Thursday, November 30, 2006


…in which I get talking to a very charming barmaid in the Bar Brel, Glasgow, where I used to participate in live poetry readings every month in the late nineties:

Me: Do you still have a monthly poetry-reading event here?
Barmaid: Never heard of that.

Me: It used to happen in the little room upstairs. The readings would always be interrupted by crashing pans and plates.
Barmaid: That’s because the room’s next to the kitchen. But no, we don’t have it anymore.

Me: It’s still on the Scottish Poetry Library’s list of events. I’ll email them and ask them to delete it (I did this and it's now gone).
Barmaid: I think they have poetry readings in a café down the road. I always thought it was kind of… weird.

Me: Weird?
Barmaid: Well, you know…

Me: I suppose it depends who’s reading. It might be weird. But not always.
Barmaid: It’s just… This bar is more into live jazz and stuff. I can’t imagine poetry here (shaking head). It's a strange thing to do.

Me: It was a good event. Really. And you had jazz back then too.
Barmaid: Well, at the jazz events, we always get good sales at the bar. I expect that’s why the poetry got stopped.

Me: (speechless…)

Sounds like poetry has something of an image problem!


nmj said...

Hi Rob, I love the barmaid's candour... I am racking my brains and trying to think what Bar Brel was *before* it was Bar Brel - I was at Glasgow Uni in 80s, but I just can't recall. But there was no poetry then, I would remember that.

Aisha said...

Hilarious -- in a saddening sort of way :)

I guess poets just don't drive people to drink...not like jazz badns do.


Nic Sebastian said...

"Sounds like poetry has something of an image problem!"

You think?! Heh.

Great story.

Rob Mackenzie said...

nmj - the Brel is in Ashton Lane, more or less opposite the cinema. I can't remember what it was before becoming the Brel, although I do have a vague memory of the Brel opening. It's a very nice bar, my pub of choice on those rare occasions when I'm in the West End of Glasgow.

Aisha - the thing is, the poets did drink! Before, in the middle-break, and afterwards. But the perception seems to be that poets are a sober (and no doubt humourless) lot.

Nic - Glad you enjoyed the story.

nmj said...

hey again rob, yeah, i know ashton lane well, i lived in west end for years, but i just can't remember pre-bar brel, it is driving me crazy! . . . maybe it was unused & empty, that is poss.

Rob Mackenzie said...

It says on the Brel's website that it used to be a stable and coach house. But I imagine that was before my time and yours.

I can't remember either, I'm afraid.