Boston Poetry Slam Says Goodbye to the Cantab Lounge

Hello, Cantabbers: this is your slam curator speaking. It has been a spring and summer of many griefs, and to this I am sad to officially add the loss of our historical home, the stage that has housed the Boston Poetry Slam since October 16, 1992. Word went out today, Sunday, July 19, that our home venue, the beloved and oft-fondly-maligned Cantab Lounge, will not reopen. The business is expected to be announced for sale.

The global pandemic, the fluctuation of official response to the health crisis, and the impossibility of guessing the shape of live art to come mean this: even before the shuttering of our home venue, I could not predict what the future of the Boston Poetry Slam might be. I want to extend gratitude to everyone who has offered us support and joy and attended our Extremely Online readings, curated spontaneously and lovingly by Lip Manegio and Myles Taylor. With respect to all of our staff’s need to refresh and regroup, the EO readings and BPS operations will be on hiatus until further notice, irrespective of any further developments at the Cantab Lounge itself. If you aren’t already connected to other opportunities for online poetry community, please email me for suggestions.

For those here for further details, or with heartache to process over missing the space, you already know: the Boston Poetry Slam is not a place. It’s not a loss of a person, or the way a poet you just met thinks about language: we’ll only be missing a half-dozen sticky barstools, a cold cement floor where pub glasses go to die, a certain slant of light that confounds would-be videographers and shakes that fourth stanza you thought you memorized right out of your pockets. Our bar is closed, and closing, but our community remains whole.

So, of course, the Boston Poetry Slam is not the Cantab Lounge: and yet, you know it also always will be. The bar hosted the weekly show longer than most of our current regulars have walked this earth, and the name is nationally synonymous with the scene, community, and sound that have come from the stage over the years. If you ever mentioned you were from Boston at a slam event, you were likely to hear (among other things): “Are you Cantab?” I hear from poets all the time (secretly, generously) who promise me there is no place in the world like the place. Regulars from five, ten, twenty years ago return on a whim, on a Wednesday, to re-introduce themselves to poetry in the same basement, under the same pounding blues and leaking pipes. And poets leave knowing that when they need to come back, Cantab will be waiting.

If Cantab has ever been home for you: I’m sorry that it won’t wait for us still. I’ve spent tonight reaching out to our founders, our hosting and support staff, our bartenders, our old guard slam and modern era teams, our champs and national reps, and anyone I could think of who felt ownership of this not-big-enough-for-its-hearts space. I missed some of you; the people I can’t connect to directly are countless and impossible, and so I hope this message reaches you. If you ever thought: I’ll go down there and read someday. Or: I’ll get back there and read someday. Or: I’ll take someone else who needs it there someday. I hope and wait for that wish to come true, wherever the next there happens to be.

Thank you for all the years so far. Don’t forget that you’re Cantab, wherever you are.

–simone
Simone Beaubien
Slam Curator, Boston Poetry Slam