So, the television is filled with images of rioting youth across the country. Gangs are raiding and looting shops. The Metropolitan Police have put three times as many officers on the street. Across London trouble is expected almost everywhere.
Well, it's Tuesday night and my last chance to visit Poetry Unplugged so I head off to Covent Garden to sign up for the best open mic in London. The streets are not exactly empty but they are certainly much less busy than usual. When I suggest to Niall, the organiser, that poets are made of sterner stuff he counters that we are just more needy, just more desperate for peer approval. And he's probably right.
Even so, it's a smaller audience than usual and there are only sixteen readers. On the positive side, at least I have the time and space to review the event properly, though of course it still needs to be brief and not everyone was introduced with a full name anyway.
So first up we had Nick who did a poem so new that the ink was still wet that was simultaneously about the riots and the fire in the cigarette bin outside the cafe.There were a couple of other humorous ones and rather grim, but very good, one about an abattoir from the cow's point of view.
Janice, who has been on at every performance I've attended started brightly with a poem about a pop-up Karma Sutra (which she had on hand to illustrate the verse), and followed it with a serial killer suburban housewife. Both were clever and funny.
Someone I hadn't seen before, Vanessa gave us a choice of two poems and went with the one that she'd described as a "fairy tale for grown-ups". She said later that she hadn't been happy with her choice but it was a fine recitation of a long and complex poem delivered in quick and confident style.
Brian Baker was next with a group of poems, some of which I'd heard him do before. The short Memory of a Conversation with a Jewish Girlfriend was especially pithy and amusing and Bob Rainey, who followed him, a Poetry Unplugged first-timer did a trio of very good poems that included a personal ad for an S&M magazine.
Paul Moore, making his second appearance, was also very good, but Just Because was a standout piece with each line making a contrast and the initial light-hearted tone gradually mutating into something much darker, a tone that was maintained by the next to the mic, Arthur Ray whose poems were a kind of anti-love song.
Next up was regular Donal Dempsey in a shirt that was louder than the sirens occasionally heard outside. He rattled through a cracking set of very funny short verses in a style that had the audience howling with laughter.
I opened the second half with a reprise of my Bilston Voices autobiographical set. People made the right noises in the right places and complimented me afterwards so it must have been OK. I. of course, am not best placed to make that judgement. I can judge Will Warren who came next - bravely announcing that he was opening with a poem about his favourite synthesizer. And that's what he gave us, a eulogy to a keyboard followed by a story of a strange chess game. His laid-back delivery perfectly complimented the pieces.
No one could accuse Stanley Neil of being "laid back". After a brief, but amusing pieced on the class system and a couple of haiku he shifted up a gear into a raging histrionic performance that saw him abandoning the mic and animatedly haranguing the audience. It was great stuff.
Anita was more subdued. She delivered a long and downbeat poem about death, apparently inspired by a random remark from the host at last week's group. It was a good piece, though a little confusing in places and the next poet, Yvone, to a degree, maintained the tone. She wasn't, I confess, to my taste. There was nothing wrong with either of her two poems and her delivery, though a little nervous, was fine. It's just the religious subject matter that leaves me rather cold. No matter how well done religious poetry just doesn't interest me.
Peter Doyle lifted things with a poem about how much he hated seagulls and the variety of ways in which he had fantasised about killing them. His description of their calls as "the pub singers of the avian world" was a gem in itself. His other piece, The Trees, was more serious but just as good.
The penultimate performer was Ray Blake who I enjoyed enough to buy his book. His opening piece about the Irish and the Scots was really very good but though the Irish in the audience may not have been so keen. His follow up, a piece about people who have half-hearted, wimpish tattoos, pleased everyone though.
And so we come to the final performer, who billed himself as
Namanagra... er.. Granma Ana... er Ananagram. It's always best to save the completely bonkers ones till last and Ananagram was about as completely bonkers as you can get without becoming a villain in a Batman movie. His single long poem was an apparently extemporised piece about all the poets he'd seen in the preceding couple of hours. Everybody got name-checked as he strode about the room like a poetry stormtrooper, climbed on the furniture and enthused everyone with his manic energy. For a poem that couldn't possibly have existed two hours ago it was a tour-de-force and a brilliant way to end my short run of visits to what has very quickly become my favourite way to spend a Tuesday night. It's even better than rioting.
Poetry Unplugged takes place every Tuesday at the Poetry Place in Betterton Street in Covent Garden. It starts at 7:30 with a sign up between 6 and 7.