Striding through the rustic pub, Mary
Weems snaps her fingers and smiles. Her voice booms "I am
Lucille," says Weems, decked in black leather pants, high
heeled boots and an African vest. "There' blood on the soup
Already, the crowd at Larry's is in the
palms of her hands. About 40 people have filled tables, booths, even
a few stools at the bar, to hear Weems--an experienced performance
artist--deliver this week's dramatic poetry readings.
The only distraction is the occasional howl
from a German shepherd underneath a table. Jukebox and television
are off. Piano, pool table and arcade game sit unused.
It's Poetry Night at Larry's. Goatees and
black turtleneck sweaters are optional. Dogs welcome.
Since 1984, the tavern at 2040 N. High St.
has served as an unlikely venue for weekly poetry readings.
"It's unique. Rarely am I in a bar," said Weems, 42, the
featured attraction on a recent evening. "Mainly these things
are in coffeehouses, art museums and theaters.
"Doing performance art in a bar is
cool," Weems said. "After a couple drinks, people tend to
open up." Devotees who prefer a more casual, laid-back
environment for libraries or art houses organized the state-funded
program. This loosely organized group of poets and performing
artists received a $1,700 Ohio Arts Council grant for 1996-97,
secretary-treasurer Laura Dearth said.
Speakers generally are paid $50. Larry's
allows the group to meet at 7 p.m. Mondays from October through
Stereotypical academics sit alongside the
beer-and-peanuts set for two hours of original verse, classic
selections and occasionally raunchy humor. The range of ages is
wide, considering the campus area location.
Weems brought her daughter Michelle, 14,
with her from Cleveland. Michelle eats pretzels and doodles at a
table while her mother recites 18 poems in about 40 minutes. Most
deal with personal experiences and observations from her perspective
as a black woman in the 1990s. One imagines God in an unemployment
line. Another describes the brutal murder of a friend.
Larry's isn't alone in hosting poetry
readings. Moonspinners Cafe, 2659 N. High St., does, too. At
Larry's, there are no drink minimums or cover charge. Poetry
organizers do have a raffle, but the entry fee is strictly donor's
During the show, patrons are steered clear
of noisy pinball machines, video games or pool tables. Scrabble is
permitted at the bar.
It's a great place to relax and socialize,
says Brian McArthur, 26, who brings his 2-year-old German shepherd,
Shino, fairly often. While Shino is on a leash, McArthur has seen
dogs roam freely around the bar on poetry night.
"There's even a water dish in the corner," he said.
It was the site of McArthur's first date
with his girlfriend, Dawn Detarando, 30. On this night, Detarando
wins the weekly raffle. Her prize is a book of poems.
Some folks spend the evening writing their
own poems. Many are awaiting their turn to perform. After the
feature, the evening is devoted to open microphone. Anyone who signs
up beforehand can speak, but the limit is two poems within five
minutes. "Sometimes we have to give people the hook,"
Her husband, Colin Dearth, proposed to her
during an open microphone session two years ago. "He changed
into a red jacket and dropped to one knee," she said. "His
ex-girlfriend was there. That made it so good."