Every era has it poets, so if you are still stuck with Wordsworth, Sassoon and Keats as your only frames of reference for just the price of a pint you can gain access to London’s poetry circuit and soak up some modern day verse.
A good place to sample spoken word is at London’s very own Poetry Café in Covent Garden where Poetry Unplugged takes over the café’s tiny basement every Tuesday evening. This open mike night hosted by the garrulous Niall O’ Sullivan is a cosy and informal gathering. There’s usually an eclectic range of poetry and performance styles as anybody can walk in and sign up for a floor spot, which also makes it a great place if you are an aspiring poet wanting to test your material out on an audience. On the night we visited, topics given the poetic treatment ranged from dark verse on murder right the way through to championing the cause of Fathers for Justice, to some rather steamy love poetry.
Another good night to head for is Express Excess, at The Enterprise in Chalk Farm. Hosted by the quaff toting Paul Lyalls, this is one of London’s longest running performance poetry nights and, as such, big hitters like the legendary John Cooper Clarke, John Hegley and Francesca Beard are regularly billed.
Another night worth checking out is Short Fuse, every Thursday at the Camden Head, in Angel. The genial Nathan Penlington is the bard and brains behind this fusion of comedy, stand-up poetry, music and spoken word. Shortfuse regularly runs Poetry Idol competitions where unknown poets can compete for this prestigious title and win the chance to come back and do a paid gig later on in the year, so it’s a good place to admire emerging talent.
Much is also being made of The First Tuesday Poetry Club which is about to celebrate its first anniversary this week and has just had to move to a bigger venue at the top Clerkenwell boozer The Three Kings. It’s free to get into, doors open at 6.30pm and the poetry starts at 8pm and it takes place (obviously) on the first Tuesday of each month. First Tuesday Poetry Club, The Three Kings, 7 Clerkenwell Close, EC1 (020 7253 0483) Farringdon tube/rail.
By Clair Whitefield