Whether you like to participate or simply listen, poetry readings can be the perfect escape. But they can be tough to find (unless you know where to look), and often get lost in the chaos of open mic nights, where musicians tend to grab the spotlight. There are, however, a few groups in the Valley that offer poetry-only gatherings. We've compiled a list some of our favorites that metro Phoenix has to offer. No acoustic serenades, no off-color comedy, just spoken word.
First Friday Poetry
For more than 20 years, Changing Hands in Tempe has hosted monthly poetry readings on first Fridays. As one of the longest standing poetry events in the Valley, it has featured acclaimed poets like Charles Alexander, Pamela Uschuk, and Malachi Black, alongside local writers like Bryan Hall. On July 10, Albert Rios, Arizona's poet laureate, will read along with Samyak Shertock as part of a fundraiser for Nepal. For two hours, amateurs and professionals alike can read original work aloud to their peers. Typically, these readings are free to attend. While anyone is welcome to participate, there is a two-page limit on all readings, as they only run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. See the Changing Hands website for more information.
Open Mic Poetry
For those looking for poetry with a cause, Cup o' Karma's Open Mic Poetry might be just the thing. Proceeds from any drinks or snacks purchased go toward helping women and families recover from domestic violence. Anyone is free to participate and all are welcome to attend. The family-friendly event is held the last Friday of every month, lasts from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and is free of charge. Cup o' Karma is located in Mesa, across the street from Mesa Community College. Visit Cup o' Karma's website for dates and times.
The group at Lo-Fi Coffee are a lively bunch. Those who participate in the bi-monthly poetry readings are familiar and encouraging to all poets brave enough to share their work. Held inside the art-filled Mesa coffee shop on Main Street, MesaMic is a three-round show where participants can read as many poems as they want. Some are funny, some are serious, but regardless of subject matter, the crowd is enthusiastic and receptive. The free event is held on first and third Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Go to Lo Fi's Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all events.
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P.E.N., short for Poetry Event Night, is a poetry and written-word showcase held on second Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at Practical Art in uptown Phoenix. Participants can read their poetry, flash fiction, or any other kind of written work in an artistic setting. Readings often incorporate a wide and diverse representation of ideas and tastes. If you're interested in participating, be sure to sign up ahead of time. The first hour is reserved for anyone those who sign up, but the last half hour is reserved for a featured writer selected ahead of time. Visit Practical Art's Facebook page for more information.
Words in the Alley
Words in the Alley, held at Shot of Java in Glendale, is great for fans of poetry slams, but those who attend are advised to leave the kids at home. It’s atmospheric, comfortable, and features some great local talents, but the subject matter can get provocative. It takes place on the coffee shop's outdoor patio from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on first Tuesdays. Readers each have the opportunity to read their original work until the featured poet comes on for the last half hour or so. Visit Shot of Java's Facebook page for more information on future events.