Words from the soul: Peerless Poetry night puts local talent in the spotlight
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Jan 11, 2014 | 7550 views |  0 comments | 104 104 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dea Love’ performs during Peerless Poetry After Dark, an event she began with Flenardo Taylor to give artists a local outlet. Photo by Deirdre Long/The Anniston Star
Dea Love’ performs during Peerless Poetry After Dark, an event she began with Flenardo Taylor to give artists a local outlet. Photo by Deirdre Long/The Anniston Star
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It’s a Tuesday night at Anniston’s Peerless Saloon and Grille. Dea Love' stands on stage in a black dress, singing a song about love and freedom. A streetlight just outside the window casts a halo on the glass front of the building. A man steps in through the side door next to the stage and heads toward the bar, but stops to admire the song. Love’ smiles wryly at him before wrapping up her performance, part of the opening set of Peerless Poetry After Dark.

“Y’all look nice tonight,” she coos into the mic. “Give yourselves a hand.” The crowd showers her with applause.

Love’ is one half of the duo behind Poetry After Dark, pairing up with Flenardo Taylor on his search for a way to promote poetry and music and give local artists an outlet that doesn’t require a trip to Birmingham or Atlanta.

“We realized we needed a spot for poetry and singing in Anniston,” Love’ said.

Taylor serves as the evening’s emcee, introducing acts and moving the night along. He calls to the stage Taomi Ray, a substitute teacher from Gadsden who also models and acts. Ray plugs a program she created that collects children’s books to promote literacy then performs “Make It Better,” a rapid-fire poem about perseverance.

“Spoken word gave me a stage that didn’t require me to go off to Hollywood,” she said later.

Another regular, Krystal Bost, steps up with an acoustic guitar and performs an old PJ Harvey song. From the audience, Love’ picks up the second chorus, and by the end the crowd is singing along with her.

That’s the heart and soul of Peerless Poetry: a seemingly effortless communal vibe that unites everyone in the bar, if only for two short hours.

“I wanted to create a venue where people could come out, unwind and hear words or songs pouring from people’s souls,” said Taylor.

Near the end of the evening, Atlanta native and Jacksonville transplant Sheldon King takes the stage. He speaks softly over recorded piano and violin, describing a never ending cycle of dates and breakups in “Perpetual Waltz.”

His intense delivery hushes the crowd — hypnotizing, captivating. When the performance ends, the bar is completely silent for several seconds. Someone just outside the door laughs, finally breaking the spell and allowing the audience to applaud.

Taylor closes out each show with a freestyle poem, drawing from topics suggested by the audience. Subjects range from rocket ships to the Peerless' chicken wings.

“I believe in allowing the audience to become a part of the show,” said Taylor. “Though the freestyle can be challenging, because there’s no practice.”

Taylor’s freestyle on this particular evening is like a runaway train, touching on every subject handed him (early on, Lil’ Kim takes some poetic punishment for her public choices), but providing monster lines in general.

“God’s gonna take care of me/I don’t walk through storms/I step over them,” Taylor flows. When he finally shuts down the freestyle machine in his head and closes out the night, the audience roars with approval. It’s like no other show in Anniston.

Peerless Poetry After Dark is every second Sunday at 7 p.m. Artists who wish to perform should arrive at 6:30 to sign up. Donations to a prize fund for the artists are appreciated, but not required. Call the Peerless at 256-238-1899 for more info.
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