The Poetry Brothel, or le Bordel de la Poesie, is back on a regular basis to tantalize the ears and titillate the imaginations of Parisians. Far from a normal poetry reading, more of a contemporary cabaret, here poetry is taken outside classrooms and lecture halls and into the lush interiors of a bordello where “poetry whores” can give you a private reading, burlesque dancers will marvel your eyes, fortune-tellers predict your future before the electro-swing beats will have you dancing till dawn. We get a sneak peek into these unique events courtesy of one of its parisien literary “pimp”Alberto Rigettini of Spoken Word Paris.
Alberto Rigettini: I think I have a problem, or constant clash between fantasy and reality. Probably every artist has. They say writers live in a world of fantasy or they re-create a fantastic world out of reality. In my case sometimes an idea doesn’t stick on the page. I tend to realize bizarre ideas that could just remain jokes or bar chit-chats. I’ve been a poet myself and a playwright. In a kind of classic way. It was in New York that I started sneaking away from the usual theatre and literature environment and explore the incredible underworld of open mics, slam poetry, off-theatre and freak shows.
Every single minute spent in those venues was authentic. I realized that besides the good or bad quality of the performances there was something that any big Broadway production couldn’t catch. Moving to Paris 5 years ago, I entered this international artistic community who often hangs out at Shakespeare & Co and other venues. Thanks to David Barnes I started hosting Spoken Word Paris, a weekly open mic without a mic, au Chat Noir. Soon I was hosting a fight club for writers called Writers get violent. All illegal, the ring, the betting and all the fights were real, no metaphor. The struggling writers, sick of criticism would put gloves on and fight for 3 rounds.
I guess this makes a kind of CV. ‘Cause at same point the Poetry Brothel creators in New York wanted to open a branch in Paris. They were looking for somebody and they started asking around. Brothels are crossroads. One of their clients, who had just left Paris, Will Cox, in told them: I think I know a guy who could be a good poetry pimp.
AR: They already had several branches in Europe: Barcelona, Zurich, Belgium but not Paris. They wrote me during during the summer 2014. And on November 14th we opened our Parisian Poetry Brothel doors in Pigalle (where else?) actually “Au Pigalle.” Now we moved to a different venue.
AR: The Poetry Brothel is just a poetry reading. The difference is you are not forced to sit down and listen to a reader for hours. You choose how to spend your time and with whom. Of course, costumes, music and setting help the whole metaphor.
AR: We try to have the same number of French and Anglophone poets (and same number of men and women). So 5 and 5. (Some of them are bilingual or multilingual, can we disappoint a Spanish client?!?)
AR: I think it’s a rare experience. In general, even only hanging out there. But if you decide to hire a poetry whore, well… Only here you can have true persons who will read their own lines, just for you, in a private candle-lit room. It’s a very intimate occasion. I’d say, in some case, more intimate than sex.