April is National Poetry Month. And we say, let’s make it a blow-out celebration this year! But what are the best places in the world to hear poetry and spoken word right now? Even if you haven’t read a poem since college and don’t generally gravitate toward the medium, this a great time to check out some voices you may have been missing. Our correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum has rounded up some of the best places in the world to celebrate National Poetry Month. We’re talking open mic nights, poetry slams and other artistic performances. If you’re so inclined, you’ll be able to find fantastic events all month long.
the best places to experience National Poetry Month
If you already read a lot of poetry, and perhaps even enjoy sitting down with a daily dose of Emily Dickinson or Langston Hughes, or watching champion slam poets on YouTube, you’ve probably been waiting for this month all year long.
But for those who may be intimidated or only marginally interested, here are some excellent ways to take the plunge, and experience the world of poetry in an immediate and immersive way.
1. The Arts House, Singapore
The Arts House (Singapore). Once a building of parliament, since 2004, The Arts House in Singapore has been home to a wide array of art events, installations and performances. In the past, they have hosted a spectacular variety of poetry performances, including multimedia exhibitions that combine poetry with dance, music, vocal arrangements and visual art.
This month, in addition to several concerts and panels, The Art House is hosting a series on monologues, from April 6 –May 6, 2019. If you want to participate in National Poetry Month, but you’re someone who leans towards narratives, this could be a great way to get into the spirit and experience some wonderful performances.
2. Poetry OutLoud, Hong Kong
Poetry OutLoud meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 7:45P for two hours in the Fringe Club, located at 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong. The event has always been free and run by volunteers. The language spoken is English, and the sessions feature a mixed bag of original poetry, classics, lesser-known works and music. The theme of last year’s April gathering was “Foolish Poems.”
The format generally consists of a number of featured readers, plus an open mike section in which audience-members are welcomed and encouraged to read. Taking a slightly more academic stance on poetry, this literary gathering often studies style and writings of poetry. Aside from poetry, the Poetry OutLoud hosts book launches as well. Read out your favourite passages or discover new writers at these monthly meet-ups, and simply join in and meet fellow literati.
UK and Europe
3. Rhymes with Orange, London
Rhymes With Orange (London) is responsible for many of the most enjoyable poetry events in all of London. Once a month, their poetry open mics happen at a rotating location, and attendees can purchase tickets online ahead of the show.
Tickets come in three variations: one for those who have never performed before, one for those who are seasoned open mic performers, and one for those who plan only to sit in the audience and watch. This encourages the co-mingling of expert poets and new performers, allowing all kinds of talent to take the stage.
There are also two resident poets who each have ten minutes with which to share their work. And, for those who might be new to writing poetry or shy to perform, there’s a limerick challenge for the entire audience to participate in as well.
Each month’s open mic is themed; this April’s theme is “toxic.” (Not Brexit – toxic).
4. The UK European Poetry Festival
In its second year, the European Poetry Festival is a great way to celebrate the month. Look for events all over London, Norwich, Manchester and Dublin from April 4 – 15, 2019. Most of these events center around poets from a particular European country, and are sure to be topical, as well as innovative. Any poetry enthusiast should definitely check out the wonderful writers this festival will put on display this month.
5. Au Chat Noir, Paris
Au Chat Noir (Paris). Every Monday night at 8 pm, guests descend to the basement of this charming bistro to sign up for a slot in Paris’s longest running open mic night. Guests are allowed to perform in any language they choose, and are given five minutes in which they can read poetry or pose, play music, or express themselves in any number of artistic mediums. Each week’s show has a different theme, and the performances run until midnight, allowing for a long night of poetry and fun every single week.
The United States
6. Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Nuyorican Poets Cafe (New York). The historic Nuyorican, first opened in 1973 as an informal living room salon, is a classic East Village location beloved by New Yorkers and tourists alike. They are champions of poetry, of course, but also prose, visual art, theater, hip-hop and more.
If you have a free night in New York and are unsure of what to do with yourself, they are almost always worth checking out. Every Monday they have an open mic, open to the public for participation, that begins at 9 pm. The first twenty-five people to sign up in person are able to perform, each given a five-minute slot. If you are looking for more, they also three different kinds of host hip-hop and jazz open mics, once a month each.
Their poetry slams are legendary, and first started in 1989. Each week they host two slams, one on Wednesday and one on Friday night. Anyone can participate in the first, and winners are able to perform in the second one as well. If you stick around after the show, attendees are able to get up and perform their own poems in a slightly lower-stakes environment (‘cause hey, it’s still New York).
7. Poetry Society of New York
The Poetry Society of New York (PSNY) is launching a new series of Salons in Manhattan this spring. Each will consist of a voluntary book discussion from 7-8P, a handful of short poetry readings from 8-11P, and a complimentary open bar throughout. The inaugural event on May 23rd, 2019 will feature Janaka Stucky and his new collection of poems ASCEND ASCEND.
This month, you can attend PSNY’s Annual Spring Gala in Manhattan on April 10, 2019. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous and find yourself in Los Angles (and you’re over 21), join the Poetry Brothel, an immersive poetry event staged by PSNY at various locations around the country. The next one is in LA on April 14, 2019.
8. Schomberg Center for the Arts, Harlem
This cultural center in Harlem hosts an annual First Friday’s Open Mic Edition, Poetry Slam. This month’s event is being done in partnership with the Candela Writers Workshop. You’re invited to bring your best poetry to share during the open mic sessions. Then dance the night away to curated beats by DJ IRS. María Fernanda and Tone Blaze host, with special opening remarks by award-winning poet and Schomburg Director Kevin Young. If you haven’t yet read his phenomenal collection Brown, promise us you’ll finish reading this post and then drop everything, buy it and read it immediately. It’s on our list of the Best Books of 2018.
9. Neck of the Woods, San Francisco
Neck of the Woods (San Francisco). This much-loved California venue first opened in 1973 and has since brought to the stage an incredible cast of stars, including Etta James, Otis Redding, Third Eye Blind, Train, and many, many more. Clearly, the venue is not limited to poetry. It also hosts karaoke, salsa classes, concerts and more.
Their open mics are free to the public and held on Wednesday nights. Many of the performances are poetry and spoken word, giving young poets a chance to perform on a stage where so many great artists have before them.
10. Da Poetry Lounge, Los Angeles
Da Poetry Lounge (DPL) is a poetry venue at the Greenway Court Theatre, Los Angeles. It’s been in operation since 1998, and says that it has become the largest weekly open mic in America. Every Tuesday is Open Mic night.
The ultimate goal of DPL is to create a communal space for people to be heard. The organization celebrates poetry in all forms, and welcome all those who are courageous enough to share their stories or are willing to support others that do.
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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.
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