The curtains on the windows are drawn. I understand. Privacy is important, especially on Hallowe’en night when the city heaves with people and prying eyes, but it means that I won’t know what awaits me until I’m through the door. I’m nervous. Self-conscious. I’ve never done anything like this before. I take a deep breath and go inside. The Rubis Café is small, intimate. Its walls flicker with shadowy candlelight. There are gilded mirrors and paintings on the walls, and people sip ruby red wine. I am greeted by a tall, blonde Amazonian woman in a bodice who explains the menu of services on offer to me at the right price. Her voice is sultry, and already I feel thoroughly seduced. I feel the eyes of the various women and men scanning me. They are clad in lace and leather and fishnet, their bodies stretched languorously on silken chaise longues, or perched on velvet sofas.
I’ve never done this before. And I’m not sure what is expected of me…how did I end up here?
Yes! It sounds like I have wandered into a brothel; a decadent 19th-century-style bordello. But the nakedness on offer in this place is not physical. I’m at a Poetry Brothel event, and the services on offer are private poetry readings, tarot readings, face-painting and poems composed just for me. The entertainment will be poets and musicians taking to the stage and offering their memories, feelings and experiences up for our consumption; stripping away their emotional clothing.
How did I end up here? Well,I’m a huge Hallowe’en fan; and yet this year, I was at a loose end. It was as though by some miracle, or some spooky sixth sense, but more probably by some terrifyingly accurate algorithm, that The Poetry Brothel’s: The Haunted event popped up on my Facebook page. I read the blurb and it piqued my interest. I mean, it’s a Hallowe’eny literary event! Hello? My favourite two things rolled into one. So, did some more research.
The Poetry Brothel describes itself on its website in a way that I can’t, so here it is:
‘Based in concept on the fin-de-siecle bordellos in New Orleans and Paris, many of which functioned as safe havens for fledgling, avant-garde artists, The Poetry Brothel presents a rotating cast of poets as “whores,” each operating within a carefully constructed character, who impart their work in public readings, spontaneous eruptions of poetry, and most distinctly, as purveyors of private, one-on-one poetry readings in back rooms and other secret and intimate spaces, propitious surroundings for the advent of psychic connections and true poetical/existential experiences. The idea is to purchase a piece of the “whore’s” poetical spirit and absorb yourself in the true nature of readings and literary performances.’
The proposition couldn’t be more seductive. So, I clicked on the link and bought the VIP tickets. Basic tickets were only €15, and €25 for VIP tickets. My sister and I decided on the VIP tickets which meant that all of the various experiences on offer were included, otherwise, you can buy tokens for individual ‘services’at the event.
Before this event, I’d never been to a poetry night. This is despite the fact that poetry was my first love. At eight years of age, I wrote my first poem. My parents loved it and declared me to be a child prodigy. I learned two things from this 1. That parents be delusional, 2. that I liked writing poetry, that I liked praise and wanted to write more. Following on from that my parents started buying me books, and encouraging me; and that confidence boost along with a new love of reading was all I needed to get me writing. To make me put pen to paper and write poem after poem, and it led me to eventually fall in love with prose.
Attending The Haunted would be a journey back to my writing roots. So why did I feel so apprehensive? I think it’s because I’d left poetry behind. I was no longer a poet and I was now afraid of poetry and of poets with their magical ability to make words sing both on and off the page. I was worried that I wouldn’t ‘belong’at this event. But I needn’t have worried. The Poetry Brothel isn’t a place for stuffy or pretentious poets. It brands itself as being ‘accessible’ and it is. The poets were open, friendly and sociable. I quickly relaxed with these people who were willing to be brave enough to bare their vulnerability, so that gave me permission to do the same.
The Haunted took place in the French style wine bar Cafe Rubis. If you’re ever looking for somewhere in Dublin that is romantic, atmospheric, intimate and has rivers of fabulous wine in its cellars; this is your place. Perfect for a date and equally perfect for a poetry event.
The evening opened with the most fantastic blues/ jazz singer. I absolutely loved her, and her fabulous vintage ‘40’s style red dress which, when you looked closer, was covered in bats in a subtle nod to the day that’s in it. I could barely tear myself away to enjoy the other treats on offer upstairs: the tarot, face-painting, personally tailored poems and private readings. Stephen Clare clicked and
I loved the honesty and passion of Lena Chen and Andrej Kapor. The poets offered up details of their loves, heartbreaks, their losses, their highs and lows to us auditory ‘voyeurs’ seated only feet away from them. As they spoke I was transported into their lives, but also into moments in my past where I felt exactly as they did. The poetry was funny, sexy, surreal, evocative, current, and at times, totally improvised. The waxed lyrical on the pitfalls of tinder and we were treated to an impromptu back-and-forth between Stephen Clare and another poet on the importance of good eyebrows.
There are poetry brothel events taking place in cities across the world: Buenos Aires, Barcelona, London, New York, San Francisco. Catch one if you can. I’ll definitely be back. It really is an experience like no other, though I’d imagine that they share one thing in common with most poetry evenings: there’s a wonderful atmosphere of openness, kindness, respect and support. I came with a reminder of my roots in poetry and looking to the future. Feeling inspired and excited about all the possibilities for my own writing.
If these people can be so brave in sharing their stories with the world, why can’t I? Indeed, why can’t you?