Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest-blogger Kim Roberts: Top 5 Spoken Word Venues in Washington DC

The literary scene in Washington DC, which would be a shining beacon anywhere else in the nation or the world, crouches in the dense and noisy shadow of the national government and all its multitudinous personalities' to-ings and fro-ings and shennanigans from Capital Hill to K Street & etc. Alas! Anyway! I'm a jump-up-and-down fan of Kim Roberts' splendid work, both as a poet and as an advocate for poetry, and not only within the Beltway, but radiating far beyond. The author of three books of poems, including the forthcoming Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, January 2011), Roberts also edited the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010) and, for over ten years, has edited the acclaimed online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Her new book is Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Editions, September 2010, in partnership with The Word Works, Inc. and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC), for which there will be two -- both free and open to the public-- launch events:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm
As part of The Humanities Council of Washington, DC 30th Anniversary Celebration and Grantee Showcase. Exhibits, readings, performances, and film, with an awards ceremony, and a champagne and cake reception. Historical Society of Washington, Old Carnegie Library, Mount Vernon Square, DC. (202) 387-8391. (Free, but reservations required.)

Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Featuring Kim Roberts, with performances by Chris August, Twain Dooley, Gowri K, and Patrick Washington 15th Annual Baltimore Book Festival, Festival Stage, Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD.

Over to you, Kim!

Washington, DC is one of several cities at the forefront of the development of spoken word, notable especially for its development of youth poetry slams (we were the first city to have one!), the range of organizations that nurture women performers in particular (or were run by dynamic women performers such as Toni Blackman and Toni Asante Lightfoot), and for being the only city in the nation to offer monetary grants to support hip hop arts and culture. Lip Smack, arranged in a timeline format, covers the years 1991 to 2010. For more information, or to order a copy (for only $10!):

Want to hear the poetry? Here are my top five spoken word venues in the Washington DC area:

# 1. Busboys and Poets
Three combo restaurants and performance spaces, Busboys has named a Poet-in-Residence at each, and runs several popular ongoing reading series. The two locations in DC are at 14th and V Streets NW, where Derrick Weston Brown hosts the 9 on the 9th series, usually packed, and at 5th and K Streets NW, where Holly Bass reigns supreme over their Open Mic series. Busboys is also home to the DC Poetry Slam Team.

# 2. Sulu DC
A monthly showcase of Asian American and Pacific Islander American performers that takes place at Almaz Restaurant and Lounge in the U Street neighborhood. Events usually combine spoken word with live music, stand-up, and video. Try to catch Regie Cabico when he takes the stage.

# 3. mothertongue
Although this series has reduced its programs from monthly to about four showcases a year, it is still going strong. Performances take place at the Black Cat on 14th Street NW, and admission fees benefit a rotating series of area nonprofit social service organizations. This all-women performance venue has nurtured some of the region's top performers.

#4. DC Guerilla Insurgency
Although they run an indoor space in the colder months, the way to really experience this group is on warm nights when they converge on Dupont Circle. The insurgency specializes in poetry of confrontation and resistance, to a backbeat of hand drums.

# 5. Beltway Slam Team
There are two slam teams representing DC, as of this summer. The DC Slam Team meets monthly at Busboys, but a looser, more interesting group has formed that combines spoken word performers from DC and Baltimore. Meeting monthly at The Fridge in the Barracks Row section of the Eastern Market neighborhood. Try to catch Chris August or Sonya Renee.

--- Kim Roberts

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guestblog posts, click here.