Halloween Spoken Word... hosted by Conor & Alexa. Report by Alexa.

The place was packed! Not all at once, but gradually more and more people came until the room was full. We had scary sound effects, even scarier MCs and Bob brought us a Jack O'Lantern before delighting the crowd with his hen-pecked hootenanny! And then, there were some serious and very moving moments. Sion read a fantastic piece about inter-racial strife and a mother's loss. Morris read from Finnegan's Wake with an eloquence that I have rarely heard before. Conrad couldn't stop making fun of his friend Jack --O'Lantern-- and had us holding our sides with laughter. The dynamic duo of Laura and Igor -- the Argentine siblings -- who read from some of their favorite novels left us hanging on our seats--Laura really brought her story to life with her kooky hat and grand gestures! Conor, of course gave us The Raven, with props and jests, and although always exciting, it's hard to appreciate Poe when the delivery is given by a man in a Mexican wrestling outfit! But Maxime was the scariest of all: for it was he of the blackness and spikes who appeared completely dressed in white, and with his hair unleashed, he made the perfect bride of Frankenstein---umm, for a guy. Neil delighted us as usual, with stories of his life and busting up Halloween pumpkins and Pauline had us howling with Tim Burton's story of a couple whose offspring looked--and tasted--like oysters. Nila was as quiet as a ghost: "I had nothing to read", quoth she, but I'm sure it's because she is thinking of her novel...good luck Nila!I told ghost stories and recounted Mexican withcraft lore, when I wasn't going on about kissing...All in all it was a grand time and although we forgot to pass out the mailing sheet, I do wish and hope that you'll all come back. The ambiance was terrific!


All together too many people to mention everyone, so this is just some of the highlights.
Oh and a request, to Sion and Conrad, any chance we could put what you read on the blog? People have been asking if they could get a copy.

Alexa, Bérangère, Conrad, Simone & Alison, Dominic

Pauline reads the sad story of Oyster Boy

The Anti-Max


Mysterious artist

Report from 10th October at The Ogre

Back for a night of sex & love after the cold and dismal summer. Captain Bob chased a moorhen through his boat with a meat cleaver, naked as the way God made him and trying out all his Kung-Fu moves. Erin brought out what really goes on in a man's mind when he's trying not to... you know. Alexa called a con a CON! among other things while Conor touched his tits and thought about when he was a baby. Neil's shotgun was only for his Grandaddy, Erica sang the story of Jack & Jill and shut us all up for a moment, Nila brought sharp sketches of People We All Know. (You know who you are.) And a reminder that November is "Write a novel in a month month" so get tapping away on those keyboards. Simona gave us heartfelt stuff about her dad and her good friend, and I snotted all over the mic'. Ewwwww! Maxime invoked Aleister Crowley. God knows what he'll do next time when the theme for the night is Halloween.
If I've forgotten anyone who read, well, it's been a while and that's all I can remember of the top of me head.
Supporting cast provided by Pablo Neruda, Roger McGough, e.e. cummings, Henry Normal ("The house is not the same since you left"), John Hegley http://www.johnhegley.co.uk/ and Richard Brautigan.

Next time it's at the Ogre again and it'll be Halloween so write or find or ransack stuff about Halloween and bring it down to the cellar at the Ogre at 8 o'clock. Edgar Alan Poe in French anyone? I seem to recall he was translated by a certain gent by the name of Baudelaire, Mr Flowers of Evil himself.
And there'll be a prize for the best Halloween get up. Personally I like to go as Jesus as he scares the crap out of me, dragging that big bloody cross around, but I can't really give myself a prize can I?


PS David Fishel - who many of you will recall from autumn and winter's Spoken Word - you know, that tall lanky guy who came down the catacombs and wrote poetry about cheese - is gonna be in town mid November with his girlfriend and they need a room to crash in - if you can help, email me.
And for your amusement, here's a video of the man himself.


You Keep Living or You Don't: On the Anniversary of Hemingway's Death, Essay by Alexander Maksik

When I was in high school I read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Nothing I’d read had so entirely hypnotized me, nothing had so seduced me. I was seventeen years old and living in Ketchum, Idaho.
I read the book for my Senior Seminar, a class taught by my father (then the headmaster of the school I attended) and a teacher I loved and admired named Tom Johnson. By the then I’d read some Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea, nearly all of his collected stories, The Sun Also Rises. I know now that I didn’t understand much of what I read. Not really. Not the way you do when you’re older. But when I read A Moveable Feast I felt something change. Perhaps it was the first of very few books that altered my perception of the world.
You don’t always know why a book moves you. But something takes hold, you give in to it, you fall. And once you’re taken, you begin to hold the book differently, you think about it when you’re away from it, you look forward to returning to it, you’re terrified you’ll lose it. Hemingway’s memoir took me; nothing I’d read before had captured so clearly a sense of place, a sense of time passing, the urgency of desire and of a sensual life.
To read the rest, go here:

Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

A recommendation from me for those of you writing children's books:
SCBWI France have their site up and running at http://www.scbwifrance.com/
Tioka, who's been organising their events, says:
"Two great events listed on there. A series with some pros talking shop and a master class with the chair of an MFA program, prolific writer, poet and cool woman."
"There's a four-part series led by published writers for 25 euros starting in October. The chair of Vermont College's MFA program is coming for a 2 part master class in November. I think that one is about 50 euros and that includes a pre and post peer critique session. Then on April 5 were having a one day conference with agents and editors. One of the top agents in the US, Andrea Brown is coming as is Rosemary Brosnan from Harper Collins. That will be a bit expensive because we're flying people in.

Tioka is no mean children's writer herself, as Other Writers' regulars may remember from back in January and February.

August cooks up a storm

And then began the whole mad swirl of poets and words, guitars and accordions and all of what was left in Paris of my mad poet friends, who sweltered in a cellar beneath the Lizard Lounge to spin tales and verse-thoughts and punchlines and songs, enough to well up around us like a drowned sea of sound. Stefanos asked to meet my mother and sang me a waltz (Thanks!) while Leah and Nila and Erica nailed down various shades of just what is hollow and wrong about tacky suburban boxes. Conor was Raven-ous (how the hell does he remember all those words?) and lent a hand as Alexa revenged herself on the Lawn and remembered Getting It in Mexico. Neil's beautiful bottle-green jacket was as elegant as his poetry was understated and true, Bex bit us with laughter and Pearlie shone, while anonymous lost 18th century wisdom from a toilet wall illuminated the night. And a good bit more besides.
When I left, Conor had grabbed the guitar and was singing with a mad gleam in his eye.
Pics will follow.

A New Suit by Neil Uzzell

Last week I bought a new suit.
I've only worn it once,
but I think if I put it on
It could start wearing me.

So it hangs there,
in the closet.
gathering dust.

Before I bought it,
I stood there in the dressing room mirror,
staring at the young man
my grandmother admires
on the Sabbath Day.

Sure it looks nice,
it fits perfectly.
and I've always wanted a suit.
Black, with white stripes,
a skinny black tie.

the saleswoman
thought it looked good.
She even made a point
of coming in the dressing room
and showing me how well it fit at the inseam.

But now,
it's Sunday morning around ten o'clock.
I can already hear the alarmclock
homogenizing my dreams.
And I feel the new neck tie
cutting off my circulation.
Worst, I can see the porcelain smile
I'll be wearing tomorrow at 7:30.

Last week, my friend said,
"Man, you've got to quit that shit!"
And to that I responded,
"I have to pay the rent."

Breaking for the summer

Last Spoken Word... jusqu'à la rentrée.
Thanks all who came - a cracking night. Maybe Conor's last one too as he's off to Korea. Who will forget his audience-participation rendition of Poe's The Raven? Poetry in 5 languages last night which must be some kind of record. Good to see a lot of the regulars and some new and old irregular faces too. Running these things is like having a party with loads of your good friends and I'll miss it in August.
Farewell to Norma and Denis too who're moving to Boston.
If only more of you would follow Nila's example and get tied down here to a French guy or girl.
For those who aren't leaving Paris, we'll be back some time in September.

Bitter Valentine by David Barnes

Last year I sent you flowers
But this year – none of that crap
This year I sent you
A Venus Fly Trap

You gave me your heart
Now you’re asking for it back
Well I’ve cut it into pieces
And I’ve fed it to my cat

I used to send you roses
Now the only rose you’ll get
Is a red rose dyed in hamster blood
With a message from the vet

Oh my bloody Valentine
I’ll send you chocolates in a box
Chocolates laced with laxatives
And small bits of my socks

I’ll sign the note "Anonymous"
So that you won’t suspect
You’ll just eat them all up greedily
And then they’ll take effect

And if I hear you’re suffering
I shall pray that you get worse
For this is not a love letter
It’s a Valentine’s Day curse

And if I seem a little heartless
Then you’ve correctly understood
This is the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre
I don’t wish you any good

This letter that I’m writing
Is written in poison pen
The love I had for you is dead
And it will not live again

It will not rise like Dracula
Nor hideously laugh
For this is not a love poem
It’s an ep-i-taph

4th July

A cracking night, thanks all who came for making it that. Over two hours of continuous poetry and song, broadcast by phone to Norma in the Alps - we should put one of these nights out as a podcast. Naomi's last night since she's off to England to get rich. To give you just an idea of some of what was read: American greats included Whitman, e.e.cummings, William Carlos Williams and Ginsberg. Alexa had rerservations about America, but not about kissing. Neil spun out a story the way only he can. I did my fastest ever poem. Erica was all paper hearts for Jack & Jill. Stephanos loaded his dice and revealed he knew that everybody knows.
Sadly missed: Conor & Gideon.
For those still around there'll be another Spoken Word at the Lizard Lounge in July before we break for summer.
Photos: Naomi Wood, Neil Uzzell, Colin Joseph Wolfgang Mahar, me.

Photos from 4th July reading

6th June at L'Ogre

So. The Spear Danes in days gone by and the kings that ruled them had courage and greatness. The Ogre, that mead hall held in high esteem, a fine house wherein to hear the tale of Grendel told on Woden's day.

But aside from a fragment of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem, what did we have? Forty plus people at the bottom of the stairs, stories, poetry and song. Neil and Alexa's stuff I really liked, Alexa's Cinderella and the big bad wolf is posted below somewhere. A fair number of dirty limericks, such as:

There once was a man from Kanass
Whose bollocks were made out of brass
in stormy weather
he'd clack them together
and lightning shot out of his ass

There was a young girl from Hanoi
Much hornier than any boy
She went to the florist
and met a sex tourist
whose butt she explored with a toy

Erica, Alexandra and Stephanos broke into song & music depsite Erica's cold.
Stephanos had us passing the mic around and improvising verse to a song about Georgie Boy, who I think came to a bad end. And a good time was had by all.

If you've not seen it check out this clip from a film about George Whitman & Shakespeare & Co.
Full film:

Photos from the night follow.
Cheers, all.

Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, and hang on for the ride.

Neil Uzzell discovered at the bottom of the stairs

The calm before the songs..

Light breaks through the sole window in Stephanos' cell.

Maxime doing an intense bit of Aleister Crowley which unfortunately lost me in a tangle of obscure gods. Very intense though.

Once upon a time.../Cinderella and the big bad wolf (by Alexa)

You beautiful tattooed bastard
The moment we met --bam!-- couldn't stop thinking of you
Damned if I did, damned if I didn't...round and round it went in my head
Couldn't decide better--with or without?
Going that extra mile
To your house
In the snow

This Cinderella's coach was a big shiny Harley
Prince Charming and me rode all night
Up and down the long wet highway
Going "oui... oui... OUI!!!"
all the way home

Cinderella turned big bad wolf when the fences went down
I blew and I blew--but I couldn't make your house come
when all the fences came down new fences came up
the longer I stayed the more your ego filled the room
suffocating me
I killed a fantasy

(Shoulda stayed home...)

Interesting Times for Generation Zed by David Barnes

These are interesting times for generation Z
Descending to the Underground
You pick up what is said
There’s a tension in the news today
That’ll tear your nerves to shreds
As the suicides all take their seats
Seven bullets to the head

These are interesting times for generation Z
The skies are full of aeroplanes
Screaming overhead
Scattering plutonium
More poisonous than lead
I know they’re bombing someone
Terrorists, they said

These are interesting times for generation Z
This spaceship Earth is ticking
Like a timebomb in my head
We’re dictated to by autocue
And we take it all as read
We’re eating glass and anthrax
Like we eat the lies we’re fed

These are interesting times for generation Z
Four horsemen were approaching
And this is what they said:
"It only costs indifference
So despair and turn your head
Distract yourself with toys and games
While the sun sets bloody red
And if what you see offends you,
Put out your eyes instead."

These are interesting times for generation Z
So dream on televisionaries
And follow where you’re led
Stuff yourself with prozac
Til you can’t climb out of bed
Buy yourself an alibi
And join the walking dead

This poem was partly inspired by the climate of fear parts of the press and the UK government seemed keen to promote after the London bombs two years ago, as well as the Iraq war. The seven bullets to the head is a reference to the shooting of the entirely innocent Jean Charles de Menezes by police, while being restrained so that he couldn't move. At the time the police authorities put out a lot of lies to excuse his shooting, which have since proven to be entirely false. (Such as that he ran away from police.)
It's a bitter, angry poem.
"May you live in interesting times" is - as all Terry Pratchett fans know - supposed to be an ancient curse.
"Generation Z" is Hunter S. Thompson's label for the current generation of Americans growing up in the shadow of 9/11, the first generation predicted to have a lower standard of living than their parents - but let's broaden it to all of us - it has a good apocalyptic air of finality to it.
The poem is also heavily inspired by Adrian Mitchell's To Whom It May Concern (Tell me lies about Vietnam.) http://www.geocities.com/marxist_lb/Adrian_Mitchell.htm
I would hope though that this is not a despairing poem. It's an intensely sarcastic call to action - these remain interesting times. A damn sight more interesting than computer games or prozac.

Vaishakh (Buddha Pournima) by Maxime

"As all of life’s a tragedy
There’s no more point in choosing –
The greatest moments of our lives
We’ll all soon end up losing.”

Thus spake the Buddha, then he danced
Into the funeral pyre;
And all his devotees, entranced,
Watched him as he expired.

Then came a breeze to blow the flames
And ashes all away,
And Buddha danced within the wind;
Oh how his hips did sway!

And the devotees watched and laughed
’s he swung and did not tire,
And laughing still they then got up
And danced into the fire.

Maxime comments: I guess the format is my favourite one: a very square one, in all respects. But then again, Gâutama was quite a square person.

My father rented an owl (+other shorts) by Conor Quinn

My father rented an owl for some goddamn reason. He set it up in the kitchen and we watched it for an hour as it swivelled its head and glowered at us with angry round eyes. It did little besides that. One by one we left the room.
My father lingered the longest, trying to look like he knew what it was for. He sat and read the papers and smoked, waiting for it to start. Finally he began to look at us angrily, like we had brought this useless animal into the house. I don’t even think he returned it. It might still be up in our attic.


I woke her by muttering in her ear and pressing my thumb against her temple. After a twist and a groan the eyes on the front of her head opened and begin looking at my face. I giggled and bound off the bed. The glacier floor sent a ghastly freeze up my spine. I murmured a little prayer to my penis, floating over my head, and then the cold toad slinked off of my toes and everything fell into place, ready to push forward.
She followed me out of the bedroom as I descended from the landing. There were no limits to my black heart. It had devoured the universe.
At the foot at the stairs I paused to sniff the roses stolen from her mother’s grave. The damp dawns of her departure lingered within their tightly folded petals. Their silent bobbing stalks nodded in assent, confirming all I did was right. No more fireworks now, just the slow nibbling forward.
As I prepared a special meal I heard her move above then descend the stairs with deliberate steps.
It was Shakespeare’s birthday, I told her. I suggested we eat cat food to mark the occasion, then get drunk and walk around. She thought this was laughable. What would people think?
I had other suggestions, but they all began with drunkenness. She understood and yielded her consent. I cracked open a fresh bottle of vodka and we passed it back and forth like a sacrament. When it was finished we flung open the door and lurched out into the morning.
Someone caught my eye, we locked gazes for a moment, then I broke away and moved my eyes to an innocuous spot. Then I frowned. Then I told her how I felt about the Nazis. Then we visited a war memorial. Then they visited other local sights: the flower market, the lake, the home of a child molester. Then we each bought two litres of cheap cider each. Then we trespassed the grounds of a girls secondary school and drank the cider as the moon rose. Then I had to throw up. Then we visited her friend but his mother wouldn’t let us in. Then we walked two miles home.


I bought some meat from the local supermarket the other day. I never buy meat, I’m not sure how to cook it. I’m always afraid of catching salmonella or something so I always burn it to a cinder. It’s hard to eat but I’d rather be safe than ill, you know what I mean?
So I was getting a lump of beef and some spuds and other vegetables. When I got to the counter I smiled at the checkout girl. She smiled back and said "Good evening."
“Good evening," I said, "do you ever touch your tits and think about when you were a baby?" She didn’t hear me properly so I had to repeat it. When she understood she went red and pretended like I wasn’t there. I kept smiling, waiting for her to answer but she wouldn’t.
After I paid I waited at the door, staring at her but she avoided my eyes. I left feeling offended and swore never to shop there again.


I swear to all heaven, the whispering fictions I gather to adorn your waning memory will never bewilder, like the logic of poetry, nor will they clothe your feeble wonder in the fatal organs of delusion. They will only raise your passion for communication, or lay to sleep the pain of self-preservation.
Add to this the abundance of vile beauty and the miserable rhythm of language, and a fossil of security will hold together the naked corpse of your being. Your famished instinct for manifold error slinks off to twist the roots of solitude.
But, no matter what mysteries we intone, the evolution of experience will exhaust all song and fiction. The seclusion of wisdom no longer saves, it only watches.


HERE we are at the gates. Low houses decorated with a black enclosing wall. Our horses’ hooves sink deeper into black things above a city of coal. The land follows a lacework of which follows a fire. The gloom of barricades where fighting must have been destroyed, after fire and all-pervading ashes. We are at one with the ashes, which make our faces tingle.
The leaping dreams; the sky glows; fragrant hunters command. The soft doorway dreams. This wild regret moves a few straggly beggars snivelling in the stale material of curious debris, binding and formed of the double triple gates. Colossal black mass of ruins. A city of barricades where fighting is all that is left. We are wading, stepping upon the corners of an infinite labyrinth of all-pervading relics.
I hurtle through the ruins of this life we all have adopted. It is no accident that modern education does not teach us the true aspect of life. O they aren’t interested in anything less than regret. I laugh and I cannot leave town.
Behind this bare song, I sit. Does the cold flame strive? Sky tight and empty, quick sparrow. The blunt shell spinning, supple but loose. Angry, she bubbles, with pink pools. The weary fox soars when leaden seagulls command. The queen crawls. The monk comes to the water.
Path gnarled and dismal. Not dismal, not gnarled, I speak.

Good Morning by Nila McCann

Good Morning!
What’s so good about it?
Is it good because you said so?
I hate mornings!
What if I don’t feel that way?

Why doesn’t anyone say…
OK morning or
bad morning or
average morning or
hungover morning or
‘I’m sick of mornings’ morning?

The truth about waking up sounds more like:
Hell is the sound of my alarm clock morning
I wish I were still in bed morning
I quit mornings morning

At work we could all just admit:
I hate Mondays morning
I haven’t had my coffee yet morning
Do I have to go to work today? Morning

Or honestly ask each other:
Why do you care? morning
You don’t care? morning
I don’t care! morning

The awkwardness we’d avoid if we’d say:
Let’s just fuck morning
I don’t want to see you again morning
It doesn’t happen to other guys morning

Think of how honest it is to simply say:
I cheated on my taxes morning
I slept with your wife morning
I lied to you morning

Or the stress we would relieve if we could say:
I don’t love you anymore morning
I never loved you morning
I want a divorce morning

Fuck it !! Let’s just skip mornings altogether!

Good afternoon

21st May at The Lizard Lounge

That was one of the best nights we've done yet. So thanks everyone who came. Three rounds of poetry, each about 8 short slots of 2 poems/5 minutes... but with some longer exceptions such as Xander's moving story (We Walked Slowly Among The Lemon Trees - you can read it on his blog follow link on the right) and Lucas' blistering response to T.S. Eliot's Wasteland. A good range of stuff too, from the more beautiful spoken word stuff to sharper, funnier performance poetry such as Nila's and Lucas'. Gideon also read for the first time. Nila read a published piece in the vein of Good Morning. And of course Erica sang - blew everybody away - even drew in Cesar from the bar to listen. Really enjoyed it. Drank too much. Was up till late composing dirty limericks with Maxime and Conor. What more can you ask for?

Ink is blood by David Barnes

This is a kind of declaration or manifesto about writing, about it being a deep aspect of who I am. About choosing to write. (Do you choose? Perhaps only in the same sense as you choose whether to be yourself.) About the sense of untapped potential that could be unlocked. About confidence in its fulfilment.

Ink is blood

Ink is blood that courses through the arteries of the mind containing all colours within its darkness
Flowing in search of light and release to the rhythmic pulse of the heart
Words are shorthand for experience and imagination
A currency of vision and desire exchanged without loss
Words are the seed crystals that drop into the jar that contains the soul and expand into fractal mosaics
They are lights in the dark
Syllables that touch off recollection of other voices, that re-ignite un-memories in the inaccessible corners of the heart

When I was born I drank a cup of black ink and now I bleed words
My mind is full of words and photographs of unreality
And I can see there is a wall of water coming
I know it by the pressure in my ears
By the sound of the shore
By the harmonic vibration of every water molecule in every cell of my body in sympathetic echo
There is a wall of water coming and it will break in the mind
These tears that trace the outline of my face are only the first brimming over of the flood
The false breaking before the wave comes.

Going underground

The Subterranean Poetry Club holds its first meeting

... somewhere under the 14th arrondisement. The square cut stone tunnels like some tomb, some long dead corridor in the soundless heart of a pyramid. 18 of us made the descent, 18 of us made it back, through a hole in the wall of an abandoned railway tunnel. So many junctions, so many twists and turns. Without a map we'd have been lost. Water sometimes deeper than our boots, how long has it been trapped down there? Spoke to some other spelunkers who were going to La Chateau - discovered a castle carved out of rock. In La Plage before a fresco of a Japanese wave we halted. David Hawkins retold a folk ballad, spoke of murder and that elusive almost perfect crime. We invoked The Hollow Men. Ink was blood and it was Interesting Times for Generation Z. Joy, Deb and Danny spoke in terrifying sinsiter unison. Conor let loose the dogs of war, by owl light. The Fifth Dentist plied his trade. Maxime made as if to endarken Buddha. And more. All by soft whiskey light, the smell of candle wax, its hot burning drip on the hand.

Thanks to Danny and Peter for the photos.

Deep underground performance... David Hawkins takes the stage

Watery darkness

The flooded labyrinth

Holes, tunnels, La Chateau