Poetry and Beer: Head to Head Edition

This month, another loud quiet night at the Poetry and Beer. Plenty of bodies, too many of them there for drinks alone.

I get that. Sometimes I show up somewhere with an intention—eat, catch up with friends, get plowed—and there’s a band playing, or there’s an emcee battle, or, inexplicably, a contemporary dance performance. And all I want to do is whatever I came there to do, and it appears my whatevering has been hijacked.

I’ve seen several ways to handle this situation. On the patron’s end:

  • I can move away from the stage/performance area.
  • I can leave.
  • I can stay, shut up, and watch.

On the venue’s end:

  • They can direct me away from the stage/performance area.
  • They can tell me tonight is Whatever Night, and if I came just for Regular-Ol’-Whatever night, I’d be well advised to come back on Regular-Ol’-Whatever Night.

The Boston Poetry Slam does this (or at least used to). Michael Brown, though rarely a host I was happy to see, would tell the crowd, “Tonight this bar hosts poetry. If you’re not here for poetry, there are hundreds of bars in the city, some only a few blocks from here, where there is no poetry. Please go drink at one of them.” I realize this worked only because of the relationship the hosts had cultivated in the early days with their venue, the Cantab Lounge, in Cambridge.

Trouble is, Poetry and Beer is almost invariably heartier than its venue.

I think Poetry and Beer is on its sixth partner space. That’s not bad deals—it’s truly just bad luck. Seems like everyone they work with ends up closing. Or burning down. And that makes a hard sell to venue owners.

I understand why the owners at Tractor would ask the P&B hosts not to hush their customers. Of course. It just saddens me. Because look at these faces. They bought their drinks, too. And they came to listen.

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