"When truth and compassion part ways, follow compassion." ~ Unknown

Monday, August 17, 2015

Poetry Unplugged

London - Poetry Unplugged's open mic night tiny basement room
Poetry Unplugged's cave
Poetry Unplugged is the only open mic I've read at in London. It's not because I like the room which is the tiny basement of the Poetry Cafe. Yes, it has a certain funky charm but it also gets very crowded, stuffy and extremely hot. And it's not because everything read at Poetry Unplugged, or any open mic, spoken word or slam event, is wonderful because it's not. It's because Poetry Unplugged is early enough, it's not held in a shitty, noisy bar and, for the most part, the people who show up to read there are not pretentious dicks who swagger through their own reading then leave.

The credit goes to the MC, poet Niall O'Sullivan. He does a wonderful job of keeping things interesting, fair, fun and moving. That said, included below is a review of the event which, to my delight and his credit, Niall posted on his own blog.
One of the worst evenings I’ve ever endured was at an event called Poetry Unplugged. About 50 people were crammed into a sweaty basement, all perched expectantly on orange plastic chairs. How nice, I thought, to see such an enthusiastic audience for poetry. As one figure after another leapt up to read their doggerel, the truth dawned. They were all here not to listen, but to perform. They would suffer each other's poetic rants, but only for their moment of glory. A woman in a red wig recited a poem about her vagina. A man in a blue jumper did a lengthy lament on lost love. It was a very long night.
Duh. Of course people are there to read but it's not the feeding frenzy this nube describes. Generally people are pretty open to each other at readings but come on! Why wouldn't that include a little quid pro quo? Yet, for all the years I've read at these things, I am still prone to what is sometimes breath stopping shyness. At the reading two weeks ago it hit me full force. By my second poem I basically caught up with my breath but that night I never fully got into the words.

Uncle Monkey, Ugly Bear, Clarence and NaNo manuscript
Uncle Monkey, Ugly Bear and Clarence
discussing my NaNo manuscript
This week I was more at ease. The difference? Before reading I acknowledged my nervousness to the audience. Simple, right? No. When I got to the mic it was all I could do to glance at people and whisper, "I'm really nervous". Still it was enough to break the tension. It also helped I read Jazz which is more a performance piece than anything else.

I extracted it from the NaNoWriMo "novel" I wrote a few years ago. In fact, thus far these four paragraphs are all I have used from that entire 50,000 word manuscript. No worries. I may even write a second one some November. I loved banging through a month of crazy intensity, 2000 words a day, the world be damned, though no doubt it helped that I had zero expectations and no plot. I naturally share the NaNo point of view, "No plot? No Problem!". 

The cafe is now closed until the first of September. We leave London in about a week so that's it for me this time around.


Roy said...

I turned to the poetry page and read Jazz. That was really good. I think I could hear it. I loved the idea that the instruments were looking for a way out. Leo Kottke described that once in typically droll fashion--something about going out there, sometimes, so far that you had difficulty finding a way back.

I understand the anxiety of performing --anything-- in front of people. I have it so bad, I can't even play the guitar and record myself when I am alone in the house without getting nervous and causing my I.Q. to drop down several notches (something which I can ill afford) and destroy my fine motor skills.

Paula said...

Of course I love a pome with a cat! <3

asha said...

Oh god! I completely get the anxiety of recording yourself even when you're ALONE in the house. Same for me. It's bad.

Glad you liked the poem. Thanks. Now I have to go hide in the corner for awhile.