Incite ‘April: the Coolest Month’ @ First Out Basement Bar

-Reviewed by James Webster

The Night

Wow. Incite is definitely my natural habitat. If you too are a queer wannabe-radical who loves his performance poetry then this will be all the fun. First Out, if you’ve not heard of it, was London’s first Gay and Lesbian Cafe (and embraces the entire LGTBUA spectrum) and has been voted Best Gay Cafe Bar 2008-2010. It’s lovely and queer and subversive and that’s just the venue.

And the event matched the venue. It was so out-and-out political, filled with like-minded people and lovingly welcoming. This, my friends, is counter-culture. This is activism. For me it felt very much like coming home. That’s not to say that if you’re not a queer radical then you won’t feel welcome, you will.

It was also unique in being the only poetry night I’ve attended to start on time and finish early, which was bemusing and caused me to miss two poets. The short length of the night meaning I felt things were over just as they’d really begun. But what there was, I liked. Maybe I didn’t love it all, but it all fit.

The Hosts

Were lovely. Warm, unpretentious, and inviting, they made a point of talking to each poet from the open mic afterwards to ensure they felt welcome. They could have been more enthused and energetic, which would have helped keep the crowd focused more on the poets than their own conversations, but for the most part the crowd’s ears and eyes were glued to the poets.

  •  One of said hosts, James, had a particularly interesting offering to the poetical proceedings with his interactive ‘Royal Wedding Extravaganza’, which he proceeded to dedicate to Quentin Tarantino and was called ‘Kill Will’. Imagine the plot of Kill Bill with the cast of the royal wedding: it’s surprising, but it works. So so beautifully did it work. From the cries of ‘Go Kate! Go Kate’ he prompted from the audience, to the yellow jumpsuit he bravely stripped down to, all the way to the hilariously inappropriate and sometimes quite astute blend of violence, filth and satire that spilled from his mouth.My initial reaction was that it was unsubtle, but effective and superbly entertaining (if not to everyone’s taste), but on reflection he wove different layers of parody together with skill, successfully satirising the monarchy, Tarantino, the circus that is public spectacle, gender stereotype and the idea of the fairytale. It was a joyous cabaret romp of pomp, Tarantino, conspiracy, royalty and circumstance and (aside from a few Diana references that were a bit close to the bone) it was surprisingly charming. And just the right time and place too.

The Features

I have to confess, I arrived late and thus missed two of the four features entirely.

  • Apologies to Ashleigh Yin Campbell, of whom Incite said: ‘Hailing from North London, Ashleigh wowed the crowd earlier this year at Incite and returns with a new extended set. An artist as well as a poet, Ashleigh brings us her philosophical take on life.’
  • And to Ciara Doyle apologies also, Incite said: ‘Ciara is from Dublin in Ireland, and has been enjoying living the lesbian life in London for the last year and a half. She works in education, and has been writing on and off most of her life. She attempted her first novel at the age of nine, and for her pains got into much trouble from the teacher for wasting a copy book – the fear has stayed with her ever since.’
  • Jordan Savage I did manage to catch, if I only saw one of her poems ‘Parly’ on the police kettles in Parliament Square following the Tuition Fees and EMA Protest. It was a poem that felt important, and coming from someone who had suffered in that protest it was poignant, touching and valiant. She used her language like a jacket, like armour pulled on around her, the way she dealt with the clash of actuality and public perception. On her wordpress you can see her other poems, many similarly political and similarly well phrased.  Her performance I felt could have done more to make her poems flow, to make them more accessible.
  • Steven Pottle gave a poem entitled ‘Raise a Glass’ an homage to Incite and the people that make it. It was a great poem for that crowd, touching on a variety of issues, a variety of things that sometimes separate, but in this venue bring us together. It was a little ‘listy’ and for what was a rallying call and toast could have been more enthused.

The Open Mic

  • Francis was first in the Open Mic, the first ‘Night Ache’ was filled with appropriately frustrating language and ‘Defences’ a nice subversion of fairytale and romantic narrative.
  • Next was Susan, who gave us two poems. One about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, an acrostic poem with equal parts pain and hope in honest and simple measures. The second was called ‘Tube’ and was a political piece on all (bankers, police, government) being equalised when crammed onto the underground carriage. A nice extended metaphor, but her performance didn’t always reflect her excellent content.
  • This was only Hel Gurney’s second performance and I can’t wait to see how this poet develops. The first, ‘Nec Femina Dice Nec Puer’, had a language all its own, mixing wild ancient classical references with mundane modern London, it played with both time, place and gender. The second, ‘Impressions’ was political but not so overtly, emotive language and common ground building community between chance meetings. It was perhaps the most traditional of the poetry on display with more defined verse structure and filled with literary references, which is quite refreshing on the London poetry scene.
  • Sudden Guest Reviewer (Dana Bubulj): James Webster was the final poet, performing his ‘What Are You Thinking’ which mixed pop culture with sincere affection with a professionalism that belied its newness to the mic.