Loose Muse was set up a year ago by Agnes Meadows as a monthly evening at which women can read their work to each other and talk about issues that arise from beginning to describe oneself as a writer. (It is scheduled for the second Wednesday of every month.) There are always a number of men in the audience, often up to 40% – they come with their partners or just to see how women are writing at the moment – as Agnes says, "I don't mind whose £5 I take but only women can read, unless you wear a wig and call yourself Susan". Some nights there will be one reader, at others two or more and there is usually space for a few floor spots early in the evening. I heard Lucy English who read from the first of her three published novels before the break and her poetry after. Following her reading, a question and answer session addressed practical issues about writing: her attitude to her characters, how she chose where scenes were set, in what detail she worked out the plot beforehand. Agnes had first come across Lucy English when she set up a conference on performance poetry at Bath University, which poets from all over the world attended.
After Angela Dove moved Cats Night Out to the Drill Hall the café was lacking an evening predominantly for women. As Agnes says, "There are not enough platforms for women: an awful lot of regular poetry nights are very testosterone driven." She runs a number of other events but had always wanted to develop a slot specially for women. At the National Poetry Day Identity Parade event at the café, several members of the audience mentioned how much they liked the reading from Loose Muse. Agnes worked on this specially for the event with Ebele and Patricia Foster, under the title "on being asked where are you from". Up to now most of the featured writers at Loose Muse have been women she knows already, but she would like to take recommendations and broaden the range of the women who take part, although without funding she can only pay a nominal amount to participants. Ultimately she would like to apply for money to develop a series of three or four more planned performances – working with a director with "breathing space" and time to test it out. She sees the NPD performance as a step in that direction. They are getting together again in February to do another collaboration on the theme of "would like to meet" since, as luck would have it, that month's Loose Muse falls on Valentine's Day.
The Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
Poetry News, winter 2006/7