Free and Cheap Live Poetry Events You Can Watch Online

With slams and readings going virtual, you can now get into poetry from the comfort of your home

Photo by Very Quiet

For poets, springtime is especially sacred. With big book releases, National Poetry Month, and the conclusion of the slam season, there is so much for readers and writers to look forward to. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen readings canceled, book tours halted and budgets slashed. Thankfully, as ever, poets remain resilient. In the wake of the pandemic, events have gone virtual thanks to the bonds of community and love for words. 

For those who are unfamiliar, these online events are a great way to get into poetry and connect more deeply with the community. So much discovery happens at these events, and many of your favorite poets have gotten their start on the slam stage. These stages have historically been spaces for healing and care, which is something we need so much right now. 

Here’s a list of events, readings, and livestreams to get your poetry fix throughout the rest of the pandemic. (Most of the events below are often pay what you wish, or free.)

Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe

Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe is NYC’s landmark Lower East Side poetry venue. It’s been the host of poets of color since 1973. In place of their in-person Wednesday and Friday night poetry slams, they’re holding online open mics on Mondays and Thursdays via Zoom. Soon they will be also offering online classes, music, and monologues. Their online information can be found here

Bowery Poetry Club

Bowery Poetry Club is another NYC staple. Nestled in a former Formica factory, poets typically take the stage on Sunday and Monday Nights. Now, Bowery has rotating programming Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursdays. They are hosting low-cost workshops and open mics. You can find the most up to date information on their Instagram.

Da Poetry Lounge

For those favoring the west coast, Da Poetry Lounge hosts the largest weekly open mic in the United States. Originating in 1998 and based in Los Angeles, poets take the stage on Tuesday nights. The third Tuesday of the month is the poetry slam, while the rest are open mics. They’ve pivoted to online, operating via Instagram live. 

Not A Cult Workshops

Not a Cult is a small publishing company based in Los Angeles. They have released work from writers Yesika Salgado, Dante Basco, Aziza Barnes, as well as many others. They also hold frequent events within their partner space, Junior High. With the closure of Junior High, Not a Cult has begun offering donation-based workshops online. Facilitators include the talents of Jon Sands, Jose Olivarez, and Karla Cordero. The schedule is updated weekly on their Instagram.

Girls Write Now: Salons & Live

Girls Write Now pairs underserved girls and gender-non conforming young adults with established writers, forging lifelong mentorships. They prepare the teens for college, help cultivate their craft and publish their work in anthology series. Girls Write Now will be hosting readings via their Live series. They also host a Salon series introducing guest artists, celebrating poets like Mahogany L. Browne and Rosebud Ben-Oni.

Jon Sands: Ps and Qs

Since the beginning of stay-at-home orders, poet Jon Sands has gathered his colleagues to converse with him on Instagram live. He calls it Ps and Qs. Sands gets intimate with other poets every Wednesday through Friday.

So Many Poetry Slams

With so many great slams, it didn’t feel fair to pick just one. The poetry slam is a competitive form of spoken word, where teams gather and compete to go to the national convention. The season usually runs from September to May. As the slam season comes to a close in May, just know that folks will still be competing at the International Poetry Slam. It’s slated for August and has yet to be canceled. The Philly Pigeon, Brooklyn Poetry Slam, Toronto Poetry Slam, Boston Poetry Slam have all moved online. Youth poetry slams Louder Than a Bomb and Get Lit’s Classic Slam are slated to be held via Zoom sessions.

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