Poetry in the City

A single mic stands on the stage under blue, red and yellow lights forming the focal point of this cafe. The setting is further complimented by vibrant artwork and bold sculptures that cover the brick walls.

Welcome to the Nuyorican Poets Café, located on the Lower East Side, at 236 East 3rd St. between Avenues A and B. Founded in 1973, the café hosted the first ever poetry slam in New York City in 1989. The cafe in fact “began as a living room salon in the East Village apartment of writer and poet, Miguel Algarin.” Twenty years later the café is still providing an eclectic scene to prod minds with unconventional questions and provoke necessary conversations. Friday nights are no exception.

Every week the cafe holds a Nuyorican Friday Poetry Slam, hosted by Mahogany Browne. The slam is a staple event at the cafe that guarantees a crowd. This even is so popular that the suggested time of arrival is 9:15 p.m., forty-five minutes before the set start time of the slam.

The space is tight, and you may be closer to strangers than you’re used to. But the vibe of the café is one of a community come to together to laugh, clap, cheer, and of course, snap. Whether you’re African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Puerto Rican, a student, a professor or a soul just searching, all have gathered for the same purpose- to be enlightened by the truth that rings out from the melodies of Spoken Word.

The night’s poets address a range of topics from weight issues to the unwanted stares of “boys who don’t have the credentials to be men” as they ask the audience to look beneath the surface to redefine what “sexy” really is and challenge the customary view that “men will be men.”

Despite the misgivings of the establishment’s name, the Nuyorican Poets Café does not only cater to the needs of the Spoken Word community, as evidenced through the café’s theatre program, Latin jazz jam sessions and hip hop events.

Although the café does not serve food, beverages are available at the bar.

Additionally, the official Nuyorican website recommends Mama’s Food Shop, Chez Betty and Café Cortadito as places within the neighborhood you can grab a bite to eat.

Getting to the café isn’t too complicated- just take the F line to the 2nd Avenue station. Pricing ranges from free admission to up to $25 charge, depending on the event (the Friday Poetry Slams are $10, though subject to change in the event that Semi-Finals or a Grand Slam is being held.)

So for all the new kids on the block and even the oldies, this upcoming weekend do what you came to college for and expand your mind- make it a point to find your way to the Nuyorican Poets Café.

For more information, including how you can perform at the café
check out www.nuyorican.org.