The distinct cadence, tone, and mood of a spoken word performance transmits a certain sense of vitality and energy that the printed page cannot. And with the resurgence of Poetry Slams nationwide, many bars, cafes, and lounges in Brooklyn have emerged as the focal point of a vibrant literary scene, where patrons are reminded by local poets and writers that we all have something important to say.
The term “spoken word” was originally given to the visceral style of contemporary poetry during the 1990s, when the focus was on the performance and content of the production. Today, the term also covers the recital of prose narrative and monologue readings, which evoke the cultural values of Beat poets and writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs.
And while some fiction and poetry readers can be highly politicized, dramatizing racial, economic, and gender injustices, others try to dissolve the social and cultural boundaries that generalize the human experience. Whatever the case, all poets and writers are united by their drive to deliver a good story. Keeping this in mind, make your way to these five Brooklyn venues where delicious food and talented folks are sure to awaken your consciousness.
I. Poetry and Fiction Readings in Brooklyn
Pete’s Candy Store
709 Lorimer Street | Williamsburg | 718.302.3770 | petescandystore.com
There are very few literary venues that can rouse the energy of a rock show, but Pete’s Candy Store has been rocking bookish listeners with exciting poetry and prose readings for nearly a decade. Once a local favorite amongst Italian old timers, their trademark cocktails and grilled ciabatta sandwiches will sate your body, while the uplifting voice of a poet or writer will feed your soul.
Bowery Poetry Club Theatre
You never know what to expect at Bowery Poetry Club. Enjoy the warm, cozy vibe as you hear different kinds of readings, from open mic nights to slam contests and music nights. They also have workshops for budding poets and writers who want to push the boundaries of their craft. The Bowery Poetry Club even has a ‘summer camp’ for adults led by Amy Lawless (My Dead), called Camp Lawless – Summer Poetry & Writing on the Bowery.
Watch this to get a glimpse:
II. Poetry Slams and Open Mics in Brooklyn
Root Hill Café
262 Fourth Avenue | 718.797.0100 | roothillcafe.com
This hip little coffee house on the edge of Park Slope boasts one of the few Clover Brewers that are not owned by Starbucks. Try their Blue Sky muffins and homemade cookies during their weekly open mic sessions on Mondays from 8-10pm. Musicians are limited to two songs each, while comedians and spoken word performers can enjoy up to eight minutes per act.
144 Montague St 2nd Floor, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Poets is a nonprofit organization that honors and nurtures the poets, poetry and literary legacy of Brooklyn, the birthplace of American poetry. It showcases the most creative and influential poets in the world, from Walt Whitman, Hart Crane and Audre Lorde to hip-hop icons like Biggie Smalls, Lil’ Kim, and Jay Z.
Time Out New York named their reading series one of the best in NYC and one of the 50 best free things to do in the city. The Brooklyn Poets Reading Series happens every other month at different locations in Brooklyn, and you can see the schedule here. And if you want to share your own work, the Brooklyn Poets Yawp – their open mic – is on the second Monday of every month, from six to nine. The Yawp starts with a creative writing workshop, and then gives you a chance to read your work.
How to get there: All venues are accessible by subway. Use the hopstop link below for specific directions.
Photo: Courtesy of Peter Kropotkin Lonely Hearts Club