Sunday, September 16, 2007

Poetry Cafe

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.


Kahless said...

One day I would love to stop by the poetry cafe; it sounds absolutely delightful.

I think you are probably right that this time of year is difficult - kind of getting into bolt down the hatches type mode for winter hibernation!

Anyway, just popped by when I had my lunch - I will come back later as it seems I have been a little neglectful of my blog-friends this week.

btw - are you getting some of your text from blogger in german - or is it just me!

Reading the Signs said...

I think it is, Kahless (and you'll be welcome), though it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.

No, it isn't just you, Germany has invaded here too - and I remember reading something about that at NMJ's too.

Anna MR said...

Signs, you know, I was there in spirit as I did remember you had a poetry café last night (yes, that ethereal glitter at the back table - me again - Ros was good, as was everyone else).

The dwindling audience numbers remind me of one of our poetry nights, which have often been pretty well attended (nicely padded out by the large number of performers on one hand, and the diminutive size of the piano bar on the other) but this particular night in question, we had an audience of three. I was doing a longish snippet of a monologue from one of Ntozake Shange's ladies (I think it's Lady in Brown, if memory serves), with an angry tang (I can't link to it, it's not available online, but if you happen to know the text, it's the one that opens with "One thing I don't need is any more apologies..."). As there was an audience of three, and I had to direct it at someone, the young man in the front table got rather more than he'd bargained for, perhaps. I told him it was nothing personal afterwards. Ah, you gotta love poetry in performance.

Mwah this Sunday, Signs, as indeed on other days or the week too.


Reading the Signs said...

Lovely story ms FomPy - and thank goodness you were there (yes, come to think of it, I did spot you) or the evening might have been a complete turkey (is that the word?), and please make sure and glitter ethereally on subsequent events too. I'll keep you posted.

Will have a closer look at that link later on. Making curry. It's Sunday. I know. Don't ask.

sxiwi - why do they always find me?

p.s. mwah (squared) back atcha.

Anna MR said...

Signs of Squared Mwahs - I wouldn't dream of asking (curry, Sundays). And, you know, I am only too happy to bring my penguiny presence to glitter ethereally at the back, particularly if you feel it keeps out the turkey.


I'll go home now, and talk more to you there. Your post was lovely, by the way. Why can't I keep to saying stuff like that? Answer: I am the Queen of Bollocks, again, it seems. Forgive me, Signs. I don't know what I'm doing.

orhyzlha - the poetic equivalent of bilharzia (that does it, I'm leaving)

Kahless said...

Hi Signs !!! yes, I'll pop by one day. :-)

Sut dach chi? Anna I will be over to yours soon I promise, just been a hectic week et al. Dont want you to think i have been ignoring you.

btw Signs - Sut dach chi?= How are you in Welsh.

Reading the Signs said...

Penguin Queen of Bollocks is good title for an alternative performance poet - I'm booking you in, ok? You'll need to have enough material for an hour. I'm sure you'll cope. Putting flyers up as I speak.

Kahless, that's great, I'll book you in as visiting Welsh poet if you like. I don't speak a word and neither does anyone else round here that I know of - so can't even tell you how I am. Fair to middling?

R.H. said...

In an old brick building on my side of town there's a cheeky little cafe with rarely any customers, but lots of art exhibitions and 'open mics'. I used to see open mic advertised on a slate outside and wasn't sure what it meant.

The poets should be glad there are people like you promoting them, I don't think they should get paid at all, it's more important that you get back your costs.

R.H. said...

And poets should pay for being bad poets anyway. I'd issue a fine.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi R.H., I'd prefer not to have the word "mic" as it makes me thing of microphones - which in our case we do not have. But it's what is understood to mean an open space, so I call it that.

I do think the visiting poets should be paid something - most poets I know are pretty hard up, even the successful ones. Most would, in any case, expect that - unless they are really just starting out, and I'd still pay them if I invited them. It's ok as long as enough people turn up on other nights - sometimes we make more than costs, which helps to balance things.

A fine - interesting idea, but it would definitely put people off coming!

R.H. said...

I'd definitely fine them -or put a firehose on them, the creeps. Lots of people are hard up, but these wafflers are usually pretty well off, and some of the stuff they dish up is appalling, I've seen better verse on dunny walls and at least it's straightforward. Anyone who gets up to spruik something they've written had better be pretty good, or willing to pay damages.

Anna MR said...

Christ, Signs - I'm a performer, not a bloody poet. Sheesh. But yes, I'd love to come. You don't mind if I churn out stuff written by others and nevermind copyright? Goooooood.

Actually - sorry about this, but you'll have to re-do the flyers now...I'm thinking the title of the evening could be something like

"Nevermind the Copyright - Here's Penguin, the Queen of Bollocks"

Whaddaya say, Signs me old china?

Mwah x

wxyfkz could be many things, none of which are suitable for R-rated viewing

pfsywi likewise

Reading the Signs said...

Well Anna, I'm thinking of adopting a couple of things suggested by R.H. - so the stuff had better be top notch or I might just have to hose you down and fine you for damages. Hope that doesn't put you off - but it'll keep the riff raff out. Come to think of it,I might even have to consider whether it's ok to admit myself. But Penguin, Queen of Bollocks: oh, yes.

aixga - where the angels send bad poets.

Anna MR said...

Listen, Signs, I think hosing me down is a most excellent idea, and we should definitely incorporate it in the act. I could be doing a *stream* of consciousness thing about angels and Native Americans and aixga and all sorts, whilst being hosed down. I can see it being instantly legendary, á la Rites of Spring.

This just keeps getting better. Great working with you, Signs...

(Incidentally, I am totally in love with aixga, both the word and the concept. Tell me more about it, please.)

I vill be back. Vord.


uesyzz - a weird way of pronouncing the name of Jesus

Anna MR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reading the Signs said...

uesyzz can be in the act too, I like to incorporate a touch of mysticism. Yes, the hosing down (thank you R.H.) is good. What we want to do is bring in all the elements, so a kind of industrial-sized hairdryer can be used afterwards - water and air, you see. Next up we'll bring on the packets of Marlboroughs and I reckon (after they're lit) that will be fire and earth in one. You can do the Native American peacepipe if you like, and I'll have the fags.

Aixga is sort of like purgatory but more fun - depending on your point of view. There are lots of creative writing classes in aixga - and assignments that you have to complete before being allowed to leave. William Blake was a graduate of aixga. Not a lot of people know that. I get sent there all the time - a bit of a recidivist.

Queen of The Road of Excess said...

Okay, Signs - that Tale from Aixga was just inspired. I want more.

Incidentally, I have had occasion to perform Blake's stuff amidst his stuff, so to speak. Some of the very precious originals - which are normally not on show, as they are very susceptible to light damage, and consequently are kept in the British Museum where people can go and view them with special permission - went on tour in 2000, to the five or so culture capitals of that year. Helsinki, the lucky bugger, was one. It was a strangely moving occasion - you could feel the aixga spirit around you. I had read somewhere that Tyger Tyger is actually the most printed piece of writing in the English language, more so than the Bible or Shakespeare, and was blown away by the fragility and sheer tininess of the original - it would easily fit on the palm of my hand, no bigger than a box of Swans. Needless to say, I wept a wee bit, the dork that I am.

Okay, I went all serious there. Time to stop for tonight, mayhap, methinks. See you in the Palace of Wisdom.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The idea of the poetry cafe sounds wonderful, you make it seem just as it should be. Visiting poets, resident poets, odd pieces of poetry here and there. Little money moving to and fro. I love how this sounds and know first hand, that it can work. You make it all seem okay. Still, it scares the living goodness out of me.

R.H. said...

Miss Anna and Miss Signs, never fear; you can recite Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head whilst I give you a sprinkle with the hose.

Mellifluous Dark said...

The poetry café does sound lovely, Signs. And your post is lovely, too.

Reading the Signs said...

Anna, I have some Blake prints on the wall of my garden place. He has been in heaven and hell as well as aixga and was one of my first loves.

David, if you went there I feel certain you wouldn't be scared at all, you'd feel right at home, with all your living goodness intact. It's a long way from Chicago, though.

R.H., I take it that would be the Sacha Distel version - er, right.

Hi Mellif, thank you very much.

cusp said...

Can I come too ? I promise to bring some Suffolk Elderberry Blush Cider. Please also aks Michael Laskey who is a very fine fellow and poet

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

Black walls! You miss Hackney don't you? (Chats Palace?). Sounds like the evening was a great artistic if not financial success.



Reading the Signs said...

Cusp yes, come - and I'll have some of the cider please. Michael Laskey - he's in aldeburgh, innit? I want to go there.

Pants, yes - yes, I do! Oh, Chat's Palace (and is there ackee saltfish still for tea?) - yep, went there, and used to pass it most days on the way to the library or kiddy creche place.