F, V at Lower East Side-Second Ave.; J, M, Z at Essex St.
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In 1973, writer Miguel Algarin co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the living room of his East Village apartment. Now located at 236 East Third Street, the space continues to serve as a stage for multicultural, underrepresented artists. Proud Nuyoricans like Rosario Dawson and Rosie Perez have frequented the open-mike nights, but it's the café’s historical legacy in poetry—Allen Ginsberg was a patron—that continues to attract a packed house: Here, a low-slung black stage provides an intimate space for performers to engage with the audience. And the audience engages back, with friendly heckling ("Get to the point!"), support (“represent!”), and even finger-snapping (really). The place is also renowned for having originated the late-night poetry slam, where poets perform original work in a competitive series of rounds judged by the audience—for the Friday Night Poetry Slams, expect to wait in a line of a hundred others circling the block, with gray-haired regulars standing elbow to elbow with curious teens. Don't worry if this is your first slam: the $6 beers make for easy friendships.
Picnics with a view, roller-skating nostalgia, and a party for gay headbangers.