Poets are springing up like daisies

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The other night I dreamed that all the jazz greats had been thrown out of Ronnie Scott's for lack of crowd appeal - Sonny Rollins, Hugh Masekera, Nina Simone and even Dexter Gordon (you can mishandle the dead in dreams) - and that poets had taken over the kingdom. When I woke up on Sunday, I found out it was true.

That night, some of the regu1ars from the Pull My Daisy poetry club (usually every Tuesday night at The Paradise, Kilburn Lane) were playing Frith Street - with some musical support from Chrome Slug, Gas On, Fin and others. When I got there the poets were still out in the cold: I counted four on the steps.

'Why aren't you on the inside? I said. 'Ask them,' said Hannah, who kept staring down at the paper she had written her list of poems on, muttering to herself.

I turned to a big boy on the door. 'Nobody in here till 8pm, guests, press or what have you,' he replied. I checked my watch: two minutes to wait.

Just then Murray turned up with a folded sheet of lined paper. Murray is a skinny lad who looks like Dylan on the sleeve of Hard Rain. You can tell he has just escaped from media studies in Manchester: that baggy Edwardian dinner suit, foppish watch-chain and the kohl-lined eyes.

He was muttering too. 'I'm trying to commit it to memory,' he said. 'It's only just finished. It's a cautionary tale. . .for adults.'

Murray was the five-minute star (three poems apiece, absolute maximum) of the

evening with his two cautionary tales. His delivery was good - all spittle and ridiculous mock-menace. He used his hands well, riffling his bony fingers like a pack of cards. The poems were well-crafted, too.

'I'm impressed,' I told the promoter, Mick P. He is about to re-pot some of the Pull My Daisy bunch at the Mojo Club in Hamburg.

'Poetry seems to be springing up out of the cracks in the pavement these days,' I said. 'Why d'you think we called ourselves Pull My Daisy?' he replied. Exotic clubs with exotic names are all over London these days, a reflection of new interest in the art: see it on the Underground, hear it on the radio, read it in the papers.

'What is so special about poetry these days? I asked Bucky, a west London-based American who is fiercely loyal to Pull My Daisy. 'Poetry has a much wider viewpoint than, say, alternative comedy - there's humour and tragedy and pathos. . .it's all there.' Those delicious words, and a little of what they meant, winged me across London, west to east, to the Samuel Pepys Theatre Bar at the Hackney Empire where Poetry of My Shoulders happens every Tuesday night.

Poetry clubs are full of local heroes and heroines and one of Poms' is Georgina Lewis. One regular told me: 'The problem - and the glory - of the gorgeous Georgina - she looks 27 but she must be pushing 40 - is that she needs levering up on to the stage because of the tight plastic outfits she wears.'

And her poems? 'One of her best is a kind of fetishist fantasy rant called Wankers. She just gets up there and starts ranting ats the audience, crouched over. Then she stops, giggles, turns . . . She's wonderful. Everybody knows her.

'And when she's not reading her poems, she's demonstrating outside the local sauna with a placard saying: 'Please don't close at 2am'.'


Chelsea Poets Society: Cafe Opera, 315 Kings Road SW3 (071352 9854). Chelsea's first poetry club for 150 years. No mikes. No music. A cappella singing. pounds 3.

Poetry of my Shoulders: Samuel Pepys Theatre Bar, 289 Mare Street E8 (071-372 0418). Rumbustious mix of showbiz wannabes, whimsies. Admission free.

Subvoicive: The Three Cups, 21 Sandlands St, Holborn WC1 (071-831 4302). London and Cambridge avant garde. No floor spots. Free.

Pull My Daisy: The Paradise, Kilburn Lane Wl0 (081-969 0098). Young, trendy, politically sound. From rappers to pop stars. pounds 3.

World Oyster Club: Bunjies, 27 Litchfield Street WC2. (081-808 6595). Music and poetry. Guest readers, chance of floor spots. pounds 3.

With Intent: The Marquee, 20 Greek Street WI (071-792 4005). Dada sound poetry, comedy cabaret. pounds 4.

Brixton Poets: The Prince Albert, Coldharbour Lane SW2 (071-701 9608). Locally based group. Moves from pub to pub within Brixton area.

Nuff Said]: Bunjies, 27 Litchfield St WC2 (081-341 2479). Up to 50 people pack into this old Soho folk-and-jazz venue. Guest poets, musical and comedy acts, and an open floor. More serious than some. pounds 3.

Hard Edge Club: The Red Lion, 20 Great Windmill St WI (071-437 4635). Rowdy. Off the wall, a lads' act place. Spasmodic guest appearances of Dr Geramoff Macho Brute. pounds 3.

Apples & Snakes: Oldest performance poetry group in London. Very PC. Closed for summer. Re-opens at the Battersea Arts Centre in September.

Voice Box: South Bank Centre, Royal Festival Hall (071-921 0906) One or two excellent (and usually book published) poets per evening. No floor spots. No audience participation. No stand-up routines. Contemplative.

For other poetry groups and workshops around London, contact: The Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, SE1.

(Photograph omitted)