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Poetry in Hell is not, as the name implies, meant to be an evening of eternal and insufferable poetry. But when the microphone opens at Club Hell each Sunday at 8:30 p.m. to an unpredictable assortment of poets, monologuists, storytellers, lyricists, and singers, it’s anything but a typical poetry reading.
Hostess Dee “Ranged” Snyder, who has presided over the gatherings for six months, says she’s been to a lot of poetry readings, “and they can be very boring, so you need something to draw people and make it more interesting.” She was a D.C. performance artist in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but she moved to Cincinnati for two-and-a-half years. Now she’s back in town, but she says she won’t continue performance art because she believes D.C.’s performance art scene has long since died.
“In my wild performance-art days,” Snyder recalls, “I did so many crazy things onstage with Barbie dolls, blenders, whips, and dildoes. It gave me courage and self-confidence to do anything. I reached a point where it just didn’t matter what people thought about me. And that’s the same thing that goes on at Poetry in Hell, not just for [me], but for some of the regulars who come there, too.”
Attempts at variety have brought in acoustic music performances by Date Bait’s Brian Horrorwitz, who on past evenings has performed his Spanish lounge act, complete with Mexican wrestler mask, as well as reciting Iggy Pop’s “I Want to Be Your Dog” and Mentor’s lyrics with a British accent. Snyder brags that the “semi-famous” Jonny Cohen has sung a cappella at the event.
Not everyone gets what Poetry in Hell is about, although, she says, anyone is welcome to join in. Almost anyone.
One night, two drunk Marines stumbled in unawares. After learning the program, they asked to take the mike. “I gave the drunk Marines the floor for five minutes. I let them spiel about whatever they wanted toabout how great the military is.” Hence, the event’s motto: “Anything goes except drunk Marines.”David Craig