Walk into the Light Club Lamp Shop on any night and you’ll be greeted with an immediate sense of serenity.
The intimate space, with its dark wooden bar counter and lamp-lined walls, stays quieter on most nights than its adjacent older siblings, ¡Duino! (Duende) and Radio Bean. But on Monday nights, the quiet calm of the Light Club Lamp Shop is underlied by a contagious effervescence of creative energy. These days, something new and very much alive has brought even more light to the lamp shop: poetry.
A new spoken word event, free and open to the public, has taken over Monday evenings at the lamp shop. This weekly convergence of poetic minds is known as Lit Club at the Light Club, and it is the brainchild of UVM junior and writer Addison Bale.
The event, a spoken word open mic punctuated by featured performers and the occasional drink break, is a collaboration between Bale and Lee Anderson, the mastermind behind Radio Bean, the Light Club Lamp Shop and ¡Duino! (Duende).
“I don’t think it’s always the poetry bringing people in,” Bale said. “I think it’s more the night itself — the whole atmosphere. That’s more important to me than any one poem.”
The atmosphere of the night is entrancing. The venue itself, its walls and ceiling covered in lamps of all shapes and sizes, holds a certain magic. There are no stark spotlights, and the onstage microphone is kept at a comfortable enough volume that every poet seems to be not so much performing as sharing — opening a conversation with an eager and attentive audience.
The schedule and format of the event, with its five-minute sets and weekly featured poets, is modeled after a similar event held at Au Chat Noir in Paris, the city that Bale recently called home for four months. He cites the poetry open mic nights of Au Chat Noir as having an enormous effect on his sense of community and connection while abroad.
“I moved to Paris alone, and I was never alone,” he said. “[Au Chat Noir] was formative for me.”
Upon returning to the States, Bale said, he felt compelled to create a scene reminiscent of the one he had left behind in Paris. He set his sights on the Light Club.
“The intimacy and quirkiness of the Light Club lends itself so well to a creative environment,” Bale said. In July, he pitched his idea to Anderson, a lover of poetry whose restaurant, ¡Duino! (Duende), is named after poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous Duino Elegies. Anderson agreed to oversee and provide a venue for the event. With a venue in place, Lit Club at the Light Club was born.
In September, with the return of college students and summer travelers, the event took off. In a short time, it developed a solid reputation amongst the Burlington literati. Although at first Bale and Anderson had to often reach out to poets they knew in order to find each week’s featured poets, Bale said that things have since changed.
“Now, featured artists contact me,” he said. “Traveling artists hear about us now, mostly thanks to [local publisher] Ben Aleshire and Honeybee Press. Ben’s been coming out to support us and then spreading the word.”
The diversity of poetic styles at Lit Club flourishes in its environment, which is one of empathy, acceptance and eagerness to listen. Bale works hard to keep it that way. He insists that performers stick to roughly five-minute sets and that they “keep it to the word, and keep it poetic.” But he does not discourage people from expressing themselves boldly and unapologetically.
“Sometimes people are provoked by another person’s work, and feel compelled to share their own work. And that’s kind of the idea,” he said. “Every now and then, you just get these moments of magic.”
With the welcoming atmosphere, diversity of styles and voices and consistently friendly faces, Lit Club at the Light Club is the hip new kid on the performance poetry block. Poets can sign up for a five minute slot by coming at 8 p.m. or slightly earlier.
Whether you’re looking for a place to share poetry or just to sit quietly, have a drink and listen, Lit Club is the new place to be. More information can be found on the Lit Club’s official Facebook page.