8 Cool Spoken Word Nights in Washington, D.C.

Sandra Caldwell and Hailie Sahar in Charm at the MCC Theater
Sandra Caldwell and Hailie Sahar in Charm at the MCC Theater | © Joan Marcus
Photo of Nicole Hampton
15 November 2017

The spoken word nights are becoming quite popular in D.C. and poetry fans in or around the city are rejoicing. The following places are for those of you who love poetry yelled at you in a way so passionate it’s profound; they’re for those who think inflections and tones are everything when it comes to judging the written word properly; and for the enthusiasts who have something to share with fellow literature lovers. Here are the best places for all that and more.

I love places that define themselves as a community space first and foremost, and this is one of those places. This non-profit cafe located in Adam’s Morgan since 1960 has crafted their niche, and it’s obviously working out for them. Its events are on the new age, progressive side, including yoga, wisdom circles, and author events on some pretty heavy topics and serious issues. But it also has some things to lighten up the mood, like improv comedy shows and poetry readings.

Black Cat

Mainly a music venue to indie, hip-hop, DJ artists, and ’80s parties, it’s an unlikely suspect to be hosting spoken word artists, but it does nonetheless. The place serves traditional American food as well as wonderful vegetarian and vegan options at certain times of day.

Fringe theatre means a theatre that is of an experimental nature; you won’t know exactly what to expect from the performances here. This artsy, cozy theater has eclectic performances each year so check the calendar to see what’s coming. The locale hosts dances, music, comedies, and spoken word performances.

The Fridge

This is an art gallery for emerging and established artists, a performance space, and a music venue for everything from hip-hop to jazz. The Fridge hopes that there is a dialogue among the community through the expression of art people. The D.C. Beltway Poetry Slam Team calls the place home every last Tuesday of each month, and the slam poetry nights and storytelling communities have been very successful.

DCAC was founded in 1989 and has been a haven of creative arts ever since. Inside the 800-square-foot gallery and 42-seat black box theater, you’ll find myriad artists who have been able to share their work through the venue. This includes poets during their poetry events which you can check out on the calendar.


Established in 2008, this eclectic arts center offers a wide range of performances, films, events, and workshops. Some of these include puppet shows, samba classes, open mic nights, and poetry readings.

Hillyer Art Space

Located in Dupont Circle, this art gallery focuses on workshops, artist talks, pop-ups, and a visual arts gallery that promotes cross-cultural understanding and international art. This includes the occasional poetry event that you can find on the calendar.

Busboys & Poets

The most laid back of these options. So much so if you have that poem you wrote in fifth grade that you’re still really proud of, they’ll give you a chance to speak your truth about silly Jimmy and how he always picked his nose. There’s also an open mic at the Shirlington and Brookand locations on Mondays. Tuesdays is at 2021 14th St NW location. Wednesday the open mic is at 1025 5th St NW. And, yes, there’s another day! Thursday it’s held at the Hyattsville location. Busboys & Poets, on behalf of all the writers in the D.C. area, thank you, thank you thank you!

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