My Trip to the Whore House

1. Anton greets you… I could hardly say goodbye. 2. Charlotte Hart getting dolled up.

I was looking forward to the event on Saturday — The Poetry Brothel’s 7 Deadly Sins: A Cinekink Afterparty — for a long time, though even as I approached the TriBeCa loft I only had a vague understanding of what laid ahead. The elevator doors opened to a panorama of violins, veils, and later, villanelles. I initially felt out of place in a t-shirt and jeans among all the leather and silk so I made my way to the nearest corner to collect my bearings.

There I met the brothel’s pimp, Anton Jünghair. He hands out tokens, or chips (just like in the old days), that you may use to access the many offerings of the house and its buskers. It’s not all about the sex poetry, as part of the brothel’s premise is to be collaborative and include as many artists as possible. Last night featured live bands, tarot cards, painters and porno (naturally). More on those later; for now I was enjoying the discussion with Anton, who claims to have the best job in the house. Apart from handling the dough, he is also able to recommend a whore for you, personally tailoring your needs and tastes towards a pleasurable experience. “I might ask if they prefer a guy or a girl, if they want something formal or free-verse,” and of course, “or whatever else you’re into.”

1. A rare glimpse into the private reading.

Chips in hand, I left Anton to scout the house and find myself a good old fashioned whore. Though the house was absent of absinth, I did manage to lubricate my mind by other means before I had my tarot read by the down-to-earth, yet spunky Melissa. I drew the fool, of course, but was happy to hear that I am not the anti-Christ nor limited creatively for 2012. Both good things to hear. Melissa loves the brothel because it makes poetry “accessible to people who normally wouldn’t find poetry.” This echoed the sentiment from The Madame, who cited the incestuous nature of contemporary poetry as one of the initial impulses to create The Poetry Brothel. Other reasons aim to find a different way to experience a reading. The traditional spaces of lecture halls and dive bars take the individual out of the audience. The Poetry Brothel offers a space to communicate with the writer and allow the reading to be an intimate conversation.

One of my whores was Charlotte Hart, a young poet from Missouri who just transplanted herself to the city a few weeks ago. I was her first John (ever!) and enjoyed listening to poetry that was…. well, it was fun! The format allowed me to react to a poem after she finished and get immediate feedback. I could request for a favorite or complex line to be read again or inquire into her writing process. For the poet, she can adjust the structure of the reading (or the words themselves) based off of the conversation with the one-person audience.

1. Madame showing off one of her whores.

For an art so intimate and personal, this was both inspiring and refreshing to experience. The metaphor of sex, while at times overstated, is true to this project’s cause: poetry is vital, shared in communion with others, and worth something. As the psychic Melissa noted, “Money is currency, someone gives you something, you pay for it.” Which is the other cool part at The Poetry Brothel — the poets get paid! The belief that poetry has value (and thus, currency) is a central ethic to the brothel and one that I’ll happily support. If that means I have to whore myself out, then John-boys get in line.

Faulkner once said that brothels make the best homes for writers. The Poetry Brothel has stripped off the cardigans of the academy and put on the corsets in an effort to make poetry accessible, sexy, and alive. Check it out. It’s edgy, it’s evocative, and it’s fun. When’s the last time you’ve said that about poetry?

The next Poetry Brothel will be at AWP next month. Get the details here.

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— Craig Moreau, author of Chelsea Boy, has just finished a book tour and is currently drinking a beer. He is interested in identity, democracy, and word-clouds.

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