Text: Aidan Mac Guill
Image: Jonathan Russell
Paris has long been a refuge for ex-patriate poets and writers from around the world, and that tradition continues today, just off the rue de Belleville. Past the bustling Chinese supermarket and Aux Folies bar, a famous hang-out for dreamers and drinkers, lies Culture Rapide, a wonderful cafe-bar on the corner of Belleville and rue Julien Lacroix.
On Monday nights it's the home of Spoken Word in Paris, where poets, writers, rappers and enthusiasts of language come together to perform and listen to each other. Nights are also held in Italian and French, and there's a night for 'slam' competitive poetry, but Monday is for the anglophones. Entry is free, performances start at 9, and newcomers can sign up on the night to read.
You can read your own work, or somebody else's, unknown, famous or indeed infamous. Your piece can be poetry, prose, a play or a pronouncement, the only rule being that every performer gets 5 minutes only, as indicated by a polite yet firm ringing of a bell.
If you're in need of a bit of Dutch courage before getting up to read there's a selection of cheap and tasty cocktails available for a fiver, while pints will set you back €4.20. For those who skipped dinner there's a menu of croques, galettes and crepes available for between 4 and 7 quid. Just make sure to order before the poetry starts, as the mysterious contraption they use to prepare the food is distractingly loud.
From an outsider's perspective it seems like a warm, friendly atmosphere to receive some feedback on your work, meet some interesting people, and hear some excellent local talent — what better way to spend a cold, dark, wintry Monday?
If your appetite for alliteration and assonance is not sated come Tuesday, you could always head along to 'Poets Live', a monthly evening of readings held in The Highlander Pub, near Pont Neuf. Sign up to their mailing list for information on each month's gathering. There really is something special about hearing poetry read aloud, particularly in a group. As Borges put it, "Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song."
103 rue Julien Lacroix 75020 Paris
8 rue de Nevers 75006 Paris
Metro Pont Neuf, Odeon