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New face for Wellington poets

Apr 12th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

WELLINGTON’S live poetry scene will receive a breath of fresh air from April 29 when the Rusty Tongue poetry collective restart their weekly open mic nights.

The nights return to the Community Centre at 128 Abel Smith St, with many old guests and performers joining new faces.

The collective was forced to fold two years ago after attendance tailed off, but with a new set of volunteers has reinvigorated the Rusty Tongue.

Ali Nissenbaum (27), is helping to organise the open mic nights into an environmentally friendly, DIY-style event in line with the philosophies of the 128 Community Centre.

Returning members will receive hand-made personal invitations attached to mugs sourced from the Opportunity for Animals shop.

Members of the collective are dumpster-diving for coffee and baking supplies, which will be turned into refreshments provided at the events.

Miss Nissenbaum expects a significant turnout.

“How many people can you fit in this space?”

Rusty Tongue fills a niche identified by the crowd during Alex Staines’ performance at Happy bar last month.

Alex Staines, 49, (above) has been active in Wellington’s poetry scene for more than 20 years after becoming a foundation member of a group named Poetrycorp in 1988.

Mr Staines decided to begin giving readings publicly for the first time since 1995 after spending two years in isolation writing his newest volume, Seclusion Data.

He now performs regularly at Happy, and Watusi bars.

Now a technical writer for a government-run disability organisation, Mr Staines has blended aspects of his day job’s lexicon into his recent poetry.

However, Mr Staines is concerned about the future of Wellington’s poetry scene.

He says poetry has become overly formal and “academicised” by organisations such as the Bill Manhire School of Modern Letters.

“Poetry is not up for discussion.”

WELLINGTON POET: Alex Staines outside Happy Bar at his show on March 31.

Mr Staines says aspiring poets are intimidated by a perceived need to possess qualifications from a writing school before beginning to write, and regard poetry more as a professional career than a creative outlet for self-expression.

Mr Staines says this system locks out the new generation of poets.“I don’t know where they all are.”

Alina Siegfried (29) is trying to connect with Wellington’s live poetry scene to gain inspiration and find venues to read aloud her own work.

Speaking at Mr Staines’ show, Ms Siegfried says she goes to four or five readings or open mic nights a month, most of them regularly staged on a Sunday or Monday.

“There certainly are a number of different events going on in Wellington – each one is a bit different.”

She agrees with Mr Staines that poetry has become an older pastime, saying that the crowd at events tends to be “very grey haired and academic”.

Ms Siegfried says poetry is fundamentally romantic and informal in nature.

“Poetry wasn’t meant to be put down in books – it was meant to be performed aloud.”

Another patron, Torah Hamblett (32) says: “Poetry needs more personality and expression than what comes across when it’s written down.”

Ms Siegfried is excited about the chance to get involved with Rusty Tongue as a fresh, young poetry venue.

“I’m fully inspired at this point.”

Other upcoming open mic nights in Wellington include: Ballroom Cafe, April 17; Thistle Inn, Monday 18; Baobab Cafe, May 1.

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