Editor’s Note: Please be advised that topics discussed in this piece lean towards NSFW. Reader discretion encouraged.
The Poetry Brothel returns to Salem this October for another night of decadent and wordy delights. This time the troupe is taking over Diehl Marcus & Co., and this immersive literary cabaret will fuse poetry, activism, vaudeville, burlesque, live music, visual art, magic, mysticism, and private one-on-one poetry experiences.
Joey Phoenix interviewed Poetry Brothel Madame Shari Caplan (aka “Betty Boom”) about the upcoming experience.
JP: Many people experience poetry in the written form…tell me about the lusciousness of poetry in the spoken form.
BB: Poetry is the original oral art form. To hear a poem out loud is to hear the soul speak. The music of a poem washes over you and enters your body. Our heartbeats synchronize.
JP: Is the poetry brothel actually a brothel? What sort of experience should people expect?
BB: While some of the folks in our cast do perform sex work outside of the show, The Poetry Brothel does not deal in sex – we deal in poetry! Our poets will take you into our mysterious back room for an intimate reading, where you get up close with a real, live writer!
JP: Talk about the theme for this event? Are people encouraged to dress up? Why did you choose this theme?
BB: Our theme is Samhain, which is a Celtic Harvest festival – a time to acknowledge the decay which comes after the fruiting. It’s a liminal time, when those who celebrate toast their ancestors, sit down to tea with their demons, and celebrate what’s bountiful in their lives. Our cast votes on a theme. We’re all quite witchy and enjoy being in tune with the wisdom of the seasons. This event is for those seeking to revel in the deeper meanings of the Halloween season while partying and watching people take their clothes off!
Please take this opportunity to wear your wildest, most eccentric, sexiest, most daring outfits. Lingerie, leather, bodices, tuxedos, tunics, ballgowns, body paint, vintage costumes, and more are all welcome.
JP: What’s special about the Diehl Marcus & Co. space?
BB: The proprietors, Erika and Christian, have been part of The Poetry Brothel community (which is international) for years, hosting events at their location in LA before they moved to Salem – and they are such an incredible addition to the Salem scene! They’re bringing their curiosity, style, and eye for strange beauty to the historic Bulfinch building where Diehl Marcus & Co. is housed. They’ve created a magical setting for mysticism, literature, history, and fashion to come to life. It feels like stepping back into the late 1800s with a dash of 1920s when you enter their spaces – which is perfect for The Poetry Brothel!
JP: How should one emotionally and spiritually prepare for a poetry brothel?
BB: Ooh, good question! The Poetry Brothel, like good sex, offers the opportunity for intimacy, for playfulness, for exploration, within the boundaries of consent and comfort. I would invite attendees to come with a sense of curiosity and openness, so do whatever you need to in order to arrive with an open mind and an open heart. I might also suggest reflecting on your opinions about sex work prior to and following the show – what assumptions or judgments do you make about sex workers? Most of us have internalized whorephobia and The Poetry Brothel offers a safe space for unpacking and exploring our relationship to sex work.
JP: What are some of the fun features for this event?
BB: As the veil thins, desire thickens in the upstairs rooms at Diehl Marcus & Company, where The Poetry Brothel lurks, waiting to enchant those bold enough to knock at the door to the next realm. On our main stage, poetry whores will divulge their secrets and offer up praise to the poetry gods – and to you! Indulge in the soul-expanding magic of an intimate reading with the poet of your choice in our mysterious back room.
Tarot readings and magic-infused jewelry will be available from veiled mystic Holy Crow as well as Jezmina, who educates on romani tradition and contemporary life through her podcast Romanistan.
We’ll have special guests from Salem including playmates from Intramersive, an immersive theater company headed by Carly Dwyer-Naik, as well as musical performances by Krystofer Maison, burlesque by Phoebe Flows and our own mischievous emcee, Sirena, and of course delicious cocktails!
JP: Anything else you’d like to include?
BB: An important part of our work is uplifting sex worker rights. We will be accepting donations for MASWAN. We will pass along information at the event about how to support their efforts and you can stay up to date with actions by following them @MASWAN and us @poetrybrothelboston on Instragram.
The Poetry Brothel is the brain-child of The Poetry Society of New York, but there are chapters all over the world. This event is run by the Boston chapter with Boston artists at the forefront! Come support your local creatives.
JP: Where can people buy tickets?
BB: Tickets are available through Diehl Marcus & Co. online or in store until they sell out! Snag yours here: https://diehlmarcus.com/products/poetrybrothel
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