Photo By Kaleigh O’Keefe
Born at the longstanding Haley House Bakery Cafe this summer, the House Slam is already making waves in the area’s tight-knit community of poets. Self-proclaimed and audience-approved “slammasters” Janae Johnson and Porsha Olayiwola are responsible for spreading the slam gospel to Dudley Square, the culture-infused heart of Roxbury. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Dudley Square,” says Johnson, during a quick phone call between meetings, “but everything there shuts down at like 6pm, so to have an event that goes until 10:30 is a big deal.”
The very first House Slams, to Johnson’s pleasant surprise, were received wonderfully. “Haley House gave us these two trial dates to see what the reception would be like—we had a packed house both nights.” There was so much interest, in fact, that they had to turn people away at the door due to the snug 60-person capacity. One draw may be that the events, comprised of an open mic, a feature poet, and a finale competition, don’t charge a cover. “There is value in having [the events] be free, and I think we’ve found that out. It makes it a more accessible and welcoming community to everybody. Well, everybody 18 and older!”
Not to mention, the slam’s inception is especially good news for those DigBoston readers who do not reside near popular Cambridge poetry hubs like the Cantab or the Lizard Lounge (both of which have a small door fee). “It’s one thing to have poetry events in Cambridge, but there is really no accessible slam on this side of the river in Boston,” says Johnson. “One of our main goals is to have an accessible venue where poets can express themselves in a safe space free of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, et cetera.”
That all-inclusive, accessible mission is drawing in both emerging poets—“active writers, bringing new work to the stage”—and those who frequent slams on the regular, or as Johnson says, those who “eat, sleep, and breathe poetry.”
If you party animals can keep your fingers snapping until the poets stop “poem-ing” at you, you will not only be part of a more lively nightlife in Dudley Square, but also an important addition to the growing slam scene.
HOUSE SLAM AT THE HALEY HOUSE BAKERY CAFE, 12 DADE ST., BOSTON | EVERY 2ND + 4TH FRIDAY | HOUSESLAMBOSTON.ORG