Do Tell 

Warm up a winter night with erotic poetry, performed live.

Calling all latter-day Sapphos, Catulluses, Marquis de Sades, D.H. Lawrences, and Erica Jongs. On Dec. 29 at Priya Indian Cuisine (2072 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley), Poetry Express presents its sixth annual Between the Holidays Erotic Poetry Night. The name of the event is a syntactic nod to Mae West, says Poetry Express host Mark States, who explains that the bawdy thespian "named her legs Christmas and New Year's and asked if you'd 'come visit her between the holidays.'" (Throughout the evening, attendees' readings at the open mic will be interspersed with West quotes.)

Although Poetry Express happens almost every Monday evening throughout the year — arrive early at the restaurant, announce that you'll be staying for the poetry, and get a discount on dinner — PE's erotica theme nights are a popular tradition in the local open-mic scene. One year, States remembers, "a triad — one wife, two husbands — came and read their group-sex poems to each other. Somehow," he laughs, "the rest of us felt left out." Another year, "the sensuous lesbian love stories were the most popular and sweat-inducing. ... Good erotic poetry does not have to be obscene, nor technical like the Kama Sutra," advises States, a noted performance poet whose books include Reinvention from Mother's Hen, Grip of the Past, and Tongue Control. "It should engage the audience, make them see and smell and taste the experience as though they were there. ... If you can make me blush and sweat, you've written a great erotic poem."

But if reading one's writing aloud for an audience is nerve-wracking, reading sultry sonnets and hot haiku can induce a whole 'nother kind of performance anxiety. "The first and most important advice for writing and performing your own poems," States advises, "is to be yourself. If it's 'you,' you'll get over the shyness soon enough. Practice reading in your bathroom." As for poetry of the purple persuasion: "Never go outside of yourself when reading erotic poetry. Don't write for Hustler if you're more the Harlequin-style of romantic. Remember your first kiss and write about that. If you've never done the Power Exchange scene, that's not a topic to write about."

Where to find inspiration? Silly question. "Check out the aisles at Good Vibrations," States suggests with a chuckle. "Pull out that ratty old mag from between the mattresses one last time; hold the picture of your previous love, and moan like Prince. Pay-per-View isn't bad at all, if you have cable and can afford it. But whatever you do, we want to hear about it." Ready, steady, go. 7 p.m.

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