Shakin’ That Assonance

is a poetry night held monthly at The Surf Café in Tynemouth by Matilda Neill. It’s rather wonderful. The Surf Café does what it says on the beach-straw awning – there are surfboards on the walls, bicycles hanging from the ceiling and an aeroplane with a spotlight in its nose. Behind it is the sea, and in the beginning of September, which it is, the sun is setting over it at half 7 when the gig starts. There are boats out there. Big boats. When it gets dark they are just strings of light out in the waves and the lighthouse illuminates the cliffs. I like the sea. I like that Shakin’ takes me up there.

Tonight was the first night I shook my assonance as myself – I’ve been three or four times before but have always performed as a character (a character which has been invented, aired and honed at Shakin’, too which I owe thanks for a large role in creating him). But tonight it was me, doing poems I’d written as me, which is to say poems I’d written when I wasn’t trying overly hard to be entirely someone else. I was very nervous about this because I’d not done a fifteen/twenty minute set as me in quite a while.

I wasn’t sure how it’d gone but a couple people after told me they liked the stuff – I’d tried doing stuff that I wasn’t completely sure was good. I did this because when I watch spoken word one of the most appealing things about it is the element of risk – I like to see people taking risks and saying things they want to say rather than things that they know will please an audience – and a lot of the time I do the audience pleasing thing – I have my favourites that I know will usually work – so this time I did some brand new stuff and some old stuff that I wasn’t sure would work so well on stage (and one tried and tested one cos no-one’s perfect) – but the set felt scary, which I liked. And people said they liked it, which was lovely. In particular a couple who had just been passing by and seen a billboard advertising a poetry night and just popped in loved the whole night and that’s one of the best feelings in poetry for me. People popping in and enjoying themselves.

Shakin’ That Assonance is one of these poetry nights with an unshakeable atmosphere. This is largely thanks to Matilda’s casual but attentive hosting and the clear love and ownership she feels towards the event. Tonight there were fab sets from James McKay, Your Aunt Fanny and Finn Oak (and a guitarist whose name I’ve forgotten who did an unforgettable cover of Common People by Pulp) and all the sets, regardless of their tone or content slipped into the warm, friendly feel of the night. Like a living room, with mates, entertaining each other, but well. But you don’t know everyone. But it doesn’t matter, cos everyone seems just about on the same page. Or else that’s how it felt. I don’t want to speak for other people.

But yes, it was lovely. Go to it if you can at some point. Go and watch poetry by the seaside.

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