For the past year, poets from all over the city have come together every Thursday at the Corner Bar and Grill on 18th and Vine Street for a night filled with spoken word.
During the performances, you can expect laughs, snaps and supportive cheers from the audience.
Some performers open up their spoken word pieces with a song, some start off softly, some even angrily – but the crowd is always encouraging and accepting to anyone who is vulnerable enough to stand up and share their work.
One thing all the artists are sure to do is put on a performance for the few minutes they speak. Performance is a major piece of spoken word.
T.L. Williams, who founded Poetry on the Vine, feels it’s important to have poetry and spoken word events available on the East side of Troost Avenue and wants to make the Jazz District Kansas City’s hub for poetry.
When he created the Music and More Foundation under the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, he hosted poetry events at the Unicorn Theater and the Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, but he knew the Jazz District was the perfect place East of Troost Avenue to host poetry events. Now, he says Poetry on the Vine is here to stay.
What makes Poetry on the Vine exciting, said Williams, is each Thursday night brings different poets, crowds, themes and hosts.
Poet John Lewis, also known as Hypocrace hosts every third Thursday and said on his nights, you’ll never know what you’ll get. Sometimes there will be a featured artist or a cypher, which is a circle of spoken word artists that perform continuously, or a slam.
At some slams, the poets are judged and compete, with the winner taking home a cash prize. A portion of the prize fund comes from the $5 event cover charge. The Music and More Foundation also uses their grant funds to support Poetry on the Vine nights, including using some of the dollars to help sweeten slam prizes.
“Slams are not really a competition, slams are really just being able to connect to the audience,” Lewis said. “If you connect to the audience, it’s a win.”
Last Thursday’s Poetry on the Vine featured host Brandon Nelson and was themed around the power of poetry, in partnership with the nonprofit Poetry for Personal Power, which helps those facing adversity and distress by showing them how the arts can be transformative and healing.
“Poetry for Personal Power likes for us to teach each other that it’s okay to not be okay,” Nelson said. “And one of the greatest places to come find your superpower and better yourself just happens to be poetry.”
Now that Poetry on the Vine has hit its one-year mark, Williams’ next goal is to acquire their own building in the Jazz District and have a central and dependable location for spoken word events.
“I want to create a hub for poetry and 18th and Vine is the perfect district for it,” said Williams. “I want Poetry on the Vine to be as historic as jazz on the Vine.”