Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, 12 July 2011
First of all let me tell you what this isn't. It isn't, in any real sense of the word, a review. It can't be. Thirty seven performers (plus the MC, Niall O'Sullivan) in three hours (minus the fifteen minute break) conspired with a room so crowded with poets and poetry-lovers that there wasn't space enough to make notes, to make a proper review impossible. Just the name-checks would use up the whole word-count!
I can tell you about the venue, downstairs in The Poetry Cafe, hidden away in a Covent Garden backstreet, below a vegetarian Cafe where the lampshades have Ralph Steadman cartoons, the walls are thickly plastered with posters for poetry events and the customers sit and discuss the relative merits of Kerouac and Ginsberg.
The performance room was filled to no more than about five times a comfortable capacity and every one of the extremely friendly and welcoming crowd was a bone fide poetry aficionado.
The performance reviews though are where it all gets a bit impressionistic.
... London accents, Irish accents, Liverpool accents and American accents:
...poetry that was prosaic and poetry that was profound
...straightforward, metaphorical and surreal:
...saintly, discrete, scurrilous and frankly obscene:
...rhyming verse and free verse:
...rapping styles, lyrical styles and singing:
...structured, unstructured and chaotic:
...confident performances and slightly nervous performances:
...poems about sex, god, poverty, celebrity, reality, fantasy, food, fetishism, zombies, flat-sharing, travel, the Government viewed as a boyfriend, the Government viewed as a tyranny, Los Angeles and Chessington, science, art, mathematics:
...poems where I couldn't tell you what they were about if you gave me sixpence.
It was gloriously, wonderfully frantic and intense and what we didn't have - and it's really quite remarkable - was a single poor performance. I got up and did my bit half way through the first half and had a nicely warm response which pleased me given the company I was keeping.
Niall kept a necessarily tight rein on the proceedings and everything went splendidly. For poets and poetry lovers alike if you are in the region of Covent Garden on a Tuesday night I'd recommend it, but, if it's always so well-attended, dress in cool clothes and take your own oxygen supply.