This was the fourth time I’ve been lucky enough to bring a posse of poets and fictioneers to the London Literature Lounge at Covent Garden Poetry Cafe. It’s a wonderful night in the intimate, just-the-right-amount-of-red-lit-sleazy surrounds of the Poetry Cafe basement, run with energy and wit, poeticism, rhythm and eccentricity by Anjan Saha.
This time round, to riff on the theme of Our Colloquial Past, I had a full card of seven writers and me joining Anjan’s cohort of Poetry Cafe favourite and New Libertine regular Clare Waters, novelist Sangeeta Bhargava, and Sarah Butler. I always enjoy listening to Clare, and Sangeeta gave a delicious, musical evocation of Lucknow, but Sarah absolutely blew us away – outside in Betterton Street during the interval, Paul observed that the reading from her forthcoming book Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love was “astonishing.” Which about sums it up.
We had a mix of newcomers and familiars to the Poetry Cafe, but everyone was right at the top of their game which gave the evening an incredible buzz. I kicked off, taking up the theme of one of Anjan’s current projects, Love Letters to London, with Hungerford Bridge and a couple of other poems designed to test audience responses ahead fo next month’s Hammer and Tongue final – but the Litrature Lounge crowd is just so nice it’s impossible to tell! I then introduced (at this point I should add that Anjan had asked me to co-host, with me introducing our performers and him introducing his. And so the Poetry cafe was introduced to my inimitable ability to destroy a microphone just by looking at it. Again. And again. And again) Tina Sederholm, who was at the best I’d ever seen her, and clearly getting more at home by the minute with her Edinburgh material.
Anna Hobson reprised her all-conquering flarf Tales of Modern Courtship Part Three: First Impressions from National Flash Fiction Day (I’d love to see her read the trilogy) to side-splitting mirth, and eight cuts newcomer, the wonderful Kate Walton, whom I met at Gloucester’s ARTournament, delighted us with her deliciously macabre rhyming tales, especially a wonderful journey into the surreal world of pitfalls at the Melton Mowbray pork pie factory that was pure Dahl. Marc Nash is the first person I ever shared a stage with, way way back in 2009, and he gets better every time I see him. His flash fiction piece about the slow spiral into aphasia, rendered with a heartbreakingly pitch perfect proud unawareness was pretty much perfect.
Emily Harrison is a Poetry Cafe regular, and I’m delighted that she’s agreed to do a few gigs for us this year (next to be seen at Stoke Newington). She gets better and better, her delivery evolving into beautifully-paced, confident, sardonic, ironic mastery of the mic. Davy Mac delighted us with a set that contained his usual pitch-perfect political and social scalpel but mixed it with some astonishingly beautiful, intimate pieces. And the night was rounded out by Paul Askew. I have now heard The Extremely Abridged History, Present, and Future of Paul Askew in Five Dream Scenes three times, and they’re the three best performances I’ve ever seen.