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
Pacific Standard | 82 Fourth Avenue | Park Slope | 718.858.1951 | pacificstandardbrooklyn.com
Modeled after the fine pubs in the San Francisco Bay area, Pacific Standard offers a premium selection of Westcoast beers and wines that will satisfy even the most discerning palate and provide a sophisticated yet intimate space where you can indulge in the company of local poets and writers. Voted the Best New Literary Event in 2008 by New York magazine, the pub’s signature fiction series has become a permanent fixture in the calendars of many Brooklyn literati.
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.
II. Poetry Slams and Open Mics
Bushbaby | 1197 Fulton Street | Bedford-Stuyvesant | 718.636.5336 | myspace.com/bushbabyinc
This gourmet coffee and tea house has been delighting patrons with their sweet Southern blend of Millie’s Iced Tea and their spiced cocoa Chocolate Masala during feature performances from signed and unsigned jazz, gospel, soul, rock, reggae, and classical music artists. Don’t miss their periodic V3 Sessions, which will present on June 27th an original spoken word performance from two feature poets from The Universal Hip Hop Parade Foundation, and an open mic with other independent and underground poets, rappers, and musicians.
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.
Solomon’s Porch Café | 307 Stuyvesant Ave. | 718.919.8001 | myspace.com/solomonsporchcafe
Known to local patrons for its savory Southern dishes like Bourbon-laced lamb and black bean chili and soulful performances by jazz and indie musicians, the cafe also hosts occasional poetry slams and weekly open mic sessions on Wednesday and Thursday evenings (usually from 8-10pm) by established and emerging poets and singer/songwriters.
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