Caffé Passé's monthly open mic uses words to create community

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Teré Fowler-Chapman, founder, host, and local poet, greets the crowd at the beginning of Words on the Avenue at Cafe Passe at 415 N. 4th Ave. on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015. Fowler-Chapman founded Words on the Avenue in 2012.

Walking through Café Passé and into the patio area, you find a stage tucked nicely in the back against a fence where the poets and writers of the night opened the year of “Words on the Avenue” with their works of art on Sunday.

The DJ, Roch Mirabeau, was set up on stage playing various types of music to set the tranquil ambiance of the patio setting. Strings of light hung from wall to wall, giving people enough light to see the poets, but also enough to reflect a relaxing vibe for a night of word play. The back patio was packed with listeners and the poets as they patiently waited for the event to begin.

Teré Fowler-Chapman, the founder of “Words on the Avenue”, quieted down the audience with a poem of her own. Her welcoming manner and excitement for poetry was well received, and she managed to make each poet feel welcome and comfortable.

Each poet was greeted with claps and snaps, as well as thanks for their reading. “Words on the Avenue” is a safe place for everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from.

Fowler-Chapman had a hard time finding a spot where poets could express themselves when she moved to Tucson about seven years ago. So she decided to create “Words on the Avenue”.

“I think it’s important for a city to have a place where they can just have their voice shared and when I first came to Tucson, I didn’t have a place where I could come as a poet,” Fowler-Chapman said. “All the open mics were music oriented. So I wanted a space that was just dedicated to words and also [to] create a healing platform for Tucson to share their works and progresses.”

The events first few years were rough, but it has grown and now brings in a good crowd. The event’s treasurer, Thomas Fuller, said that only standing space has been available in the past six months because all seats have been occupied.

“It’s really for Tucson, so we have the turnout that Tucson needs [at] each event,” Fowler-Chapman said. “It’s really good for us. So far, it seems like it’s building, which is really, really nice.”

What also sets this poetry event apart from others is its dedication to words and writing. Fowler-Chapman said poetry isn’t the only style they see. Rap lyrics, journal entries, a cappella, screen plays, short stories and other word-related art is also performed.

“It’s also a safe space, which is nice. I mean, anybody can come, really,” Fowler-Chapman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] or just a guy off the street.”

As for the poets themselves, they appreciate the support they get from their peers.

Lydia Havens has been performing at “Words on the Avenue” for a year and was a featured poet last September. Havens has performed poetry for three years and feels like she has found a second family within this Tucson community of poets.

“I love it. It is so supportive. I love coming here because it makes me feel like I have a second or third family,” she said. “Everyone is just so supportive of one another. I get a lot of hugs.”

Havens also feels as though the event spreads positivity in the writing community.

“Its like a foundation; everybody is using their hands to lift you up,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

The featured artist of the night, José Martinez, kicked off the year. The Tucson native has written poetry for almost four years and has attended “Words on The Avenue” in the past. When asked about how he felt about his performance, he said, “It went really well,” and he “really [loved] the atmosphere.”

Martinez feels that events such as “Words on the Avenue” are important community outlets.

“My biggest thing is mental health. I had to spend 24 hours in a suicide rehabilitation center, and I found myself writing poetry when there were long nights and I didn’t know what to do, if I was going to have an anxiety attack or something,” he said. “This was my outlet. I had somewhere to go where other people understood me, where people knew what I’d been through.”

He feels fortunate to be around a group of people who are sharing the same experiences as him.

The night ended with many compliments and congratulations to the poets, while the DJ continued to play his musical expressions. “Words on the Avenue” is every last Sunday of the month and starts at 6:30 p.m. at Café Passé.


Follow Erika Parra on Twitter.


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