Naked poet Ernesto Sarezale interview
Erotic literary salon Velvet Tongue is back. Host Ernesto Sarezale tells us what to expect
Hosted by Erotic Award-winning poet Ernesto Sarezale, Velvet Tongue is a quarterly literary soireé dedicated to erotic writing and performance. On any given night you might enjoy a mix of poetry, fiction, spoken word, stand-up, cabaret and more - all with a saucy bent.
The first outing was back in February at the 10 Gales gallery in Bethnal Green. When the gallery closed, the event moved to Bar Kick, a Shoreditch sports bar which hides an intimate performance space in its dark basement. But there's nothing coy about Velvet Tongue. Nudity is positively encouraged, and there's an open-mic slot for punters who are feeling a bit bold and have something to share.
'For many years, I had been thinking that there was a niche for this kind of soirée,' explains Sarezale. 'I wasn't aware of any other event like this in London, apart from an erotic reading group that gathers monthly to discuss erotic books. Also, I'd had experience in organising queer poetry nights, which I quite enjoyed. But I wanted to try out something more “polysexual” and varied, including not only performance poetry but also other literary forms. Other events have also inspired me - Polari and other literary salons in London. But Velvet Tongue is closer to an event called Perverts Put Out, in San Francisco. It normally coincides with the Folsom Street Fair in September, and gives voice to alternative sexualities and lifestyles.'
Sarezale is often referred to as 'the naked poet' and has performed in his birthday suit at various venues, including the RVT and the Southbank Centre, where he caused quite a stir. When did he first perform naked, and what possessed him? 'My first naked performance was in October 2000 at a private event, an S&M-themed arty party in a Georgian mansion in Birmingham! My first public naked performance was one year later, at a fundraiser for Queeruption in a gay pub in south London. Soon after that I found myself standing naked on the Duckie stage, performing some of my poems in front of a rowdy audience. Why do I do it? The list of personal, artistic and ideological reasons behind this decision would take forever to explain. ButI can genuinely say that I do not do it as a gimmick or as an easy way of getting attention. Easy, it isn't!'
Naturally, for one so fond of getting his kit off, he was thrilled to receive his Erotic Award.'I won it last year. I believe I was nominated by a boy who now acts as one of the heads of the International Union of Sex Workers. He'd seen me perform at an associated cabaret night at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden. I'd often had this crazy dream of collecting the Erotic Awards trophy, the famous golden-winged phallus, in the nude. And my dream finally came true.'
He's aware, of course, that one man's dream is another man's worst nightmare. So what should a newcomer to Velvet Tongue expect? 'If you are there as a member of the audience, the opportunity to hear the stimulating and diverse voices of people from all walks of life dealing with intimate aspects of their sexuality. If you are a writer or performer, the opportunity to present your own erotically themed material at one of the open-mic slots. To ensure quality literary standards, I always invite three or more guest performers whose work I am familiar with and who I know are going to deliver something exciting and worth listening to.'
Is there a lot of nudity? 'Yes. At least among the performers. At the past two events, there's been a great deal of flesh exposed, including full frontal, both male and female.' Should potential performers be afraid? He laughs. 'No! They should be excited at the prospect of performing in front of a warm, open-minded and receptive audience.'