Trying to Find The Words - Berlin’s Open Mic Nights

Berlin’s open mic nights host writers, poets, you and me.

This week, I had the totally strange and unique experience of sitting down and carefully listening to other people talk without anxiously preparing a response in my head. Just sitting back and listening. I admit that the first time was really difficult and I had to restrain myself from interrupting the writers, but finally, I settled in, and now I am hooked. These are my two favorite places to sit down, shut up, laugh and cry a bit.

Whiskey and Words - Tuesdays @ Keith Bar
"Show me the way to the next whiskey bar where I can read my poetry to someone other than my mom."

I had never been to an event like this before, so I felt a bit nervous. The place looked like every other Berlin bar - meticulously unpolished to maintain the look of carefree destruction, candlelit and cozy. I arrived half an hour earlier than the starting time and the place was empty, apart from a couple sitting by the window, talking quietly. If I were an aspiring writer who had mustered up the courage to share their work with strangers for the first time, I might have felt daunted by what appeared to be the absence of an audience.

In this case, though, looks happened to be very deceiving. It was actually smart to go early and reserve a spot, as the place filled up at lightning speed. There are two rooms, the usual bar area where you can have a drink before the event starts, and then the back room where the magic happens. According to Nick, Aussie musician and bartender at Keith, the place boasts some of the best whiskey varieties in Berlin. Nevertheless, if you are not a big whiskey fan but you also wanna try the whole whiskey and words experience, you can order the bar’s specialty; whiskey and beer together. After choosing between eight different combinations, you end up sipping your scotch in one hand, but also staying faithful to your favourite beer.

At some point we were asked to gather in ‘the room.’ The atmosphere was very relaxed, as we were simply invited to take our drink and sit down on the floor cushions. The place is pretty small so you will get to know everyone in five minutes and share your pillow-seat with your neighbour. The readers are people from different countries and cultures, they usually read in English but sometimes in their mother language as well. There is a ‘theme of the day’ providing writers and poets with a guideline, but this works usually as a suggestion rather than a restriction. Carolina, the hostess of the event, is a warmhearted girl who mades readers and guests feel comfortable at the start by reading us some of her New Year’s resolutions.

Berlin Spoken Word -Thursdays @Du Beast
"A place to highlight writing that is made to be read out loud."

Having learned nothing about early birds who catch worms, I arrived at the bar late this time. I looked around in frustration.Some people were drinking like nothing was happening. No readings and no weirdoes with moleskins (apart from me). Was I at the wrong place? The barman saw my look of desperation, then my notebook, then my frozen hands.

“It’s downstairs behind that door,” he said, nodding towards an entrance I hadn’t noticed before.

I may have been late, but I was also thirsty, so I ordered my wine and snuck into the basement. The place was full but I managed to find a little spot in the corner. Even though I pushed and stepped on people, everyone smiled at me and helped me pass through them. Again, a very welcoming and warm atmosphere, like stepping into a big hug. The underground element gave the whole thing a tone or mystery and created the feeling of belonging to a secret club.

About 25 people appeared on stage, all completely different, original and absolutely unique. There were poems, fiction, biographical narrations, lovely, heartbreaking songs in languages I didn’t understand, interactive games, anecdotes and jokes. Every time a new face came on stage, the audience embarked on on a different journey and the mood changed as if with the press of a button. Time flew by and everyone had a blast. In the end, the audience and writers gathered upstairs at the bar area. I noticed many familiar faces from the aforementioned Whiskey and Words event and I realized that this a living, breathing community that evolves every week.

Naniso and Mary, the organizers of the event, are passionate about what they do make a great team. They welcome everyone who wants to communicate their thoughts and hearts with the crowd and share their art.

In both cases, freedom of speech and fearless exposure prevail. If you’ve been looking for a safe place to share and unload your inner world, you just found two. Contact them on Facebook and reserve a spot. Just do it.

By Artemis Pittara
(with the help of Susan Grouchy)

Keith Bar; Schillerpromenade 2, 12049 Berlin
Du Beast; Innstraße 4, 12045 Berlin

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