Possibly The Best Poetry Reading I Almost Experienced

Given San Francisco’s rich literary history and active culture, going to a poetry reading was on the top of my hit list during a recent stint in the “City by the Bay.”

I geared myself up on a Friday night (by which I mean, I wore boots) and took a taxi to the Tenderloin District of San Fran, which smelled just about as appetizing as it sounds. “Spoken word poetry” was scheduled at Cafe Royale, featuring Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye (HBO Def Poetry Jam, Project VOICE). It being a FREE event, by the time I landed on scene, the cafe was at capacity and an excess of spectators pressed around the entryway, a bouncer barring the door. No way to get in unless someone decided to leave between poems. I tried asking questions but got shushed by the ferocious few who’s ears were straining to hear the microphone inside.

Cafe Royale Poetry Reading At Capacity

And so I brought out my notepad and strained along, as a reporter might at a crucial press conference.

Transcribed notes:

traffic noise

we are crowded in entry
“learning the art of embracing”

bouncer lets in 2 for 2
laughter inside
and I’m out here
dressed too well for a
street corner

cars are louder than the mic inside

“you should taste my mother’s brisket”

“cockeyed half-breed”

“backwards first-impression”

“we nearly co-existed”

someone’s breathing down my neck

“it didn’t start with us”

“I love you I love you I love you”


“I can hear the scratch.”

I didn’t last long, sad to say, but I did take a few pics from the outside looking in, got offered a cigarette by a young lad from England (people still smoke???), and, in short, rather than experiencing the full effect of the undoubtedly fabulous poetry being shared inside, I simply recorded the poetic moment and went off to the Mission District for the next event on the agenda. A rap show.

Cafe Royale-San Fran Poetry Reading        Cafe Royale Poetry

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