Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Last night was the first Zest! Open Floor Poetry Night of the year. At Alexander's Jazztheatre Bar, Rufus Court, Chester. Our guest poet was Andrew Rudd who gave an excellent reading and included one of my favourite poems "The Baker" (from Andrew's collection One Cloud away from the Sky). He also did a wonderful poem about the wall-hanging in Alexander's that glamourises the stage. It features a band in black silhouette on a bright back ground of strong colours; over the years this hanging has got slightly battered, probably by leaping musicians catching their heels in it and tearing away a bit of the applique, but this slight touch of the shabby is what makes Alexander's such a special place: it feels well used and exudes a real atmosphere of "this is the place where it HAPPENS"!, as if so much goes on here (and it does) that there's no time for fripperies. Our audience love it here, and we love it here. The microphones are excellent. The bar staff are excellent. And the lighting is kind, not too bright, nor too dim. You don't feel at all conspicuous which is very helpful to first-time or nervous readers. (Sometimes these are the readers who offer the most amazing poems; we had a fantastic poem about the rhinoceros last night, described as a Zeppelin - wonderful image!)
Yesterday there were 52 people gathered together in Alexander's to read and to listen to poetry - that's not bad, is it?
On our opening night in March 2007 we had a packed house of over 80 people and so far the numbers have never dropped below the 50 mark. I feel that's a very good indication of the value and pleasure to be had from poetry, particularly as we do get a high proportion of people who come simply to listen.
Often at Open Floor nights a theme emerges, or some element of connection: last night we had a fair selection of "list poems" from Adele, Francesca, and Katherine among others. Even Andrew's poem about the wall-hanging was a sort of list poem. Twenty people bravely got up to read their own work. We like to have as an many open floor readers as the night can fit in, on the understanding that it's one poem each. Most accept this quite happily, a few are disgruntled, but we like to give everyone a chance.
Our next Zest! event is Monday June 28th, at 8pm, and our guest poet will be Mandy Coe. If you happen to be in Chester that evening drop in to Alexanders!