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Check Out BLAC's Round-Up of the Best Spots to Hear Live Poetry in Detroit

Poet, host and scene staple Joel Fluent Greene connects us to the spoken word.

Darrien Pope

There's something electrifying about art unraveling in real time.

Detroit has always been one of the best cities to view up-close-and-personal performances whatever the genre. Most celebrate the music, but those origins are also poetic in nature. Take for instance, the legendary Café Mahogany, a staple of the '90s, which closed its doors in 2000. As the longest running host of those events – three consecutive years – poet Joel Fluent Greene recalls how the Mahogany attracted such artists as Common, The Roots, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Eyed Peas (before Fergie) and a host of others tapping into the power of live poetry.

While Café Mahogany might be gone, those who were influenced by it have taken up the mantle and are carrying on the tradition of presenting cutting-edge, heart-melting, soul-reflecting poetry, live and without a safety net. Greene, a poetry evangelist – deeply rooted in the twin towers of hip-hop and spoken word – has served as a curator of events in and around the city for two decades. Here, Greene shares the best spots to hear, see, and contribute spoken word poetry in Detroit for National Poetry Month.


Puff Puff Pass Poetry

Open mic. hosted by Ben Jones

7 p.m.-12 a.m.

St. Brigids Bathtub Pub, 129 Michigan Ave, Detroit

"This one is definitely adult. It's not for the stiff. I think college students – the more hippy-dippy college element of life – would appreciate it. And just people from Detroit who want to have a good time in a non-pretentious environment. You'll hear some good poetry. The only spot doing poetry on a Tuesday."


Open Mind Mic Series

Open mic. hosted by Peace & J. Bell

8 p.m.-11 p.m.

They Say, 267 Joseph Campau, Detroit

"It's more of an open-to-everybody crowd – bring your mama and you can have a good time. You can come with your friends and have a good time. It's very single-friendly. The host is really fun. Peace – she's one of my favorite poets in the city, and J. Bell, her husband, he's a comedian. They keep it very friendly, very fun. They have a band. They have food, they have a bar. Get there early, it gets packed."


The Bottom Line Open Mic Series

Open mic with rotating hosts

6-8 p.m.

The Bottom Line Coffee House, 4474 Third St., Suite B2, Detroit

"Midtown area. It's walkable. It's college-student friendly, plus older. I've seen old Cass Corridor hippies in there chillin'. Good vibes. Inexpensive cover. It's very small and intimate. I read there and I got so much love, it was amazing. It's a crowd that really respects the poetic word. If want to be heard, if you don't want to be a in a club type environment or a pick-up spot environment, they'll listen to everything you say."


Sound Off Sundays

Open mic. hosted by Ken Brass

8-11 p.m.

Baltimore Gallery, 314 E. Baltimore Ave., Detroit

"It's New Center, an up-and-coming area. They have a lot of cool events. The host, Ken Brass, is a friendly guy. They have a young energy that I remember and I respect. It's for the young and the uninhibited wild poet person out there."


Joel Fluent Greene's book release party will be held on April 27 at the Jazz Café. Greene describes his new book, Felt, as a collection of favorite poems that represent him as a poet, "as a man, as a citizen of Detroit." He adds: "That's why I call it Felt, these things were felt, textures and feeling. These were literally poems I felt." 

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