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.
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."
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."
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.
Fort Worth Poetry Slam When: 8 pm. Thursdays Where: Barcelona Bar , 515 Houston, Fort Worth Cost: Free What to expect: Hosted by Mike Guinn and established in 2001, the Fort Worth Slam Team is an accredited member of POETRY SLAM INC. The idea, the group says, is "to fuse poetry and spoken word together to create a hybrid style of performance art."
Art & Coffee When: 7 p.m., first Fridays Where: Buzzbrews Kitchen, 2801 Commerce, Dallas Cost: Free What to expect: Hosted by the nonprofit Art. Love. Magic., this event include Ballet Folklorico, Aztec dancing, ZUMBA, metal welding, live painting, live performances, jewelry making and (exhale) fashion design. Artist Joonbug McIntosh calls it "a night where music and artist can express their talents and get to sell their work."
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Verse & Rhythm When: 7 pm. Fourth Saturdays Where: Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W Jefferson Blvd., Dallas Cost: Free What to expect: Located in the heart of Oak Cliff on Jefferson, the Oak Cliff Cultural Center features the best DFW poets. Past performers include accomplished playwright, actor, director and poet Rodney Garza and Fort Worth slam team member Michael Guinn.
THRWD Poetry Night When: 7 pm. Third Thursdays Where: Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak, Dallas Cost: Free What to expect: Disclosure: I'm the co-founder of THRWD, a local art zine. That out of the way: Our monthly poetry night features a line-up of local poets and hip-hop lyricists. Organizer Brandon "Lionheart" Stewart calls it an "eclectic mix of artists. Some whose names you know - others you will know soon enough."