Monday, November 16, 2015

The Poetry Brothel

Last halloween I attended the Poetry Brothel's masquerade ball in the lower east side of Manhattan, and wore a glittery carnival mask that I'd procured on an adventure in Venice many years ago. I was so enamored with the scene: everything was candlelit, the poets were beautifully costumed and otherworldly, and everyone held little teacups full of absinthe in their hands. If you chose to have a private reading, you were led by a well-perfumed poetry whore, and past a secret bookcase door, into the magical poetry enclave. The scene was reminiscent of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

The next morning, I declared that I would become a poetry whore. The idea of exchanging poetry for money (as opposed to sex for money) seemed utterly and idealistically romantic. Plus the debaucherous undertones of being a part of a "brothel" made it that much more alluring to me. So I sent my sample poems, biography and photographs to the brothel. When they agreed to give me an audition the next month I was thrilled.

As I walked over to the audition last winter I was extremely nervous. I carried a shopping bag filled with the most elaborate items in my wardrobe––feathered eyelash extensions, cheap corsets, and backseamed stockings––along with copies of both of my books and printed copies of my recent poems. A few blocks before I reached the location of the audition I saw graffiti on the side of a building and stopped in my tracks. It read: "One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching." That's all I needed to get the confidence to ring the doorbell and walk into that audition.

The madame was a beautiful woman with dramatically long red hair, and a voice that was both sinful and girly. She had more confidence than the entire female population of a NYC borough combined, and sat in silence as I performed my poems. Beside her was a man who looked strangely similar to a pirate, with intense eyes and a wild energy that he barely contained. At the end they agreed to let me do a practice show and test me out. After that I performed in a few more brothels, and I can't explain how wonderful this world is. The poets I perform with are incredibly talented, beautiful, and charming. The quality of their literature would be more than enough to draw a crowd, but so many glittering extras are added in to enhance the experience. I am now nearly a year into performing with them, I perform as Genevieve Des Etoiles, which in English translates to: Jennifer from the stars. Here's my official bio:

Genevieve is a courtesan from 19th century France. At the prime of her life she met the man of her dreams - a handsome young woodworker with eyes as blue as the ocean at night. He crafted her beautiful boxes made of Malaysian Mahogany in which she stowed her most precious perfumes and love potions. The two planned to buy a boat and sail across the world, never letting their feet touch the horrible, cruel earth again. 
One fateful night however, during a thunderstorm she returned home to find one of her patrons angrily pacing the cobblestone walk that led to her front door. He could not stand that she had fallen in love with another man, and vowed - to her and to god and to the stars that she descended from - that she would never love again, if she would not love him. He placed a curse on her. She was murdered that night - drowned by him in her own bathtub that had been filled with saltwater and a single one of his tears. 
On the hundred-year anniversary of her death, Thomas Edison invented a ghost machine that brought her back to life. Now she roams the streets of New York, looking for her long-lost love, hoping he has been reincarnated too. Wherever she goes she is accompanied by her immortal pet goldfish that she rescued from a carnival, and neither of them can last for longer than 24 hours without being near a river or ocean or some body of water. She eats only caviar, drinks only champagne, and is legally blind if she is in a room that is not lit by chandeliers. 
Be warned: do not stare into her eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. It will be tempting because when you look into them you will see heaven in her earth-brown colored pupils, but if you make this grave mistake and fall into her gaze's trance the rest of your days will be doomed with the curse of the missing lover as well.

We've recently moved into the hidden lounge beneath the old Woolworth building--one of the first skyscrapers ever built in America. The history and opulence of this setting creates an atmosphere that fits perfectly with the Poetry Brothel.

Here is a random snapshot in the dirty alleyway that led to the luxurious brothel:

You can see the official photographs and bios of me and the other poetry whores here.

I'm sad I wasted so many years being shy and afraid. I wish I could go back to little 8-year-old Jenny and tell her: do whatever makes your heart race, be bold, understand how beautiful you are, and don't be ashamed to share that beauty. Understand, too, how incredible your love is, and don't keep that locked up from others. Take risks and leap off cliffs. Remember that nothing can kill the things that really matter within you. Make your life memorable. Leave a glittering tombstone, and give the biographers something juicy to write about.