The Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

A multi-arts and multicultural institution

Since 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe has presented groundbreaking works of poetry, music and theater by multicultural artists who exist outside the mainstream.

Murals by Chico and Joe Whippler adorn the front of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a spoken word mecca where slam poetry was popularized.

Chico's mural features a portrait of Reverend Pedro Pietri, one of the Cafe's founders.

The Cafe began as an informal gathering of poets, playwrights and musicians - many of Puerto Rican heritage - whose work defied mainstream categorization.

Poet and playwright Miguel Piñero was among the Cafe's founding artists.

Miguel Piñero and Sandra Maria Esteves, two major figures of the Nuyorican poetry movement, on the train in New York City in 1977. Photograph by Bolivar Arellano.

A poem by Miguel Algarin, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

The Cafe purchased a former tenement building in 1981, and transformed it into a multi-arts performance space. In the 1990s, poetry slams became the Cafe's main attraction.

The Cafe staged its first poetry slams in the late 1980s. During the 1990s, slam poetry exploded in popularity at the Cafe and across America.

Poetry slams are performance poetry competitions that emphasize rhythm and physicality. This is a poem by Jamaal St. John, who has won the Cafe's annual Grand Slam championship multiple times.

Poets selected for the Cafe's annual Slam Team sometimes perform group pieces, like this popular poem by Nuyo Slam Team members Tonya Ingram and Venessa Marco.

In 1998, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's poetry slam team won the National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas.

At the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, performance poets often collaborate with musicians, as in this duet between poet and actor Craig "muMs" Grant and vocalist Aurora Barnes.

The Cafe has long been a home for Latin Jazz, as well as for poetry and other art forms. Grammy nominee Wilson Chembo Corniel is among the accomplished musicians who often perform at the Cafe.

Renowned Nuyorican Poet Sandra María Esteves collaborated with Latin Jazz greats Ibrahim González and Bobby Sanabria and dancer Mariyn Idaka Worrell in this 2010 workshop performance at the Cafe.

Playwright and poet Ntzoake Shange has been associated with the Cafe since its earliest days; her choreopoems resonate with the Cafe's multi-arts tradition. Here she reads from a new work at the Cafe.

The Cafe often works with artists who campaign for social justice. In 2013, Tony winner Sarah Jones (a Nuyorican Poets Cafe alumnus) interviewed activist Gloria Steinem after a show at the Cafe.

Rome Neal's Banana Puddin' Jazz Jam brings acclaimed jazz artists to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. In this segment, Tony winner Lillias White performs with Patience Higgins and the Sugar Hill Quartet.

Boots Riley is among the many well-known hip hop artists who have performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. He recently joined French musician Emilie Lesbros for a duet onstage at the Nuyorican.

Rome Neal, Miguel Algarin, poet Steve Cannon and actress Vinie Burrows gathered at the Nuyo in 2010 to honor writer Ishmael Reed, many of whose plays premiered at the Cafe. Photo: Playthell Benjamin.

Miguel Algarin, former executive director Carmen Pietri-Diaz and current executive director Daniel Gallant outside the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

The Cafe's upper floors store archival materials (years ago, Alvin Ailey and Jean-Michel Basquiat hosted gatherings here). These floors will soon be renovated to provide additional performance space.

A recent Friday Night Slam at the Cafe, hosted by Mahogany L. Browne.

Since the 1990s, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's spoken word events have drawn crowds of young and diverse New Yorkers. Allen Ginsberg called the Cafe "the most integrated place on the planet."

Friday nights at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe are always lively and vibrant. Filmmaker Travis Ross documented one of the Cafe's Friday Night Poetry Slams in 2013.

Artists, staff and volunteers from the Cafe often participate in community events, such as New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The Cafe stages free concerts and poetry events outdoors every year. This video from BronxNet documents a 2015 Nuyorican Poets Cafe Summerstage performance in the Bronx.

During the Cafe's 35th anniversary celebration in 2008, poet Carlos Andrés Gómez teamed up with tap dancer Savion Glover to deliver a memorable performance.

The Nuyorican Poets Cafe's Executive Director, Daniel Gallant, discusses the Cafe's 40th anniversary and its future plans in an interview on NY1.

Aja Monet, the youngest poet to ever win the Cafe's annual Grand Slam championship, collaborated with the Cafe on this short poetic film.

A short poem by Reverend Pedro Pietri, one of the Cafe's founding artists.

Credits: Story

Exhibit curated by Daniel Gallant, with research and editorial assistance from Tarah Douglas and Chris Lopez.

Special thanks to Jason Quinones, Eliazar Anchicanoy, Anita Contini, the board of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, all of our artists and everyone at Google Cultural Institute.

For more details about the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, visit or follow us at and

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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