Lonely Planet Writer

The New York City poets re-inventing the art of the spoken word in a very unusual setting

Poetry has a new guise. If you look at poetry-related events occurring around New York City right now – one thing is for sure: this is not your average recital of Edgar Allan Poe or Maya Angelou. In fact, these are the kind of events our school-age selves would have benefited from; sure to make studying for English exams that bit more bearable.

Poets and performers in New York's The Poetry Brothel.
Poets and performers in New York’s The Poetry Brothel. Image by Mark Shelby Perry

The Poetry Brothel, conceived by Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski, is a unique and immersive experience in which to enjoy the art of the spoken word. In a seductive-style setting, it certainly dusts off the cobwebs from forgotten verses and gives them a new lease of life. The premise of the Poetry Brothel is simple, yet suggestive: the ‘Madame’ presents a rotating cast of male and female poets in elaborate costumes, also known as the ‘whores’. These poets, performing under pseudonyms, offer public readings and random outbursts of rhyme during a show which combines cabaret, live jazz, burlesque and fortune-telling.

Performers sitting at a table with their props
Not your standard poetry experience. Image by Mark Shelby Perry

For a more alluring experience, and for a small fee, guests can partake in a one-on-one poetry reading in a private candle-lit room. The aim is to give the public a glimpse into the intimate process of creating a sonnet, and re-invent the art of poetry. Not surprisingly, the Poetry Brothel was forced to somewhat ‘rebrand’ itself to the Poetry Society of New York to appease some of its Upper East Side neighbors. As well as year-round events, the Poetry Society of New York also hosts the annual NYC Poetry Festival on Governors Island each July.

The festival, the largest of its kind in the United States, brings together some 300 poets; local, international, established and newcomers. The free event also includes a children’s poetry program, creative writing classes, an open mic area and art installations.

For more information about the festival and year round events, visit here.