The first poetry evening I attended left me with the somewhat sour taste of disappointment, enhanced, no doubt, by the dashed hopes I’d been harbouring all week. Instead of great poetry, I was faced by something resembling slapstick stand-up comedy.
For that reason, I turned up to Fluent on Paper with no hopes at all – and was very pleasantly surprised. Hosted in one of South Kensington’s nicest pubs, The Builders Arms, the atmosphere was warming, perfect for a freezing November night. In front of a dark banner, aspiring poets read their work to an audience of friendly faces; no doubt welcoming in the face of spilling your emotions to complete strangers.
Most of those reading their poetry had never done so in public before. They managed in spite of shaking hands and voices; their courage was inspiring. Ed Spencer in particular, who was the last of the invited poets, established the necessity of ‘acting’ one’s readings. Perhaps his poetry was not what one would call ‘first-rate’, but no-one noticed or even cared because he proved to be such a fantastic actor; his poems lived and breathed in his interpretation of them.
There were even several poems written on the spot, as people found themselves inspired by the creativity of the evening. Matt Allinson’s hilarious poem on the organiser of the event, Kadhim Shubber, certainly had the laughter flowing. Dylan Lowe ended the night with a poem written in ten minutes on the beauty of Bulgaria.
One was never meant to enjoy poetry alone and in silence. Instead, poetry readings were commonplace in homes, public spaces and at the glittering literary salons of the past. It is impossible to translate the nature of these events to our hurried times, but Fluent on Paper certainly tries. From January onwards, it will be a monthly event and I encourage both poets and lovers of poetry to attend. It is a great success for Imperial College students to have a poetry night hosted by one of their own – we can do more than science, it seems!
Fluent on Paper returns on January 22 at The Builders Arms in South Kensington