A Noob's Guide to Experiencing Live Poetry and Spoken Word in Dallas

Categories: Poetry

Mad Swirl, via Facebook
Sometimes things are only "underground" out of ignorance. The poetry scene in Dallas is an established one, home to both talent and venues, each with its own style.

To develop this guide, I spoke with some of the city's most prolific and involved poets, to find which venues had the most competitive slams, and which provided the best front row seat to Dallas' best poets. "Every venue is a different experience," says local poet Duane Madden . "It's like a different counseling session on different days of the week. Spoken Word is therapy."

"There are a lot of hidden gems," adds Alexandra Marie, Co-Slam Master, Dallas Poetry Slam. "If one takes the time to look."

Mad Swirl (above)
When: 8 p.m., first Wednesday of the month
Where: Absinthe Lounge, 1409 South Lamar, Dallas
Cost: Free
What to expect: A dark, musical affair, the basement of Absinthe Lounge hosts a small yet intimate gathering of poetry enthusiasts. The ability to smoke (once you become a quick member) adds to a noirish mood to the narrow space, where women in cocktail dresses split walls of smoke with swaying hips. Jazzy interludes and stiff Martinis make this one of the most laid back poetry events of the month.


via Facebook
Natty Roots and Rhyme
When: 9 pm. Second and fourth Wednesday
Where: Jamaica Gates Caribbean Cuisine, 1020 W. Arkansas, Arlington
Cost: $5
What to expect: Local poet Princess McDowell, a frequent performer here, describes the event as "a place where even if you've never been, it feels like home. Everybody makes you feel welcome. The music, the good, the vibes, the people -- you'll be cracking up with people like y'all were old friends by the end of the night."


via Facebook
Sweet Rose Poetic Saturdays
When: 8 p.m., Saturdays
Where: Sweet Rose Coffee & Wine Bar, 1030 W. Arkansas, Arlington
Cost: Free.
What to expect: Again, McDowell: "Although a newer venue, if you want to hear great poetry, it's there. It's a beautiful space with a warm owner. Try their pound cake if you're there. Host B. Randall always has quality local features who deliver."


via Facebook
Dallas Poetry Slam & Open Mic
When: 8 pm. Fridays
Where: Heroes Bar and Grill, 7402 Greenville, Dallas
Cost: $5
What to expect: Where hip-hop and poetry meet. Many of Dallas' behind-the-scenes members of the hip-hop scene frequent this event. Mga-Czar, Simon Phoenix, Satori Ananda and Mic Smith have attended and/or performed. In addition to the open mic, top poets are chosen to join the Dallas Poetry Slam, giving them an opportunity to compete in individual and team competitions on the local, regional and national level.

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A heavy congratulations to Dez Statum for making the newsreel.  I've known Dez a long time, and yes, after putting the dis on her, she's begun to improve simply because she was so damned mad at me.  Yup.  Anger really does get you through some BS, doesn't it? 

As for the Swirl, although I affectionately call it the Mad Squirrel, mainly because it does tend to get googleish at times, it's a place where the poets are often young and thereby quite real with their often narrative work--which, I must say, is quite a bit better of a place to get a sincere sense of community than with other places where I tend to suspect some folks are simply living-out their midlife crises.  Don't hate them for learning what they always wanted to do before they decided to earn a living first. 

Me?  I've enjoyed five-to-10 years of blissful anonymity, working and learning to use my crafty poems as both healing and as satisfying predilection.  Prose is simply too damned easy for me, and I really do appreciate the kindness I've encountered at Mad Swirl.  Being babied back to life after a life-threatening illness hasn't been easy, but the friends I have found there, and even the sometime enemies I make for being such a blasted hippie what with that bringing-it out into the open like I always have, has always hit the spot. 

Glad you've decided to come back to poets and poetry after the long and brutal "poetry wars" of the 1990s.  I cut-out for the territory for awhile, and like DO, was somewhat happy to be gone.   

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