Summin's appnin in poetree!
I'm not sure if this is the case nationally, but there really is a revival of interest.
The Imp, Fireside Lounge, Hen 'n' Chicks, Murenger and Mozart's : these are just some of the grassroots venues where you can go along, listen to top poets perform and join in with the Open Mic.
In the past couple of months I've witnessed it first hand.
A lively and entertaining celebration of the late lamented John Tripp at the Fireside Lounge in Bargoed was as eclectic as it comes.
Organised by the enthusiastic and determined Julie Pritchard ( who also founded Rhyme & Real Ale sessions in Cardiff) the night comprised reminiscences of Tripp, songs from Cor Cochion and Jamie Bevan, Tripp's own work read by friends and poems about and inspired by the man from Bargoed.
Atop a small restaurant in the Valleys town where Julie lives, the Fireside is a monthly event, like most of these. It's cosyand friendly and you can even chomp on chips to the rhythm of the stanzas.
Like Julie, Alan Roderick at the Murenger in Newport is a poet and prose writer and consummate performer.
The Murenger often invites guests along and the venue is an old pub with excellent organic ales.
The difference with this event is that any money raised goes towards the running of the former Stow Hill library and this gives it a real sense of purpose and edge.
I like the eccentricity of so many of these places : astounded couples out for a meal suddenly asked if they want to read and the reading-spot at the Murenger right in front of the toilet door : both convenient and inconvenient at the same time!
Poetry evenings at the Hen n Chicks in Abergavenny has been going for longer than any of the others and is a tribute to the wide-ranging taste and sheer love of poetry of the organiser Ric Hool.
Although it's more seasonal, it's also one of the best places to read, with a receptive audience guaranteed and 'craic' to go with the choice of real ales.
At Merthyr's Imp (Imperial Hotel...not so grand, but very homely) we've had guest writers for many years and we're now giving longer spots for regulars to read their work.
I have to admit that, at times, I almost gave up. When even our National Poet failed to draw in the crowds I despaired.
However, in the last months we have been 'eavin'.
Extraordinarily, our Open Mic. slots have featured poems from an 11 year-old from Abernant ,Rusiru and a sixth-former from Builth Wells, Nia : both read their moving poems with such confidence.
For Owen Sheers visit in February we were invaded by a bus-load of writers from Aberdare and also members of the local history society. Sheers's poepies (work that one out) were also in attendance.
Despite all this, there are still reminders of when I was editor of 'Poetry Wales' back in the 80s : envelope after envelope falling on my door-mat from poets who clearly had never read a word of contemporary verse.
What is it with some poets that they think they can write without ever buying books or magazines . How do they think poetry will survive?....on a practical note.
Howl at Swansea's Mozart's defies the odds.
It actually looks as though it has been shut down and is waiting to be made into student Lets, like the rest of Uplands.
Yet, venture into the dark bar at the back and you'll find a veritable poetry sanctuary.
A real microphone and a youthful audience, it is surrounded by posters of the giants : Ginsberg, Plath, Whitman and, of course, Dylan Thomas.
Here the real ale is in bottles, but the Gower Gold is a winner.
Swansea has always had an exciting poetry scene and plethora of talent : I recall the nights Nigel Jenkins used to organise at the No-Sign Bar as an inspiration to everything that's followed.
There's still ample time to feel the depths of disillusionment.
As an organiser, I've a mental list of excuses at hand - 'There a clash with a play down the road at the arts centre.' ( long closed) and ' Nobody ever comes out in the sun/ hail/snow/....or when it's too cold!'
As a visiting writer I'm always prepared to shrug off a situation where even the organiser can't be bothered to turn up , or (as happened at a pub in Brecon once) a case of mistaken identity,when posters advertised a reading by Neil Jenkins (then full-back for Wales rugby team).
Yes, it's happening and the age of social media has created an impetus.
Conversely, it's really gratifying to get out for a night away from those 'dot dot machines' ( as a builder friend calls them).
If only some young poets wouldn't read from their mobile phones!
for Alan Perry
In Mozart's,still howling,
still holding out among
'For Sale' and 'To Let' signs.
Below the stripy, dingy canopy,
by scrawled messages and barely
any light to follow lines.
'One time Ginsberg fell completely
from the wall, the blu-tack
gave way!' you told me.
Ginsberg with red lipstick painted on,
as Dylan stayed firmly
and Plath began to peel slowly.
Soon she bent her lovely head
and dived to the bar's dusty floor.
'Who'll be next?' everyone said.
Walt with long, white Viking hair
like the namers of this city,
simply collapsed in a heap.
It was too much for the greats,
bards with rhymes and raves ;
though they were never trodden on.