This April saw a close friend and I embarking on a week long trip to New York, with a plan to take in as much culture as possible. Among the sightseeing and museum/ gallery visits we’d bucketlisted, i’d also suggested that we take in some spoken word- an activity i’d long dreamed of doing in London, but never got round to.
As chance would have it, we discovered the perfect venue: the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. This cultural icon promised poetry slams , literary events and live music. Beginning in the living room of an East Village apartment in the early 70’s, it’s played host to a great many multicultural and underrepresented artists- including notable poetry activist, Saul Williams, and three-time Puerto Rican Grammy Nominee Singer and Songwriter, Danny Rivera. Better still, the first ever poetry slam in New York was held there back in 1989. Could the venue be any more ideal?
Having arrived in the Big Apple, we set to work on a.) finding the venue, and b.) choosing a suitable night to visit it on. The cafe, as we’d learn, was tucked away on east 3rd street in the city’s lower east side: a leafy, trendy neighbourhood, bustling with art spaces, fashion boutiques and speciality food markets. New York’s Shoredtich, basically. Having arrived on Saturday, we decided to waste no time and hit up the first event available- an open mic night on Monday.
The neighbourhood laid out before our eyes, come Monday, was the New York i’d come to imagine from films. A walk through perpetual sepia, comprising: red bricked tenement buildings, rustic shop fronts and tanned skinned residents . With it’s urban murals, and booth style doorway, the cafe couldnt look more at home as the quirky arts venue.
Inside, it was equally as charming and unpretentious: a cosy bar, and a simple arrangment of chairs set out before a low-slung black stage. The crowd gathered were a small, intimate bunch of street chic 20- 30 somethings – many of which turned out to be performers .
The subsequent open mic session came not only to include spoken word, but some pretty badass freestyling and rapping as well. I was fortunate enough to capture a fair bit of it on video:
While only having scratched the surface, I can safely say that The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is without a doubt one of the coolest, most unique venues i’ve ever been to. Heck, I would fly to New York again just to make a return visit there if I could. Realistically though, I’ll probably just look to find a similar venue in London for the mean time.
Further information on the Nuyorican Poets Cafe can be found at the following website: http://www.nuyorican.org/