Nuyorican Poets Cafe

236 3rd St
New York, NY 10009
212-505-8183
Hours: Wed-Sat 7p-1a, Sun-Tue 7p-11p
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or L to 1st Ave
nuyorican.org

Written by: Sari Henry

The Nuyorican is quite large for a New York City venue. The space has a raised stage, table seating, and a second floor balcony with seats. Food is not available, but they do serve wine, beer, coffee and soft drinks during events. The Cafe is only open when an event is scheduled on the calendar.

Executive director Daniel Gallant describes the Cafe’s vibe as “high energy, yet supportive.” Intended as an outlet for under represented Puerto Rican artists, the Cafe provides a nurturing place for new and established artists—of all ethnic backgrounds. Veteran Beat writers including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, as well as poetry impresario Bob Holman have been associated with the Cafe, linking it to enduring bohemian traditions.

The Friday night poetry slam always fills the house. Slams are a sort of tournament in which judges are chosen from the audience and poets compete against each other in three minute slots. There are also open mic nights, at which anyone can perform, and from which slam performers are chosen for future features and slams.

The Cafe also hosts live music performances, ranging from hip hop through singer-songwriter acoustic sets to Latin jazz and Yerbabuena, the Puerto Rican roots style of music.

HISTORY

Nuyorican, a mysterious name to many, is hip short-hand for “New York Puerto Rican,” a designation coined by New York’s post-Beat Puerto Rican writer/poets Miguel Algarin, Pedro Pietri and Miguel Piñero. A gathering of writers started circa 1973 in the apartment of Miguel Algarin as a salon outlet for the East Village literary and spoken word artists. It soon outgrew Miguel’s living room. By 1975 it relocated to an Irish bar called the Sunshine Cafe on East 6th Street, which was christened the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. In 1980 overflow audiences inspired the purchase of Nuyorican’s present building at 236 E. 3rd St. 

The neighborhood has transformed since Miguel et al conceived of their showcase. Due to gentrification many venues and stores have opened shop in the East Village; regardless, up-and-coming spoken word artists from all over the city, and the country, still travel to the Nuyorican Cafe to present their work.

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