Every first Thursday of the month, on our tiny island of Oahu, Hawaii, Fresh Cafe hosts a huge slam poetry competition. It's open to anyone, of any age, and the place gets packed with poetry aficionados looking for a relaxing and fun night of the arts. It was my first time attending the event, and I didn't leave disappointed at all.
Slam Poetry is a relatively new style of presenting poetry. The originator of First Thursdays is the performance poet, Kealoha. He is a huge legend here on Oahu, and I’ve seen him perform his many stunning and moving pieces long before. The stylistics of slam poetry require poets to be offbeat, unorthodox, and has its roots in hip hop, DJing, and performance poetry. Safe to say, the performances given can range from soft and romantic, to heavy and angry – but the core substance of every slam is consistent. Each poet has the desire to express an emotion (or more than one) in the most creative and beautiful way possible. Oh, and they must do it all within 3 minutes, or else points get deducted.
Fresh Cafe is located on 831 Queen St, Honolulu, HI, near the Ward Warehouse Mall. It’s tucked behind the Shell (I think? It was night time so I wasn’t really sure, haha) gas station. There’s free valet parking, which is a blessing considering the parking in Hawaii, or one can park in the nearby open parking lot of Sports Authority across the street, and walk over. Ladies, be sure to bring a friend, since these back streets are kind of ghetto.
The entry fee is $3 before 10pm, I believe, when the price goes up to $5. But it doesn’t really make sense to come that late, since the event starts promptly at 8:30 pm. Fresh Cafe’s front section is the coffee shop: a clean, modern cafe with a communal table, large flat screen TVs, and local art hanging on the walls. My friend and I really enjoyed sitting for a bit and admiring the great ambiance and paintings by local artists.
The back part of the cafe is a large (seats 600+ people) arena with a grand stage and a bar – perfect for hosting events like First Thursdays! The room is a great presentation of the clean juxtaposition between urban and folk – there’s concrete walls and chrome ceilings, but there’s also the wooden bar and the high rises that made us feel comfy and secluded.
Kealoha opens the night stating the rules: Love, Listen, and Respond. It takes guts for any performer to get up before half a thousand people and pour our their feelings in a performance, so he stressed the fact that we must respect the performer, no matter what. It’s also the audience’s job to score the poets, so listening carefully is key to a great event. And finally, he reminded us of the power that the audience has over the poet – the performer feeds off of the listeners.
And then, the night began.
Performer after poet came up, blurted out their thoughts in an organized chaos sort of manner, and I found myself amazed by the sheer mass of creativity flowing through the room. These people were ridiculously talented, and I truly enjoyed being able to witness their poetry. There were also great opportunities to take photos, since most of the poets really get expressive with body language.
There were about oh…15 poets in all? Some of them sang, some of them beat-boxed, some of them read off of their diaries, and some of them just flawlessly gave their all. My friend and I left the venue excitedly chatting about how great the night was, and how we were so glad to impromptu attend the event! It was really a night to remember, and we want to go back again, next month.