Thursday evening saw the first of a monthly poetry evening called Rage into the Night at St Gaudy Café, Prenzlauer Berg.
Unlike most poetry events in Berlin, this was not a Poetry Slam – which tend to be open mic competitions with a strong focus on performance – but an altogether more sombre affair featuring a line-up of four quite well-known poets.
First up was Will Carruthers, a poet-musician who is mostly known for playing bass in the bands Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Despite his Chesterfield roots, Carruthers is very much a Hackney type – from the way he wears his tilted hat along with a blazer and jeans combo to his gruff cockney voice. In keeping with the whole trendy East-London thing, he read his poems from an Apple laptop.
His first few poems – about the end of the world and different places he has slept in – were uninspiring. (His claim that there is a poetry in place names is true, but only to a certain extent). His poetry, almost prosaic in style, really came to life with a couple of poems based on his experience of meeting his father for the first time and then hearing of his death. He also read a doggerel with flair towards the end of his performance.
Odile Kennel, a published Franco-German poet, fiction writer and translator living in Berlin, followed Carruthers. Her mellifluous voice and calm, concentrated air contrasted with his performance. As these poems were in German and French, I don’t feel qualified to comment on them, except to say that she was hypnotising to listen to.
Next up was Catherine Hales, a British poet and translator living in Berlin since 1999 who has recently published her first full-length collection titled Hazard and Fall. Her poetry is dense and full of meaning, and, judging from the selection she read, she leans toward the non-linear and the sonnet form. She read some pieces from her new collection, which incorporated contemporary cultural references such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dexter. Because of its complexity, her work is probably better read (and re-read) rather than listened to once.
On the other hand Martin Jankowski, with his charming character and booming voice was made to perform. He is another Berlin-based poet and writer and although many of his works were banned by the Stasi, his work became popular in the days leading up to the fall of the wall. He read his poems in English and German, although I’m not sure they worked as well in English as they did in German. He ended the night on a high-note by performing one of his poems along with Carruthers, which sought to answer the question ‘What is it like to have Malaria?” (You had to be there…)
The next Rage into the Night is to be held on 3rd June, but keep an eye on the St Gaudy Café website for details.