Every year, untallied numbers of artists and writers move to Paris from outside of France with little more than an unfinished manuscript and a handful of rusty high school vocab words. The goal? To write the Great American Novel, most likely. Or at least the Great American Zine.
But when they’re not deep in the throes of once-in-a-lifetime inspiration, they are out on the town, searching for like-minded individuals and fellow Anglophones. This is your guide to getting in with today’s Lost Gen X’ers.
Sunday evening, the Artists, Writers, Orphans, Lovers (AWOL) writing workshop meets at Shakespeare & Company. Hosted by Bruce Sherfield, the workshop begins at 6:30pm in the upstairs room of the famous bookshop. While the shop’s website says to bring 7 copies of your work, bring extras just in case, and keep your samples short, 1-3 pages max. First timers are often given priority, but if you don’t get to workshop your piece you can always come back next week and they’ll let you go first. The workshop is typically followed by a group migration to a nearby pub, for mingling and mutually exchanged compliments.
If you can’t find a printer, or just don’t feel like sharing your own work, you can head to Patrick’s Le Ballon Vert, an Irish pub in the 11th arrondissement. Patrick’s is the new home of Angora Poets, a weekly showcase of poets hand-selected and hosted by Moe “the jazz man” Seager. Poetics start at 7pm, and the event celebrates writers of French, Arab, Latino, and African background who wish to perform in their native tongue, though many people do perform in English.
On Monday night, take a trip to the Spoken Word Paris open mic at Au Chat Noir, the Parisian expat bar. Au Chat Noir (or “The Black Cat”) is a mostly-empty little bar/café during the rest of the week, but on Monday nights it gets packed to the gills with Brits, Australians, Italians, and Americans looking to share their work.
Spoken Word Paris begins at 8:30pm (that’s French for 9ish), but come at 8 to sign up. Just look for the man in the top hat–either David Barnes or Alberto Rigettini, depending on the night. Whether you want to read poetry, do standup, or play a song, you get five minutes precisely. At the end of your five you will hear a bell ringing, and the words of David and Alberto: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls–it tolls for you!”
In between each of the three rounds (about 45 minutes each), follow the mass exodus outside for a cigarette, and don’t forget to tell someone how much you enjoyed the satiric anthropomorphic rat epic they wrote for their three-year-old nephew.
Ivy Writers is a bilingual poetry night that meets once a month from September through June in various locations throughout Paris. Typically a mix of Francophone and Anglophone poets read at each event, but anything goes at this experimental poetic experience. Readings begin at 7:30pm and encourage conversation between the poets and the audience before and after the event.
If you’re looking for a slightly less stereotypical sort of Anglophone open mic, head to Paris Lit Up on Thursdays at the quirky technicolor Culture Rapide in Belleville for €5 cocktails and poetry and music of all kinds. Sign up starts at 8pm, and the evening is hosted by a rotating group of permanent expats and writers of different stripes. The only expat night featured on the ground floor of a building, this scène ouverte will give you a little more performance time and seating options than Spoken Word Paris will. The vibe is relaxed yet energetic, and the hosts and patrons eager to chat and make friends.
After a week on the grind, hit up your new expat friends on WhatsApp or your €5 burner phone and ask them if they might want to prend un verre Friday night!