We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



The reputation of open-mike nights in the District received a big boost in 1998, when director Marc Levin’s feature film Slam won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. In the movie, the poet Saul Williams stars as Ray Joshua, a D.C. native struggling to survive amid the chaos of his public housing project. Joshua displays his talent for spoken-word poetry not in the classroom, but first in a prison yard and later on stage at an open-mike performance. Both recitals are equally raw, gritty, and emotionally jarring. Whatever division exists between the street and the stage vanishes amid the whirling dervishes of Joshua’s verse. And therein lies the hope of every open-mike night—that talented voices, excluded from the highly regulated forum of academic poetry, will be heard. This one begins at 7 p.m. at Kaffa House, 1212 U St. NW. $5. (202) 462-1212. (FG)