Indianapolis is on the verge of a poetic explosion, teetering on the monolith of achievement, near to receiving the recognition and accolades it deserves for housing so much wordplay talent. Spoken word is certainly not new to the area, but for many in Naptown there are several tight-knit spoken word forces in motion that are driving the poetry scene.
According to local poet Tony Styxx, one can really find poetry everywhere, and anywhere you happen to be: Oftentimes, you just need a catalyst to get the party started. Indianapolis has some great ones — both catalysts and parties — and you can find some of the venues performers light it up at listed below.
Kafe' Kuumba is often hosted by members of the Midtown Writers group, and is currently open to the public every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Harrison Brook Center. Kafe' Kuumba is most likely one of the longest-running open mics in the state of Indiana. It began in 1993 and has spent time in several locations, such as the Omega Center, but James William Officer, Jr., speaking on behalf of Kafe' Kuumba, can recall poetry with his comrades beginning well before that – perhaps as early as 1988.
Although Kafe' Kuumba has changed venues, perhaps due to the fluidity of poetry and spoken word itself which makes it difficult to stay in one spot for long, Officer suggests, he does know one important thing to remain the same.
"One thing will always be true," says Officer. "Poetry, spoken word – will continue to be important to the community for at least one reason: People need to tell their stories and they need to be involved in the telling of these stories, their truths. And part of that need does contain a stage, an audience, and a microphone. People need to tell their stories in front of other people. They need affirmation. They need confirmation. They need to be a part of a community, to be with other humans. People telling their stories need to know their own concerns are valid. The nature of the performing arts itself is for individuals to stand in front of other individuals to express themselves. To understand that they are not alone."
4002 Cornelius Ave., 46208
That Peace Open Mic
Begun July 2015, That Peace Open Mic is a monthly open mic created by Spoken Word Artist Mariah Ivey, held at Write-On The Poetry Spot.
"This platform was created to unite and share peace ... so we have rappers, poets, comedians, singers, etc. step foot on our stage as well as a new highlighted feature who gets about 20 minutes to do their thing," says Ivey."
That Peace Open Mic is fairly new to Indianapolis, but already, the good news of the good vibes and the good energy created have spread through social media like the proverbial fire, but in this case — no destruction, only cleansing.
Names like Theon Lee, Tyis Burks, Tony Dewayne, Reedy Garrett, Tami J, Damon Karl. have graced the stage at the Clifton St. Write-On The Poetry Spot
That Peace Open Mic returns Feb. 18.
3326 Clifton St., Every 3rd Thursday at 8 p.m. Doors at 7 p.m.
V.O.W.: Vibe on Wednesday
Epic Ultra Lounge, formerly Tantrum, is the hot spot for V.O.W. or Vibe On Wednesday. Begun in 2015, this Castleton venue is where you want to be in the middle of the week. The dubiously titled 'Hump Day' doesn't have to be a hurdle, instead it can be an open mic extravaganza. Local favorite, LaToya Marlin, is often a guest – and if you have not watched her create, paint her masterpieces to music or poetry – you have missed a truly Zen event.
Epic Ultra Lounge also features food and drink. There's no reason to skip either to watch the entertainment because they will be available for purchase. And V.O.W. event creator Amber Harper knows how to choose her host: NUVO Arts Poet of the Year Tony Styxx guides visitors through a night of events sure to warm the chilliest winter heart. It should be noted, V.O.W. host Styxx is humble – he mentions he wouldn't even put himself on a top three list of spoken word performers in Indianapolis, instead giving nothing but love, gratitude, and those top spots to notable contemporary performers Januarie York, Too Black, and Theon Lee.
"Easily the best female performer in the state, the heart of the spoken word movement," says Styxx of York. "All three are the soul of the movement. If I were on that list of the best in Indianapolis, it's because of those performers that I am even here."
82515 Center Run Dr. $5 cover
At press time, I was unable to touch base with the amazing folks at Localmotion, a fantastic, community-oriented performing arts venue featuring feature poetry, storytellers, music, and more. I'm not certain, but I'm willing to bet they're busy planning and organizing more events for all Hoosiers.
642 Virginia Ave. Every second Saturday
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