Perhaps when you think of a live poetry reading, you envision a smoke-filled room in the back of a small, underground café or bar. While you can still find this classic New York vibe around town, modern-day poetry readings are performed in a variety of ways across NYC. We profile ten places to enjoy live poetry readings in New York City.
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Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Music Venue, Theater, $
For live poetry, visit the Nuyorican, which established itself as a well-known and highly respected poetry venue back in the 1970s. They host a plethora of events that tie into themes of the night, as well as slam poetry competitions. For those who wish to have their voices heard, most Wednesdays (and a few other evenings throughout the month) feature an open mic night. If you want prime seating, we recommend an early arrival, and tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
The Poetry Project
The Poetry Project kicked off in 1966 and has become a popular outlet for emerging and seasoned poets alike. People come together for The Poetry Project’s reading sessions, where various well-known poets come to read and discuss their work. Partake in a five or ten-session workshop, in which students can work with experienced writers to expand their skills and learn creative techniques. There is also an opportunity for amateur poets to showcase their talents at the Open Reading sessions, so check their calendar for specific dates. Keep up with the world of poetry through their bi-monthly newsletter, or annual literary magazine.
Bowery Poetry Club
Theatre, Art Gallery, Library
The performances at Bowery Poetry Club are never the same. Take in the cozy, intimate atmosphere as you listen to a variety of readings, from open mic nights to slam competitions and music nights. They also offer workshops for aspiring poets and writers who wish to expand the limitations of their craft. The Bowery Poetry Club even offers a ‘summer camp’ for adults run by Amy Lawless (My Dead), and it’s called Camp Lawless – Summer Poetry & Writing on the Bowery.
Brooklyn Poets is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to create a community for poets in Brooklyn, which they believe is the birthplace of American poetry. This organization offers aspiring poets the opportunity to advance their skills through a network of mentors, teachers, and workshops conducted through their ‘Bridge‘ program. Brooklyn Poets offers a selection of events for people to showcase or watch poetry, including their free bi-monthly reading series at various locations and YAWP, a monthly reading workshop at 61Local in Cobble Hill.
The Poetry Brothel
Despite its somewhat promiscuous name, The Poetry Brothel is not a brothel, but was created to surpass the typical poetry scene, opting for a more vintage-inspired theme. The regular poets here, also known as ‘the poetry whores’, invent alter egos and create a new reality for the audience. You can pay to see a general reading by featured poets, or you can pay for an individual session with a ‘poetry whore’, which will get you ten minutes of poetry and discussion. Audience members 21 and older can enjoy readings at various locations, each with a different theme for the night
The Poets House
The Poets House offers just about everything a poetry enthusiast could ask for. The library, featuring an overwhelming selection of books, offers its guests the chance to sit in a quiet, comfortable setting, and immerse themselves in poetry with outstanding views of the Hudson River. The Poets House does offer readings throughout the year, including their notable ‘Passwords’ program, where poets read and discuss the work of other poets. In July, they host free outdoor readings as part of their Showcase Reading Series. Whether you’re an aspiring poet or you have experience but are looking for feedback from your contemporaries, they also offer workshops tailored to specific levels and needs.
Open Mic at Under St. Marks
Under St. Marks is widely known as a place for underground artists to showcase what they’ve got. Spectators can observe anything from musical performances to comedy sketches. Every Tuesday night, improv artists perform original work (including music, poetry, and comedy) at Open Mic night. This is a place for experimentation, so don’t be afraid to get up on that stage.
Le Poisson Rouge
If you’ve ever ventured around SoHo, Greenwich Village, or the West Village, then chances are you’ve seen signs for Le Poisson Rouge. Located on Bleecker Street, LPR is a popular venue for just about everything. They are more commonly known for their 80s and 90s-inspired tribute nights, but also offer a variety of shows from Drag Bingo to poetry readings. While the poetry readings are sparsely offered, the ones they put on are lots of fun. Their events often overlap, so be sure to check their calendar to narrow it down.
From the outside, this bar is pretty nondescript, but once you enter, it’s a whole different story. One of NYC’s most popular dive bars, Parkside Lounge has quite a bit to offer in terms of entertainment. They have a calendar filled with events, varying from comedy shows to live band performances. They also host The Inspired Word, a performance series that travels around different bars in the city, hosting open mic nights and poetry readings.
Bar, Pub Grub, American
Welcome to the KGB Bar, a Soviet-themed bar where literary minds and admirers come together for cheap drinks and powerful words. The bar has a pretty interesting backstory, but everyone agrees they’re glad it’s here. Every night is something different, but you can find live poetry here every Monday evening. Be sure to check out their literary magazine for reviews of new fiction, as well as their radio hour.
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