I found out about More Poetry by perusing Poetry London for information about poetry events available in London, particularly open mics. It’s near Shoreditch, which I had learned from Jessica Elizabeth is a neighborhood with a great deal of artists and art, particularly street art. I was intrigued. I decided to head to Shoreditch in the afternoon yesterday, walk through the neighborhood and the Old Spitalfields Market, and then head to the nearby Coffee Shop at 13 Leyden Street just around a few corners.
It was interesting to arrive at the Market. I looked through some of the stalls, bought a small gift for my hosts, and then went to a cafe. Daily Grind? I was denied service, because they were closed, which was interesting as there were people seated at the front of the cafe. Perhaps it’s just me carrying my American sensitivities to race, class, gender bias, but it seemed that there was another reason for denial of service. Proximity/immersion in a vibrant immigrant and Muslim community was juxtaposed to trendy intrusions, what to me looked like gentrification … but I don’t know the dynamics of this locale. Who knows?
Anyway, I ended up settling for a time at Tea Smith, in the Spitalfields Market. For 3.50 quid, I had three cups of tea, free wifi, great music, and an opportunity to write. I also, because of the wifi, got to see my man’s beautiful face on a screen that reminded me of the distance while also giving us some closeness. Small joy, but I’ll take it.
Walking the neighborhood to the venue, I headed to a cool vintage shop. If I had a bit more disposable income, I would have gone crazy. Leather bags for $25-50? Designer labels for $40-300. AND in the shop, they were playing Motown. Imagine me, cruising through cool digs and jewelry while singing way loud and my body bounding about. I think I made one of the shoppers uncomfortable … but the cashier and I were on the same page. She also dug my Afro Puff Girls shirt, created by Aya de León. Giggling, singing, cash exchange for two cool dresses (only 8 pounds), and a short, friendly conversation later, and I was off on the rest of my journey.
What little street art I saw was pretty cool. I will have to go sometime with Jessica to see the pieces she digs. I have a feeling that I just touched the surface.
Walking the neighborhood, I saw fabric shop after fabric shop. It must be one of THE places to get material or just saris as a whole. That’s what much of the fabric looked like it could be for. Many of the shops were closed or closing as I was hitting the neighborhood.
I arrived too early, and so spent the time drinking a cider at a nearby pub and charging my phone. 🙂 Small joy, but, again, I’ll take it. As I was watching the news, I learned that the Church of England has decided to ordain women bishops! Huge development. At the same time, the current prime minister is receiving pressure to make his cabinet more diverse with the addition of more women, senior members. Also, huge! England is starting to look mighty fine.
I returned to the venue and met Ken Champion (http://kenchampion.wordpress.com/) and Juli Jana (http://www.julijana.co.uk/), two incredible poets who founded the More Poetry series. It’s been going for 9 years, which is a rather long time for a series. The Coffee Shop at 13 Leyden is the fourth venue that they have used in that time.
There was a poet who was supposed to feature. I was the first to sign up on the open mic. As I arrived first, I was able to meet everyone as they came, pretty much. There was an exciting conversation had with Ken, Juli, Allen English, Alison Omelia and George Harris, particularly about class and education, particularly the pursuit of higher education. Ken offered his background in sociology, so rich and dynamic. Honestly, it was the richest conversation I have had in weeks on the topic. Everyone listed performed (there were two fellows who came in just to observe), Alison as the only musician, a clarinet player at that. I LOVE the clarinet almost as much as I love the cello. She and George performed together, which was simply beautiful, the clarinet in/and poetry. Allen English started us out for the evening (after Juli’s welcome with Ken’s work from Urban Narratives). The music within his work was a perfect complement to the evening, which was filled with so much melodious and welcome-discordant sound. I have two of his CDs – we did a trade – which I’ll be listening to once I get back to the US. My fancy laptop doesn’t have a CD player, I just realized.
During the open mic, I kept expecting to have my name called, but Ken waited for the last, waiting, I realize now, for his feature that never came. Since that person didn’t come, Juli invited me to feature, reading a few poems. I read The Pistol’s Confession, Paradise/Sonogram/NICU, The Rising, Lately I’ve Grown Accustomed, and Maybe, telling stories in between. I kept feeling like any moment the real feature would come, so I read a pretty short set (about 12-15 minutes with story) … I should have just owned that moment. How often does one get a chance like that?
Still, the work connected with folk. Alison even offered her tears during the reading of Paradise/Sonogram/NICU. What a gift! This is only the third time I’ve read that poem, and to see that it really resonates with people proves to me that I’m on the right track with it. Each time I read it, I’m refining small bits, adding or subtracting for the reading. It’s not finished yet, but almost. The first time I read it was at the Reimagining Progress reading at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA just three weeks ago. I’ve read it twice in two nights. At Ronnie Scott’s, it didn’t seem to connect with the crowd, but last night … it’s almost there. Then I can move on to the next poem.
It is a good solid set, though, one that I should keep in mind for the future.
Tonight I’m headed to The Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe in London. Turns out that it, too, has an open mic. Just so happens that it’s tonight. I’ll be there, trying to sell the last of my London set of books. I only have three left for this city.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Paris. I have a pack of books designated for there. I’m also hoping to sell 5 books of them to Shakespeare and Company. It would be boss to know my books rest there. I’m also looking for more open mics to attend while I’m in Paris. My English-speaking audience may be limited there. I wish my French was better, as in, I wish it still existed.
Before I end, I must say that Ken Champion and Juli Jana are generous and humble, mega-poet folk. I’m meeting such amazing people! I got the info of most everyone last night. I’m hoping to continue the conversation and perhaps make some way in setting up gigs/collaborating/building community together in the future.
More Poetry, 2nd Monday of every month (starting back up in September), 7:30 pm, 1 pound entrance fee, open mic sign up at 7pm. I would definitely recommend the venue and the community.