Whether you’re an aspiring poet looking for a judgment-free zone to test out your chops, a seasoned writer looking to share your life’s work, or if you’re just looking for a good time, reasonably-priced food and some kick-ass displays of creativity and talent that are well worth a $2 cover charge, look no further than Hinge at 48 Main Street in Northampton.
Hinge is a hip local restaurant and bar that hosts open mics, poetry slams, and traveling feature poets (typically working out of New York or other major creative cities) every Tuesday night.
Hinge has been hosting these events for a year with host Craig Nelson, a self-proclaimed street poet and astounding performer. Nelson is rightfully proud of the atmosphere he has created in Hinge — regular performers gain recognition amongst each other, and the atmosphere is “raucous and enthusiastic.”
Nelson describes Hinge poetry nights as “just a bunch of people around a metaphorical campfire,” and that’s exactly what it feels like. The air is thick with camaraderie as performers and spectators gather close to share poetry, which is intensely honest and personal. Writers mingle and provide feedback and inspiration.
The ambiance inside of Hinge lends itself flawlessly to creating a refreshing and accepting atmosphere during each reading. The combination of the architecture, the sultry voices reciting jazzy verses, the universal respect of the cell phone free zone, and the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic audience response when a poet has finished their set make Tuesday night readings truly stimulating and thought-provoking events.
Enormous talent frequently graces the stage at Hinge. New writers and old regulars are embraced as a part of this inspired and invigorating community. One of the many standouts from this past Tuesday’s show was Maya Wegerif, a student at Mount Holyoke University and a first-timer at Hinge. First published when she was just 11-years-old, she moved to Tanzania, a country with essentially no poetry scene, in 2008.
She soon found the Alliance Française, an organization that hosts “poetry jams,” and after convincing the manager to let her read a poem at one of their events, she was met with overwhelming positive reception which spurred a wider movement of poetry in the country. Maya praises the Northampton area, saying, “There are so many platforms [for success] where you can just go down to a bar and read… [this is] almost unheard of in most African countries.”
A fan of the acoustics, architecture and interior design in Hinge, Wegerif says that although she typically dislikes background noise during a reading, the natural, understated dull roar of the venue adds a whole new level of character.
Maya is currently finding inspiration in spoken word artist Alicia Harris, describing her as “phenomenal and out-of-control with her words.”
She says reverently, “If I could write anything like her, it would be really amazing.” Wegerif is just one prime example of the highly open, emotional and well-spoken artists that you can see perform at Hinge.
Although usually there is a guest performer following the open mic, this past Tuesday Hinge hosted a cash slam: an intensely competitive but also intensely fun event where brave poets have the chance to compete and have their work judged on an Olympic 1-10 scale. Whereas the open mic has a mellow atmosphere with good vibes, the slam has irresistible, crackling energy. Competitors stand on stage, shout from atop stairs and basically perform wherever they want as long as their voice can carry. The poet with the highest overall score is awarded a cash prize, but every competitor walks away with a certain amount of legacy, having been deemed brazen warriors of their craft.
The typical turnout for these Tuesday nights is between an impressive 70 and 80 people, with around 15 performers taking the stage. Slots fill up very quickly so be prepared to come early to secure an opportunity to perform your work. The next reading will be hosted this coming Tuesday night with local talent and guest performer Christian Drake. For more information about Hinge poetry readings, check out their website at northamptonpoetry.com.
Elise Martorano can be reached at [email protected]