Kafein bar offers a safe space to let the creative juices flow
Pulsating music resonates in our bones as the crowd grows every minute. The conversation buzzes around us, alcohol and coffee alike in hands, sharing laughs with strangers seated shoulder to shoulder in a dimly lit room. The crowd crescendos its conversation in anticipation of the performances to come, groups settling in to stand at the back or on the sides of the room, trying to get the best view of the stage.
This is a common scene at Kafein café-bar, which has bi-weekly poetry events on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., opening the stage to newcomers and experienced performers alike.
Located right by Concordia University’s Sir George Williams campus, Kafein has been hosting Poetry Night every second week since July 2013. According to the event coordinator Ariana Molly, the event was an attempt to attract more customers on Tuesday nights—a difficult task, because really, who goes out to get buzzed on a Tuesday? Nearly four years later, though, it has grown into something no one could have ever anticipated.
Molly, a Concordia student, said she was given complete control of the job by Kafein’s owner—she’s the reason Poetry Night has become the glorious event that it is today.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 24, was an especially unique night at Kafein. It was their 82nd show, and the powerhouse Molly’s final night. She handed her position over to two new handpicked hosts, Jared Roboz and Selena Diorio, as she soon will be studying abroad. According to Molly, this resulted in one of the biggest turn-outs Poetry Night they’ve ever had.
A lot of work went into making Poetry Night such a success, Molly said. At the beginning, she said she was doing all of the scavenging for performers, but now she has to limit the number of readers per night because she doesn’t have room for them all.
According to Molly, Kafein’s Poetry Night policy is not to refuse anybody, no matter their experience or skill in writing. There are many first-time readers, and everyone is welcome. The event offers a space where the readers don’t have to feel intimidated. “[The event] is not just a place for people who have published novels,” Molly said. “It is also for people who write privately or keep a journal or write funny notes in their phone and just want a space to test the waters.”
Anyone who wants to perform at the event emails a copy of their work to the host. The schedule is created on a first-come first-serve basis. According to Molly, she has rarely turned someone down, but when she has, it was usually out of concern for the content of their work, as Kafein tries to create a safe space for the event.
“A true safe space is truly hard to create,” Molly said. “So I always say that we try to create a safer space here.” Kafein is very strict—no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no transphobia is tolerated, she said. The work can be avant-garde or provocative, Molly said, but it cannot be harmful to the audience. Kafein offers performers a space free of judgement.
According to Molly, the main goal of poetry night is to foster a sense of community over anything else.
The atmosphere is different the moment you walk into Kafein café-bar. “It’s very chill and cozy,” Molly said. “Kafein always has these couches—it feels like your best friend’s living room. Everyone’s comfortable.”
Molly said the poetry can be very personal, impersonal or even comedic—it differs from one person to the next. Some performers have spoken openly about eating disorders, or what it feels like to come down from a drug high, or even their struggles with alcoholism.
“I think because they feel comfortable, they feel an intrinsic trust towards the audience,” said Molly. “They can use it as a cathartic space, and that is something I never could have anticipated. Every time it happens, when somebody gets really real, everyone’s so quiet and so receptive, and everyone is just listening and not judging. There are not that many places where you can do that, where you can just talk freely like that.”
Molly said this position has become more than a job for her. Diorio and Roboz, the new hosts taking over the event, both share this sentiment. “This event means a lot to me,” said Diorio. “At least for myself, I’ve used writing as a coping mechanism and kind of as a form of therapy for mental illness. I think it really brings people together.”
Kafein is also where Roboz said he found his artistry. “I think it’s the most necessary and most beautiful place,” said Roboz. “It’s all love here.”
Molly leaves huge shoes to fill, Diorio said. “I only hope we can do a fraction of what she’s done for the community,” and give it the tools to grow even more, he said.