The Nuyorican Poets Café, located in the Alphabet City district of Manhattan, has become an iconic landmark of modern poetry, theater, and the Nuyorican art movement. For nearly thirty years, they have provided a venue for poets and artists to reach a large public. As stated on the venue’s website, “the Café’s purpose has always been to provide a stage for the artists traditionally under-represented in the mainstream media and culture.”
The Nuyorican Poets Café is arguably best known for its role in the history of the poetry slams of the late eighties and nineties. The first poetry slam ever held in New York occurred right here. Poet Bob Holman brought the poetry slam from Chicago to the Nuyorican in 1989, and there simply were no other venues for the emerging art form other than the Nuyorican when poetry slams were getting off the ground.
The café was founded in 1973 by Miguel Algarin in the East Village of New York with the help of other New York poets and artists. Although the Nuyorican Poetry Café was originally just set up in Algarin’s apartment, the outgrew his home pretty quickly and they founded the Nuyorican Poets Café a couple of years later. In 1980, they purchased the building at 236 East 3rd Street where the Nuyorican Poets Café continues to operate today.
In 1994, Algarin and Holman released a print compilation of many of the work that had been produced at the venue entitled Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café. As a young person who discovered the book while in the midst of raging literary hormones and general teenage ennui, I found it to be a godsend when it landed in my lap so many years ago. It was abundantly clear from so many of the poems in that collection that poetry was alive and well on the east coast of America.
The stated mission of the Nuyorican Poets Café is: “to create a multi-cultural venue that both nurtures artists and exhibits a variety of artistic works. Without limitation, we are dedicated to providing a stage for the arts with access for the widest public.”
Today the Nuyorican continues to be as vibrant a venue as ever. They hold weekly poetry slams and other poetry events. The café is also home to a wide variety of visual arts, film, video, theater, and other performances.
SOURCES & FURTHER READING: