Poetry has always been a more intimate affair than prose, and the best way to experience it is to see it performed in person. Spoken word venues abound in New York City. Here are some of the best the Big Apple has to offer.
The Starving Artist Cafe & Gallery
Price: Customers are expected to spend a $5.00 minimum.
While primarily a music venue on most nights, on the last Friday of each month at 8 p.m., the Starving Artist holds an open mic night. Poets, writers and comedians join in with singers and songwriters to provide a variety of entertainment. Performers will find a listening audience, accustomed to giving its full attention to whomever has the stage. The best thing about the Artist is the food – owner Elliott Glick makes the best hamburger in New York City.
Price: $7 Wednesday, $10 Friday
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe has held poetry competitions, or “slams,” since 1989, however the venue’s history dates back to the early 70s when it served as a living room to poet Miguel Algarin. Now, poets may compete at the non-profit cafe on Wednesday nights for eligibility to perform in the Friday night slam. Winners of Friday night slams go on to compete in semi-finals, the finals winner is sent to compete in the National Poetry Slam in which teams and individuals from around the continent compete. For a more low-key event, visit the cafe after midnight on Friday for the Open Room. Each poet may read one poem into the microphone at the Open Room, and there are no judges.
Bowery Poetry Club
Price: Varies; See calendar of events
The Bowery Poetry Club is a haven for edgy poets and some very talented performers. All forms of poetry, from urban and spiritual to confessional and political, are represented at this venue. The club also boasts a beverage menu with mixed drinks named after famous poets. Mix you up a Robert Frosty, anyone? In addition to the regular, ticketed shows, there are free events such as “Book in Hand” readings where a particular poet’s book is passed around the table and participants each read a selection. A little music gets mixed in there as well. Open mics are on Mondays at 10 p.m. and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Check out the video links to see some very talented performers and to get an excellent idea of what one can expect at the club.
Price: $10 for non-members, $7 for students and seniors and free for members
Poet’s House is a National Poetry Library and Literacy Center with a collection of over 50,000 volumes of poetry. The venue houses many resources for poetry, but also specializes in spoken word events. Each month, Poet’s House is home to at least a half dozen speakers. Topics include poets discussing original works, speakers discussing famous poets of the past such as Shakespeare and Milton, and experts who explain the latest trends in contemporary poetry.
Penny's Open Mic
Price: $3. cover charge
Possibly the best venue in New York City for performers who like to take risks, Penny’s Open Mic at Under St. Mark’s Theater features some of the most eclectic and talented performers to grace the New York scene. Spoken word artists, musicians and comedians combine aspects of several art forms such as dance and theater to create memorable performances for New York audiences. The atmosphere is very supportive and hostess Penny Pollak has amazing energy and enthusiasm. Performers can count on musicians Mike Milazzo and Joe Yoga to accompany them upon request. Remember the three most important rules: no heckling, no fire on stage and no glitter.