Nashville, TN – City Winery Nashville hosted the Soul Food Poetry Cafe’s “Poetry Honors” event on Saturday, November 18. The evening event, which began with a dinner at 6:00 pm followed by performances at 8:00 pm, drew an audience of 220 people to celebrate Nashville’s spoken word scene.
The event featured performances by I am Nick Music and Leslie Janene, with accompaniment from the Quentin Michael Music Group. These acts were a prelude to the evening’s main focus: honoring significant contributors to Nashville’s spoken word community. The honorees included poets Frank “Frizzy” Sykes, Khaos “No B.S.” Thomas, Alexis Wolfe, Cameron Mitchell, Black Atticus and the non-profit Southern Word.
Nashville poet Imani Rhema, the organizer of the event, shared her insights into the motivation behind the “Poetry Honors.” She explained, “Our event started as an open mic show and has evolved into a live concert event that includes poetry and live music. However, the core of spoken word continues with the poets at the open mics in Nashville. It’s a challenging job, involving coordination with venues, promoting events, and keeping the momentum going. I’ve experienced these challenges firsthand. So I just want to make sure to give them the honor, give them their flowers now for keeping the spoken word movement going in Nashville.”
Throughout the event, each honoree captivated the audience with their powerful poetry pieces, showcasing the diverse range of voices and styles that enrich Nashville’s spoken word scene.
A highlight of the evening was the honoring of the Southern Word, an organization which has been instrumental in promoting spoken word education and youth development in the region. Representing Southern Word, Tennessee State University student Christian Ezell, a member of their program, delivered a poignant poem that exemplified the organization’s impact. Founded in 2008, Southern Word has grown into a national leader in the spoken word education field, serving thousands of youth annually. Their work extends beyond spoken word to music production and writing, empowering youth to become active thinkers and creators, while addressing educational and developmental challenges.
Khaos “No B.S.” Thomas, one of the honorees, commented, “To be recognized by my peers and fellow poets as a serious writer is a great feeling. I think that with my life experiences over the last 75 years, what I have to say is very important. I have been writing for over 50 years and I feel honored to be recognized in this way.”
Cameron Mitchell of The Free Fyre spoke about the impact of the recognition: “Receiving this award lets us know that our work is making a positive impact in the community. It allows those who strive to be artists to know that it is possible to blaze your own path and take your artistry to the next level.”
Black Atticus, the founder of Po Boys and Poets and currently Knoxville’s poet laureate, spoke about the significance of the evening. “It’s refreshing to see a sense of unity in Nashville’s poetry scene, something that I felt was lacking when I was more active here,” he reflected. “Back then, there seemed to be more division within the community. Being honored tonight by another poetry group, rather than seeing us as competition, is a much-needed step towards unity. It’s a great start and a clear indication of unification within Tennessee’s poetry community.”
Alexis Wolfe, another honoree of the evening, reflected on the significance of the honor and her journey in poetry. “Being honored tonight is a bit surreal for me. I’m often so immersed in my work that I don’t always stop to appreciate the journey. This recognition forces me to be present and appreciate my path.”
A former resident of Clarksville where she was stationed at Fort Campbell, Alexis now resides in Nashville. She recounted her transition from the army to pursuing poetry full-time. “When I was in Clarksville, I used to visit Nashville for open mics. After my service, I moved here to fully dedicate myself to poetry. As someone currently ranked as the 5th best poet in the world, following my performance at the Women of the World Poetry Slam, I feel a sense of responsibility and validation. Being honored among legends of poetry, who I deeply respect, means a lot to me.”
The evening concluded with a high energy performance by Nashville artist Neci, accompanied by the Quentin Michael Music Group. This final act underscored the blend of spoken word and music that characterized the event, leaving an enduring impression on the audience.
Soul Food Poetry Cafe, founded 16 years ago by Imani Rhema, has been at the forefront of nurturing this vibrant arts scene. ‘Poetry Honors,’ hosted by Soul Food Poetry Cafe, was not just a celebration of the spoken word in Nashville, but also a testament to the unwavering commitment of Nashville’s poets and artists to their craft. This event, marked by significant attendance, underscored the depth of Nashville’s dedication to its literary talents.
Imani Rhema concluded, ‘With tonight’s event, I wanted to reach back and pay honor to those who are still doing the grind. This honor is for their dedication and hard work.’
For more information on future events and to support Nashville’s spoken word talents, visit www.soulfoodpoetrycafe.com.