Bang Said The Gun is billed as a poetry night for people who don’t like poetry. To be sure, punters expecting cap-wearing Robert Frost types politely discussing the iambic pentameter will be sorely disappointed: this gun packs a mean punch.
The night is set every Thursday in The Roebuck, a pub resembling a 19th century train-station café with an inexplicable menu (what the hell is a terrine? Do normal people know what a terrine is?). Bang Said The Gun is relegated to an upstairs area with tiny rickety tables which soon start to wobble precariously each time a round of applause breaks out. The place is packed. Dan Cockrill, hatted and vested, comperes the evening with the humour and finesse of a lithe badger. That was a compliment. No, honestly.
Contemporary poetry has long moved on from the traditional open verse popularised in the 18th and 19th centuries. Structures have become increasingly similar to slam, with greater emphasis being placed on rhythm, structure and meter. Performance poetry is different from poetry designed for print; there is little time for the audience to digest the finer nuances of each work, so pieces need to be fundamentally appreciable for its phonetic qualities. The result is that a lot of what resonates from the stage follows a similar ‘rat-tat-tat-tat’ tempo. This is pretty cool to begin with, but three hours in you’ll be willing to murder for some variety.
Having said that, the vast majority of the acts at the opening night were genuinely talented poets and performers, which, in my experience, is not always a given around London’s budding poetry scene.
Peter Hayhoe has both a fantastic sense of slightly self-deprecating humour and an impressive beard. Emma Jones is a performer as much as she is a poet; her poems address pertinent social issues with a delicacy somehow entirely devoid of pretentiousness – extra bonus points for rhyming ‘vag’ with ‘Nikki Minaj’. Headliner Hollie McNish is an eloquent and elegant writer; her work centres on a candid discussion of motherhood and marriage and I’ll be damned if anyone has ever made an asparagus seem more erotic.
Bang Said The Gun offers more than a sequence of professional stand-ups. The night is peppered with ice breakers, audience participation (though not the scary kind) and a deviation to the amateurs. The Raw Meat Stew is the weekly open mic spot, and boy does it live up to its name. Everyone started somewhere; yet, while it is great to see the budding of a promising talent, it is also fascinating to observe the inexplicable combination of extraversion combined with an utter lack of interest in poetry. In a way this explains the popularity of televised talent shows.
Poetry has long lost its stuffy, contemplative image. This is post-poetry, a contemporary way to communicate to an audience; part rhythm and rhyme, part stand-up comedy. Occasionally hit and miss, but beautiful in the rawness around its edges. No better place to start than Bang Said The Gun.
Bang Said The Gun runs from 8pm every Thursday at:
50 Great Dover Street
Entrance price is £5