1811 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach). It's free. Visit omiami.org.

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