The Y Tuesday Poetry Club
Upstairs at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell there is a teeny room stuffed with comfortable chairs, coffee tables and a juke box, with hardly any room for people. There are fairy lights, funky pictures and double windows opening onto a balcony, also with hardly any room for people. The Y tuesday Poetry club happens on the first Tuesday of every month.
My companion and myself walked up the stairs and settled down to watch; a music stand stood ready; the tables held clusters of fairy cakes with candles and strips of paper with quotations; interesting looking people squashed together on the chairs, some scribbling on sheets of paper, others just smiling comfortably.
Burgess the Rhymer has had his hair cut. His accomplice was a comely lass from Durham, sporting bright ginger hair, a huge wide-brimmed hat and a low cut chiffon top, all held together by a wide and happy grin.
She was the mistress of ceremonies, and told us she'd divided the evening into three halves.
First up, a solid little chap with half-moon glasses settled himself behind the music stand; he bore the air of a character from The Wind in the Willows. Most of his poetry involved blood; the last one concerned birth, the theme of the evening. He looked at us over his spectacles to make sure we were paying attention. We were.
Next, a serious man with an Eastern-European accent got up. He was tall and like a diplomat. His voice was husky and dramatic, and a tiny trickle of perspiration gradually made its way down his face as he spoke. His poems were dark and eloquent, describing complex relationships. The last one had a little bit of humour, and he declaimed it with a wry smile from time to time. You could close your eyes and just enjoy the words without even thinking of the meaning.
Next, a bright woman from Lancashire got up. Her words were sharp and colourful, and her birth poem had been written on the bus on the way there. 'I wiped it off afterwards', she laughed. Her partner and herself had thought about having a baby, tried and failed. So they planned a World Trip. At that moment, 'These old blocks produced a chip!'.
A sleek dark-haired and dimpled woman was next. She had never read her poetry live before. She had a strong, clear English voice and her imagery was similarly clear and defined; she seemed confident and delicate at the same time.
How interesting it was! Each poet only read a few poems but the entire atmosphere of the room changed with each voice and vocabulary!
A young man in a stylish charity shop shirt was next: in his best poem, a letter writer went from signing off with one ambiguous little kiss to a whole tangle 'like barbed wire' in the space of a few weeks. He seemed to have been pursued rather a lot by charming and persistent young women, one of whom managed to break into his flat in order to kiss him.
The it was my turn: I sang Two Little Girls and Me as my birth song, then Three Maple Men and Little England. It was so nice to play to such a compact and quiet audience who were listening instead of guzzling booze at the bar and whispering more and more loudly as their idea of what constituted a whisper became distorted by the alcohol!
There were more... a man told us about his grandfather, more, more.
We came away awed at the power of words