Eleven Poets Bared It All at Chez Morrígan for Poetry Nite
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A purple spotlight lit the stage area. On Aug. 28, some took the stand for the first time, with shaking hands, while others were steady, assured. What they all had in common was a show of vulnerability, unveiled through raw performances.
Poetry Nite celebrated its one month of being hosted at Chez Morrígan, a walking-distance pub from Concordia’s downtown campus.
“Our goal is to be a supportive and community-based space where it’s safe for people to have the courage to talk about how they’re really feeling,” said Malek Yalaoui, co-host of the event who joined Poetry Nite in 2017.
“Poetry has always been a venue for us to talk about our feelings,” Yalaoui added.
The second floor at Chez Morrígan slowly filled as the sky went dark. It was nearing 8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening.
Yalaoui explained that while other readings target professionals and publishing authors, Poetry Nite gives a platform that allows the discovery of emergent and local talent.
From a playful and cheeky poem about unapologetically loud sex noises celebrating love despite its inconveniences for next-door neighbours, to another about the realities and battles of Indigenous women, the performers all shared personal stories, some funny, others heavy, constantly changing the listeners’ mood throughout the night.
Djemaya, a 22-year-old poet, read “Ouvre les yeux et contemple les étoiles,” from her book l’Échappatoire Acte I, a reminder to appreciate the good and happy times despite the dark that sometimes seems too overwhelming to defeat.
Young Djemaya wrote her first poem at age seven, about her mother.
“Poetry has always been a venue for us to talk about our feelings.” — Malek Yalaoui
“I’d say that I started a lot with pain, I was hurt about a lot of stuff and I didn’t want to talk about it with my mom because I didn’t want her to feel hurt,” said Djemaya. “And I was the type of person who would never tell anybody else how I feel.”
That is why she created a stage name. “I wanted to have an alter ego. I wanted to still be me but be the side of me that people don’t see,” she said.
Djemaya danced with the words as she recited her poem, swaying from side to side, tapping on her chest with her left hand, imitating the beating of her heart.
Throughout the night, the audience snapped their fingers during performances to show their support; a less invasive manifestation of appreciation than clapping which can be disruptive and distracting. The night was full of love and it was heartwarming to see such a positive and welcoming environment.
Darcy Valentine, also 22, dressed in red, used fairytale imagery and narrative to illustrate events in her life.
The first poem she read, “I Met a Mermaid,” was about a close friend who struggled with addiction and substance abuse. It followed the narrative of The Little Mermaid, where the sea was the friend’s mother and white powder, cocaine.
“I wanted to portray her story in the way of a fairytale because it was easier for me to talk about,” said Valentine. She played with the contrast of presenting a “very dark and very alienating” issue through a universally known, “happy and magical” story.
As Valentine grew into her practice, she realized the importance of writing poetry that will be understood by the audience in the way it was intended, “by trying to put yourself in [their] shoes.”
“A lot of my writing is about imagery and when I first started out […] people would be like ‘OK, that’s beautiful, but what are you talking about?’”
Coming from a town in Texas where art wasn’t appreciated, Valentine used poetry as an artistic outlet to express her emotions.
As the evening turned into night, Chez Morrígan had welcomed yet another group of artists brave enough to read on stage and eager to share their stories, revealing such a deep part of themselves in a short few minutes.
“We’ve had trans folks who are speaking about their transititon for the first time, we have sex workers talking about their lived realities,” said Yalaoui, “obviously so many people of colour sharing what it’s like to be people of colour here in Montreal.”
Anyone wishing to participate can message Poetry Nite on Facebook. There are eight spots in the line-up and the rest of the night is open mic.
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