The Chocolate Poetry Club’s FIRE: Community at its best – uplifting, galvanising and welcoming
“A place for writers, readers and chocolate eaters”
If you come along to one of the Chocolate Poetry Club’s FIRE events, you’ll find yourself shoulder to shoulder with London’s most eloquent chocolate appreciators. On this particular wintry Monday night, the operation is held upstairs in The Camden Eye pub. There’s a neat little windowed alcove in the exposed brick of that room, which looks down on the lights of Underworld and of the EE shop on Camden High Street, and which serves as an apt stage for an unmic’d poet.
The poetry standard is high and the chocolate tasting with the ethical Seed & Bean is a unique touch, but what’s really remarkable about CPC’s open mic party is the familial atmosphere, one that glows ever warmer as the evening slides on and the drinks continue. Both seats and performance slots are first come first served but there are featured guests too, ensuring that there’s equal opportunity for all and a panoply of different voices showcased. Here are words presented in all their multitasking power: as protest, comfort, seduction and release.
Founder Paul Point compères the event, alongside Miss Yankey and Shaun Rivers. A strong start to the evening’s poetry is laid by Kory’s Dissecting Words and Ben P’s A Darkened City, followed by a devastating piece from Derek to his brother. “Some black men turn blades on themselves…” goes one line. It’s an early highlight.
After Ratfink’s rhythmic Futurebound, Merlin takes the stage with staff in hand. His poem is so boldly and so voluptuously sensual it gets moans of approval from the audience. Hip-hop poet Repeat BP brings deft lines and speedy rhymes, before Fisky orates his heartrending Man Enough (complete with nifty reference to flying dog Falkor from The Neverending Story). Then comes Moses, a first-timer, with a short but stunning poem about the destruction that comes from loving someone cruel.
JAMEL (the name stands for “Just A Man Expressing Love”) has a breezy charisma, and a love poem to match. Another highlight comes in the form of Lancelot, whose poem Tobago Christmas Change Up is a masterpiece of childhood memory and clever structuring. Its repeated chorus sticks in the mind days later.
The first half of the evening concluded, it’s time for the gathering to vote for their favourite poet; scribbling commences and folded pieces of paper are furtively handed over.
After a break, the House Band (the in-house team) kick off the second half with pieces including Library of Skin, Grace, Poetry Bomb and Shells. No doubts here – this is an immensely talented bunch.
Mr Sol’s piece wrangles with oil mining, trafficking and the plight of the NHS. Lines like “noose ties” and “knives and no forks given” linger on. Mhairi gives a heart-breaking account of a recent personal tragedy in My 2018. Jubi, who hails from across the Atlantic, reads First Time, a laudably honest piece about his first time, as a gay man, having sex.
Kiz calls out “capitalistic bullshit” in her urgent, damning poem. When her confidence falters, the entire club calls out encouragement. The eagerness with which the group lifts one another is heart-warming. There’s a change of weight with Lantern’s reassuring piece about the glory and light of love.
Skard’s poem is pure activism: a denunciation of MPs and Brexit plans, and a call to break the mould. Fiona’s Me explores death and existentialism with simple elegance. Neven performs several short poems on depression and social conscience. Manjinder conjures ethereal imagery of glittering lights from the point of view of a teenage girl.
Sam King is next with a damming summation of the UK’s “missing father syndrome”. Broken Pen follows up with skilful wordplay – his piece describes a no-good girl exclusively in clothing and brand name puns.
Featured poet Tanaka, who won the people’s vote last time, marks a climax to the night. He explains why “barber shop” is a synonym for “therapy” and ponders what would happen If My Body Could Speak. His effortless eloquence summons such hurt and hope that it’s impossible not to be moved.
It’s time to announce the people’s vote from the first half. It’s Merlin, who comes back to the stage to stampede-like applause. Following in tradition, he will take the featured slot at the next event.
The Chocolate Poetry Club offers a compelling reminder to put away screens and surround yourself with people, to listen to their tales of otherness, and to mine them for shared truths. This is community at its best: uplifting, galvanising and welcoming. And that’s before we’ve even got onto the chocolate.
The Chocolate Poetry Club is on at changing locations on the third Monday of each month. CPCFIRE is supported by Seed and Bean Chocolate, Powered by Fairphone. For further information visit the Club’s website here.
Watch a video about the Chocolate Poetry Club here: