Picture this: You’re sitting at your local sports bar on a Wednesday night listening to the deadbeat at the end of the bar complain about corporate America and his wife’s cooking for the 3rd straight hour. The sound of clashing pool balls circulates the room as the sports commentator droning from the nearby television announces that yes, Tom Brady missed his target yet again and the bartender shoots you another glare for reasons that you still don’t understand. It’s dark. It’s dank. It’s downright miserable.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not if you live around Cambridge, at least.
The Cantab Lounge, located at 738 Mass Ave in Cambridge, is the dark horse of entertainment destinations. Don’t be fooled by its “dive bar” exterior; endless opportunities for fun are nestled inside this hidden location. Tuesday nights offer Bluegrass Jams on the upper level while Wednesday nights provide a more “artsy” sort of entertainment in the form of poetry readings.
Now let’s backtrack a bit. I never liked poetry, at least not to the point where I’d want to sit down and listen to strangers read it for a few hours. Up until the end of high school, reading it on paper for more than 10 minutes made my brain hurt, so the thought of hearing it read aloud seemed like some sort of emotional suicide. However, when I was forced, as part of a senior year final creative writing project, to attend a poetry reading at the Cantab Lounge, my perspective changed.
My immediate love for Cantab came in three parts. First, for the poets. Anyone can sign up for the poetry open mic but 10 minutes after the doors open, you can be sure the sign-up sheet is filled with your favorite weekly readers. From red-headed bartenders to afro-rocking college grads, the characters that grace the Cantab stage are diverse and memorable. By the third visit, if you are not on a first name basis with your favorite poet and gushing about how great the bar is by the end of the night, you’re doing something wrong.
Second, the crowd. Reading anything in front of people is hard. (I don’t know about you but even walking across a room full of people to turn in a test in class makes me nervous. I get it. Everyone is preoccupied with their half-finished essays on what Holden’s hat actually means and they’re not looking. I don’t care.) Reading at Cantab, however, feels like a personal celebration of your greatness. Mention on stage that it is your first time reading and the people drinking Starbucks across the street will be able to hear the crowd’s applause. This adoration may seem frightening coming from a group of strangers but embrace it: you won’t find this kind of support from your English class after a presentation. This is your only chance, people.
Last but not least lies in the poetry itself. Be warned: any filter that may have existed in these poets’ minds is dropped off at the door. Stay long enough and you will hear poems that range from erotic-humor pieces (think 50 Shades of Grey but better) to depressing elegies. Liking poetry is not a requirement for visiting the Cantab Lounge but it will be the result.
So whether you like bluegrass music, engaging poetry or simply a good time, the Cantab Lounge is the place to be. Or maybe you’re just tired of watching the bartender coddle that guy at the end of the bar. That’s a good reason too.
The Cantab Lounge
738 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Poetry readings every Wednesday night. Doors open at 7:15. Bring ID and $3.
For more information on Cantab’s poetry night, click here.