Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, and Poetry at The Other Place

Engine Room #3

‘O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, Bright Smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!’
Romeo and Juliet, Act 1 Scene 1

A few weeks ago I wandered down to The Other Place to check out Bright Smoke, a monthly poetry evening on the third Friday of every month. Being a poetry fan, I was looking forward to the evening – especially as the theme on the night I was attending was ‘humour’. A couple of guest poets had been invited to read some of their work, in addition to an open mic section where bold attendees were welcome to share their own lyrical creations.

Books on a table at The Other Place
A poetic view of The Other Place
Photo by Sara Beaumont © RSC Browse and license our images

As soon as I walked in to Susie’s Cafe Bar at The Other Place I realised that I’d be joining a real assortment of people. The guest poets Rick Sanders (aka Willis the Poet) and Laurie Bolger sat together at a table, chatting to Bright Smoke’s compere, and cheerily greeting each new arrival. A couple of people had come prepared with their own works in binders, ready for their chance to share, whilst others were obviously intent on listening rather than sharing, sipping their drinks as far away from the mic as possible. With the house lights up there was no barrier between the audience and performers and perhaps they feared being roped into some sort of audience participation? One or two people had stumbled into The Other Place for a drink, not knowing that a poetry evening even existed, but decided to stay anyway.

First up were the audience members brave enough to share their own poems. Despite a little bit of apprehension they were totally brilliant! One contributor delivered an incredible ‘Middle Aged Rap’, while another gave us a riotous poem with a very literal spin on the term ‘toilet humour’. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves, and a bond of solidarity formed between us all as we clapped and giggled away at some seriously inventive pieces.

After the open mic section, it was time for the guest poets to take centre stage. Rick Sanders was up first. His style was intentionally rough and ready, and watching him pull notebooks of various sizes out of his pockets, flick through, and then deliver a clever and hilarious set of poems which seemed totally random at first, but soon wove together to create one overarching story, was extraordinary! Following Rick’s captivating act was Laurie Bolger. Her poetry took the form of anecdotal monologues. Whilst she didn’t make it clear how autobiographical the poems were, they seemed so truthful and relatable that by the end of her set we were enthralled. I didn't want the evening to end.

Chatting in the bar afterwards, everyone agreed that the evening had been totally brilliant, and we wanted to spread the word. What I enjoyed most about Bright Smoke was that it was so relaxed and informal, and everyone was welcome to attend and contribute. I even felt inspired to write a couple of poems when I got home, thinking that perhaps I might share them next time!

Bright Smoke was an opportunity for poetry lovers to come together and laugh and socialise for a few hours. Even those people who started the evening huddled in a corner were joking with the rest of us by the end. I’m so glad I went to The Other Place that evening and I think I’ll probably become a regular Bright Smoke visitor. I might even brave the open mic eventually too! Come down one evening if you fancy a bit of an unusual Friday night. It’s free, it’s great fun, and you might end up inspired by the end.

Charlotte O'Growney

Charlotte O'Growney

Charlotte O'Growney is an intern in the RSC’s Marketing department who recently graduated from the University of Kent with a degree in Drama and English Literature. In her free time she is a musical theatre enthusiast, and is looking forward to writing about the exciting things going on at The Other Place.