So much for my resolve to get out and do more readings/open mics this year.
I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to tackle the Troubadour, although to be honest it’s partly the thought of making my way there (actually it’s the getting back from west London – late at night – a mission with Southern Rail, believe me) and not knowing if I’m going to make it on the open mic list or not. But I like the look of their Monday evening events, with some impressive guest poets appearing.
Last night however I took part in my first Poetry Unplugged open mic night at the Poetry Cafe in London, accompanied by my up-for-anything friend Lucy. It was about this time last year that I persuaded her along to the Betsey Trotwood for an Ambit launch, where I managed to disgrace myself by drinking too much and she did an impromptu guest spot behind the bar. I’ve never been published in Ambit but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
Anyway, back to last night. It was a reasonably full room – pretty impressive that it’s been going for over ten years and it’s every week – I marvel at the stamina of host Niall O’Sullivan, who keeps time with joviality and a very visible iPad display. Most impressive was his ability to say people’s names both before and after they read, and come up with a little linkage banter that made reference to the poems we’d just heard. What a pro.
The first half was an interesting mix of newbies and (I assume) regulars, ten men plus myself. Lucy and I had looked over my poems in Pizza Express and agreed on the two to read – the one where I channel Calamity Jane and the other one a found poem, one of my few ‘funnies’. I think it did raise a slight titter (thanks Lucy!) – but probably too many references to 70s TV shows and not sure I was on the same wavelength as the earnest-looking (and mostly young) audience. Ah well – I still enjoyed reading.
Someone read a lovely poem about a lady who had suffered from dementia in later years and he felt her funeral hadn’t done justice to the person she once was. Probably my favourite of the night, I wish I could remember the poet’s name. Among the others we had some heartfelt lost love/bittersweet memories material, one long tale in rhyming couplets which apparently was after Edgar Allen Poe (Lucy had to enlighten me on that), some stormin’ political commentary and some (self-described) ‘anti-feminist’ shouty stuff.
Many performed from memory – something I should try to do I think, but I would have to be absolutely word-perfect – nothing worse than forgetting (and telling the audience you’ve forgotten) for breaking the spell. Having said that, the very first poet up stumbled rather towards the end and eventually gave up in a cloud of “fuck its” but all very jolly about it so no-one minded. The last performer entered just as he was announced, giving the impression that it was some sort of show of superiority, or that he couldn’t be arsed to listen to anyone else. This made Lucy and myself less guilty about leaving before the second half, much as I’d like to have heard some women reading (surely there were some) it’s quite an intimate venue and it would have looked worse to leave halfway through I think. And the 21.47 from Victoria beckoned.
PS I’ll certainly go back some time – anyone like to come with me?