Kafein Poetry Nite Hits the Triple Digits
Event Hits a Milestone of 100 Gatherings
Music playing, people sway to the beat as they make conversation with the stranger beside them.
Coffee mugs and beer glasses alike clink together making the perfect playlist. At five to 9 p.m., the Kafein café-bar’s tiny basement is completely packed. People of all ages, races, and genders are under the same roof, in dim lighting, a safe space, sharing their love of language and poetry.
Poetry Nite celebrated its 100th show on Jan. 17, and the crowd bursting at the seams was there to celebrate with them.
The event started in July of 2013, and they have been happening almost every second Tuesday since, starting at 9 p.m,. Located on Bishop St., right by the Concordia downtown campus, a huge part of the audience is university students. But there is always diversity.
People keep streaming into the small venue throughout the entire night.
“This event means a lot for me. I’ve been using poetry as a therapy and coping mechanism for mental health,” said Selena Mae, Poetry Nite co-host.
The mother of Kafein’s Poetry Nite, Ariana Molly, left her legacy to two co-hosts of the event, Mae and Jared Roboz about one year ago.
“I initiated the event as a job, and then it became more than a job,” said Molly.
Slowly but surely the poetry reading has been attracting all sorts of different people. At the beginning, it was all on Molly to do the public outreach to get readers. The audience and readers started off being her friends, and people in her cohort.
Over the years, it morphed into what it is—basically running itself. People are reaching out to the organizers in huge numbers to perform their work. As of now, for example, the lineup of performers is completely full, up until Feb. 27. The readers all vary in experience. For the performers, it is on a first come-first serve basis.
About one year has passed since Molly left for Australia and passed down her legacy. A slew of changes have transpired for the event, and with the co-hosts themselves.
Roboz is no longer a co-host of Poetry Nite, and Malek Yalaoui, co-founder of an annual poetry event featuring women of color called Sisters in Motion, began hosting alongside Mae in September.
Poetry Nite was on hold from Oct. 31 until Jan. 16 while Mae took time to refocus on their health, thus why their 100th show was pushed to last week. In the meantime, Dona La Luna, co-organizer of Sisters in Motion, will be hosting with Yalaoui.
Mae has heard echoes that Poetry Nite is really a space of healing now. Poetry has always been healing, but now they feel like it’s a “no holds barred, emotion fest, which is awesome,” they said. People feel very safe here, said Mae.
“What is it that Hemingway said? I open a vein and bleed into the typewriter, that is what poetry means to me.”— Selena Mae
“What is it that Hemingway said? I open a vein and bleed into the typewriter, that is what poetry means to me,” said Mae.
“We have performers who tell jokes, and people who retell personal traumatic events, and they make something beautiful out of it,” Mae continued. “I think poetry is just pure emotion. The event is really necessary.”
The only restrictions on the poetry that is performed is that there must be no discrimination. The works must not contain racism, ableism, transphobia or homophobia. It can be as political as you want it to be, but in a respectful manner.
Yalaoui was ecstatic with the opportunity to co-host the event for its 100th show.
“It’s pretty special and pretty amazing. Anyone who organizes an event knows how much work it is, and so it’s rare to get a series that is so sustainable and has that much longevity,” she said. “There are a few, but it’s really exciting to see Poetry Nite join their ranks.”
Mae explained that having two people who come from totally different communities and walks of life brings a lot more diversity to Poetry Nite. But they and Malek are a powerteam, they said. Without her, Mae said they would not have been able to get back onto their feet, and get this event running again.
But the co-hosts aren’t what makes the event special, Yalaoui explained. She thinks the co-hosts, readers, and audience members are what made the events so special in the first place.
“A lot of people are really invested in making Poetry Nite happen, and they’re the reason we’ve been able to make it this far,” she said.
Kafein Poetry Nite // their 101st event will be on Jan. 30 // Doors at 7 p.m. // $5