Ys

Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

(You are very much not forgotten)

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An Accounting of Saturday Night's Poetry Café Reading
Ys
ajodasso
For starters, this description from Exiled Writers, Ink. conveys the setting much better than I can:

The Poetry Café in Covent Garden is a cosy place, a calm time-warp of clear-faced students, murmuring couples, tiny tables and red wine; poetry-related newspaper clippings adorn the wall.

The front door and window are frosted glass bearing the elegant insignia of The Poetry Society, which, as first sights go, is vaguely intimidating (remember, their magazine, Poetry Review, has rejected me about seven times to date). However, once you're inside, the description above is what hits you: the décor is understated, all worn wooden floors and loved, lived-in charm. Niall's event, The Cellar, takes place in, as you would have guessed, the basement level. Descending the stairs is a little surreal, as you're suddenly transported from a quiet neighborhood coffee-shop into a room resembling a mean average of every community theater green room you've ever seen. There are piles of brittle autumn leaves in several of the corners and casual graffiti all over the walls (PLEASE RETURN TROWEL ON LOAN), some of it in Latin (TAKE A CARD, SEND A POEM—and its Latin translation, which I forget off the top of my head and am unwilling to reconstruct right now, bad medievalist that I am). There's also a pencil-sketch of a medieval rose-window that looks like an incomplete mason's draft. There's a rickety microphone at the front and about thirty or forty chairs set up for the audience. Needless to say, I was charmed.

First off, Niall is a brilliant host. He's got an informal, easy wit and a diverting obsession with monkeys (no, really: the poem he read at the start of the second half, just before I went on, had to do with evolution). Anyway, there were four of us on the program: Dominic O'Rourke and Raymond Antrobus in the first half, and then me and John Anstiss in the second. As you can see, we made for quite a kaleidoscope of voices! The common thread, though, was that all three of those guys were absolutely excellent. Niall has eclectic, sterling taste in poets.

The audience was small—perhaps only twenty people, of whom my acquaintance fyrefly101 and her visiting friend, Emily, were just two. But here's the thing: they were hooked. It's clear to me that the advantage to having a long-established venue such as this is, of course, the obvious draw for poetry-ravenous folk. I've been reading for long enough now to know what a disconnected audience feels like, and this was the very opposite of disconnected. I got more physical with my reading than I usually do; I caught myself reaching for them. And, at the end, they reached back—to all of us. I bought John Anstiss's chapbook, and he gave me the loveliest inscription. I don't know, the whole room just felt sort of warm and euphoric after all that verse. I gave away a goodly number of flyers telling people where they can purchase Devil's Road Down and left the remainder on the shelf with the Poetry Society's free postcards. Even if they rot with the old leaves, I'll be happy.

(In other words: Niall, I'll come back anytime!)

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(Deleted comment)
Ooh, you must. I will drag you there.

Sounds like it was great fun!

The UK really offers a lot of opportunities to share one's work!

Sounds absolutely lovely!

I think you would have loved the place!

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