To have a poetry café you need a poet, a room with chairs and a tin. The poet is for bringing poetry, the room with chairs is for people who come and listen to the poetry and perhaps share some of their own and the tin is for collecting money from the people that come in order to pay for the poet and the room with the chairs. You do not need to have coffee. The word café is to suggest the idea of a congenial gathering of artistically inclined people. If you want to add flourishes you have a person with musical instrument making melodious sound, tables with flowers in jam jars and lit candles, incense, fruit cordial (hot apple and ginger in cold weather), biscuits and a couple of bottles of wine for you and your mates or anyone who looks as though they might fancy some. And if people want something more rock and roll there are plenty of inner city venues. You won’t be getting the smoke-filled atmosphere these days but there will still be black walls and bleakness. I’m not being snooty here, believe me I like all that and will go in search of it myself one way or another, but it’s no good being a black walls and bleakness merchant when you live on the Edge. We do things differently here and the punters like it. Well, I like it and I’m number one punter, having begun this so as to keep the poetry buzzing on my doorstep, or as good as.
What you hope is that people turn up – and they do, usually. Visiting poets, used to an audience of Sid and Doris Bonkers plus one or two more on a good night are surprised to see the room quite full. So Ros Barber wasn’t in the least put out by the relatively low numbers the other night, reminiscing about one gig where the only audience was the other poet and his spouse and how they’d basically spent the evening reading back and forth to each other. I was disappointed that more people hadn’t turned up. Something about this time of year, I think - peoples’ kids going back to school, choirs starting up, end of season cheaper holidays, and perhaps it might have been better to have it at the end of the month. And it was such a fine, powerful reading, on the edge of (but not quite) performance poetry. Only four people put their names down to read in the open mic session, so I padded it out with three of mine and kicked another poet who would have preferred to nurse his cold into doing something. The Signs family was there, daughter visiting from London and son not yet back at university, Mr. S. taking money at the door. Not much money, on account of low numbers and we didn’t cover costs, and it would have been good to give the poet a bit more for travel (she hired a car to get there). But no-one complained. My experience is that poets tend to be like that. They do their work, they come, are happy with little, are gracious. But perhaps I’ve just been lucky.