In the May issue of ER, Sarah Vint asked why Brits felt they had to go online to confess their sex sins. I have the answer: It’s because they haven’t heard about Velvet Tongue.
Ernesto Sarezale’s erotic literary soirée had its second outing last week at Bar Kick in London’s Shoreditch. A combination of scheduled performers and open mic slots, Velvet Tongue presents itself as a show-and-tell of poetry, short stories, and sexy anecdotes. The experience swings from auditory voyeurism to just plain awkward as the degree of talent – and intimacy – fluctuates.
Sarezale kicked things off with a poem on consensual rape, written from the point of view of the submissive woman. His style and subject set the confessional tone for the evening but when it came to quality of literature, it was a decidedly mixed bag.
Eirini Kartsaki got a laugh when she asked “why do you accuse me of being vulgar, just because I say cunt instead of good morning?” but her rambling stream of consciousness eventually lost us. By contrast, Stephanie Ware had the audience hanging onto her every word, managing to be both entertaining and unnerving as Helen from Steven Berkoff’s Decadence.
It was poet Mel Jones, however, who stood out as one of the heroes of the evening with her clever wordplay and a natural stage presence. Often ironic but generally good-natured, her laughs frequently came a second or two later as the double entendre hit home with the audience. And it was no surprise when her final poem, Frig Itwhich she claimed used only the vowel i (not entirely true, but pretty close), was met with enthusiastic applause as she drew her set to a close.
Sarezale himself appeared regularly in varying degrees of undress to introduce the acts and present his own work. Despite the overactive air con in Bar Kick’s basement venue, the self-proclaimed ‘naked poet’ duly stripped off while the rest of us huddled shivering in our jackets. His understated style and easy manner, even stark naked, was a far cry from the attitude of some of his guests.
Ant Smith’s energetic set seemed rooted in the misconception that the winner is the one who shouts loudest. Half singing, half reading, his performance style was fresh and he cut a fierce figure on stage as he bellowed out his poems. But his brashness did not equate to excellence. His pieces – covering everything from necrophilia to STDs – set out to shock but in doing so, failed to truly connect.
Jet Moon was a far more beguiling storyteller, demonstrating that subversive ideas can
be delivered engagingly. Flipping the skirts of her blue dress, she drew the audience into her tale of D&S role-play, presenting even the bestial moments with a quirky charm.
Not everyone was there to push boundaries, however. Alison Brumfitt’s wry take on romance and ode to the physical made a refreshing change from some of the more pretentious acts of the evening. As her anti-love poem informed us, “I’m far too busy fucking to write sodding poetry.” Fran Isherwood openly admitted the lack of erotic content in her poems but gamely took her dress off in order to better fit in with the theme.
This inclusiveness is the beauty of the event. For some it’s a serious chance to showcase their work, for others it’s just an excuse to don thigh-high stilettos and an Armani thong and stand in front of a microphone. And all of this is welcomed. Whether by design or by happy coincidence, Velvet Tongue is the place to come to confess. And if you can do it in verse, so much the better.
Velvet Tongue. Bar Kick, London. 16 May, 19:00. £3. www.velvettongueuk.blogspot.com
Photos by Damian Robertson