Velvet Tongue, The Book Club, Shoreditch, London, Sunday 27th July, 7pm, £5/£3/free to participants
Reviewed by Sean Wai Keung [originally published on the old blog, August 2014]
The Summer edition of London’s largest ‘Erotic Literary Soiree’ took place in the basement area of the Book Club in Shoreditch, a venue which much like Velvet Tongue itself celebrates both the light & the dark, the esoteric & the casual. After a few games of table tennis upstairs, the dimly-lit basement area became crammed with those looking for a fix of literature unafraid of pushing any & all boundaries.
Ernesto Sarezale, curator of Velvet Tongue & ‘Naked Poet’, hosted the night with a great mix of humour, efficiency, & costume changes (all costumes were naturally ‘minimalist’ due to the Summer theme) – in between acts he provided tidbits of news & pseudo-journalism from a range of sources including an anti-masturbation website, allowing the audience moments of hilarity, derision & confusion in the best senses of all three words. In doing so he created a warm rhythm & atmosphere to a night memorable for the diversity of its acts.
The night began with the Featured Artists segment. One of the highlights was Pat Cash, whose spoken-word poetry was beautifully honest & personal. One of the most impressive aspects of Cash’s writing is that while he deals with topics such as what it means to be a gay man in modern society, he never comes across as preachy or secular. Through his performance what may on the surface be an issue for one portion of society is shown to be a universal topic, & an incredibly important one at that. It is a very brave thing to attempt to tackle serious societal issues through poetry but Cash dealt with it perfectly.
Another highlight was Ruck, whose use of rhythm & repetition in both writing & performance was mesmerising. Calm & subtle, at times he seemed to be playing with the audience, interrupting his own poems to say small comments or just look out from the stage for a moment before repeating the passage he had only just read. It is testament to his abilities that the audience revelled in being played with & that with each repeated action they became further entranced by his playful world.
After this section of the evening, which also included erotic & mystical tales of Orisha from Jacob V. Joyce & the dark, surreal imagery of Susana Medina’s fiction, the Open-Mic (excuse the pun here) opened up. A good measure of a regular event is the Open-Mic section & Velvet Tongue’s brought with it a true diversity of poetry & performance, from both first-time poets & regular attendees, all kept in check by Ernesto, using perhaps the greatest method of telling a poet their time is up in all London poetry. There was some weirdness, some humour, & or course a lot of sexuality- all of which combined to show the word EROTIC in a hundred different lights: sweet, viscous, libidinous, romantic, pervy & depraved were all promised on the promotional material, but in actuality there were even more terms that could have been used.
The Book Club proved to be a sublime venue for the occasion. Serving a variety of strange & delicious cocktails, the basement didn’t feel overly stuffy or hot despite it being filled with people at the height of Summer. The ceiling, covered in hundreds of lightbulbs, most of which are simply aesthetic, provided a lasting image of Velvet Tongue: even in the darkness of places avoided by the ‘mainstream’ there can be beauty, humour & surprise. The next Velvet Tongue will be in Autumn & Ernesto is already taking names down for the Open-Mic. Spots fill up quickly, & unsurprisingly so.