Kafein Poetry Night’s Popularity Posing Some Good Problems

75th Edition of Event Draws in Record Breaking Crowd

  • The small space usually welcomes—at a maximum—a crowd of 60 people, but last Tuesday over 80 people came together to enjoy the power of words. The sheer mass of audience members over-flowed, some standing in the staircase without view of the performers. Photo Ninon Scotto Di Uccio

  • DJ Pulsum played some beats before the readings started on Tuesday Sept. 13. Photo Ninon Scotto Di Uccio

  • Sara Sutterlin, Adam Zachary and Sofia Banzhaf stand out side of Kafein where they had just performed their poetry. Photo Ninon Scotto Di Uccio

At the base of the staircase to Kafein’s bar stands a small table with a donation jar, saying “feed the artists.”

Wandering further into the dimly lit, crowded room, it’s barely possible to find a seat on the jumble of chairs and couches. A light shining in the back reveals a table where some works are for sale.

As the babel of the room fades and the sound of DJ Pulsum finds a break, poetry takes its place. After Brad Casey, it’s Kristina Mahler’s voice that fills the room.

“This one is called: Alone at your parent’s house at the end of February,” she states. Her poem goes like this:

“I must remember to not look inside my own mouth too much
My body betrays me on a whim
Unable to tell the difference between good and bad
Things are not as bad as you think until they are much worse
I dream of you at the bottom of a well but you are not struggling
I want to see you holding flowers but you prefer the dirt
I wake up each morning to prevent accidents
And read the omens in the dishwater, in the lines around your mouth
It is important for me to feel beautiful in times of crisis
But I think you prefer when I am ugly
I think back on the hours I have wasted on sex and what I would trade them for now
I am so much more interesting when I’m alone
Always wanting to be strong but never being strong
Always talking about being strong but never being strong”

This was one of the three poems Mahler delivered to her captivated audience for the 75th Kafein Poetry Night on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Mahler is a writer for Metatron, a Montreal-based publisher of contemporary literature founded in 2011, and she performed with seven other poets.

These writers—some from Montreal, others from Toronto—engaged their audience with their respective personas. Some used humor, others abstract images—but all revealed deep honesty. They expressed their feelings of depression, faith, love, loss and their views on intimacy and sex.

“It’s great to see literature bring people together like this,” said Ashley Opheim, founder and the managing editor of Metatron.

The event hosted the biggest crowd in Kafein’s poetry night history. The small space usually welcomes—at a maximum—a crowd of 60 people, but last Tuesday over 80 people came together to enjoy the power of words. The sheer mass of audience members over-flowed, some standing in the staircase without view of the performers.

While event organizers and performers were overjoyed to see such high interest, Kafein manager Gaby Najjar reflected on space management for the event. “It isn’t an issue usually, only for anniversaries but we are looking into using the top floor,” he said.

Kafein’s poetry night’s core values are centered around freedom of expression and respect.

Organizers are focused on creating an accepting space for “writers of all ages, sizes, skill levels, skin colors and sexual/gender orientations,” said Ariana Molly, who has been the main organizer for the event over the past three years.

He added that fostering a supportive, mindful community is essential to the integrity of the space.

In fact, according to his description of the event on Facebook there is only one rule: “Don’t be a dick and if you have a concern please speak to the poet directly or to Poetry Night organizer.”

Correction: In a previous iteration of this article, Gaby Najjar, the owner of Kafein, had his name mispelled and was mis-gendered. The Link regrets the errors.

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