Saturday at 2 pm, London Open Mic Poetry Night is launching its new monthly series called Guerrilla Poetry, to be held in the central branch of the London Public Library. This may very well be a world 1st. So come and get your name on the reading list.
WHERE: The reading will be held just inside the doors of the library proper, in the open area called Discovery Place in front of the circulation desks . The hosts of the event will wear black t-shirts decalled with "Guerrilla Poetry". The library will also provide a poster to back up the readers.
WHAT: Co-hosts Stan Burfield (email@example.com) and Joan Clayton, will sign up readers, who will read in rounds. At each reading, they will read a maximum of two short-to-medium poems. Anyone wanting to read after the event has begun can sign up at the bottom of the list. Poets can read their own poetry, or that of others. Audience members will be encouraged to find poems they like in the poetry books brought to the area for this purpose by the librarians, then sign up and read them. (We only ask that they have read a poem at least once before reading it to the audience.) This first event will only last one hour, ending at 3 pm.
GENRES: Every type of poetry is suitable, although some would definitely go over better than others. Performance poetry, by its extraverted nature, should be at home here. Any narrative poetry, with it's story-like quality, is fairly easy to follow in a reading. Many other types, however, fare much better when read more slowly than is possible in an oral reading. A bit of an introduction in these cases can certainly help to orient the listeners' minds ahead of time. Considering many in our audience will be very poetry illiterate, it would be good to introduce most poems.
TABOOS: We will have to make a couple of compromises between the wild freedom of true guerrilla poetry and the demands of our library setting. The library doesn't allow photos to be taken without authorization from the photoees. So its staff photographer will take any and all photos. Also, of course, what we read must be suitable for children. So "no profanity or very graphic violence".
WHY: The idea of guerrilla poetry is to take unsuspecting passersby by surprise. Those checking out books at the circulation desk, or wandering to or from the escalator, or youths from their area behind the circulation desk, or people playing chess to one side, or working a jig-saw puzzle, or a colouring book, people who might not otherwise expose themselves to poetry, could end up listening, becoming interested in poetry for the first time, and might even take to the milk crates themselves to read to others. (For those people, the library is bringing down a selection of poetry books and anthologies.) And to many, this will be their first exposure to the poetry open mic scene. If they enjoy it enough, they might even come out to our regular events.
This London Open Mic version of guerrilla poetry was inspired when London poet Tom Cull brought guerrilla poetry to his home town during the Nov. 2015 Words Literary and Creative Arts Festival. Several groups of readers stood on milk crates at various places on downtown sidewalks and read poetry to pedestrians. The main difference between that version and the London Open Mic one is that the new one takes place inside a building, the library, where there is no traffic noise to compete with, and which probably has a larger number of literary-minded strollers to fascinate. Also, the library, being a destination for people, has already slowed them down and opened them up. The sidewalk outside is just the opposite.