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Written byAlex Short

“This space is its own organism. It’s understanding between performers and audience. It’s a space of bravery.”

In the modern era of social media, poetry is more available and appreciated now than perhaps ever before. With aesthetic trends such as Dark Academia, Slam Poetry and Rupi Kaur popping up in every corner of the internet and the easy access to poetry all-over social media, both in sharing and consuming, poetry is an art form with a niche carved for seemingly every person who cares enough to read a few lines. Perhaps all it takes to spark one’s own interest and creativity is the right space and community to start.

So at this point, I’d like to introduce Third House Poetry, a poetry community hosting open-mic nights that is rapidly growing in reach to people across Cape Town. Third House is non-judgemental, open community that caters to both those wanting to share and to listeners looking for an enjoyable experience. I was lucky enough to join Third House for an event and chat to Kiva Farah (the founder) about her cultivation of such an open, warm space.

The way Kiva describes it, Third House seemingly came about as an accident. Originally from Joburg, Kiva’s original event planning focus was on the Basilisk Events at Evol. But as a poet herself looking to engage with others, a post-pandemic Cape Town had no spaces or open mic nights to offer. So, what was there to do but host one herself?

So the “passion project” (self-described but feeling to fall short in capturing THP’s electricity and professionalism) began in March 2022. THP’s first events were held at Café Ganesh in Observatory and although Kiva says they quickly outgrew the space, looking back at the photographs taken at the time, nothing but a grinning cramped groups who wouldn’t mind ducking so people can see fills the venue. It was also here that the team started to grow outside of Kiva. Arriving early to the event, Yanga – the future MC to other events – came early and helped Kiva set up chairs as they started chatting.

“He’s just joyous, like exuberant. He was just like: ‘Hey, if you need help or anything, just hit me up.’ So it was quite ironic. First person, first event.”

Perhaps ironic or indicative of the space itself, Yanga was not the last person to join the team through the community. Kiva says it was this openness and welcoming by the people that made her decide to move her focus to Third House away from her other event planning.

“I’ve come to learn through the experience, that what we’re doing, the meaningful aspect of what we’re doing is that we’re establishing a community and it’s an amazing community to be a part of. There are just incredible people who are kind and generous. Everyone, for the love of the art form and the space, is willing to contribute. It’s very rewarding.”

This assessment couldn’t ring truer to me. At their monthly event I joined at Selective Live, the room is full and excited. The crowd muted but buzzing. Perhaps when one thinks of poetry performances, pretentious and showy individuals might come to mind. But Third House, while respectful to the intimacy and the art, feels like a space of sharing.

Poets do not aim to individually impress but work with the audience’s collaboration and silents clicks are replaced with gratifying shouts and applause. You could almost imagine it being a Creative’s Anonymous. An addiction to creating wordcraft which you share with your knowing peers, non-judgemental and excited to feel the words with you.

Justin, the Graphic Designer behind Third House’s engrossing posters, tells me about a girl he’s gotten to know through the events. A few times she had brought along a partner before coming to the next event to perform a poem describing the relationship’s end.

“We know her now and it’s a once a month check in to how someone is doing or where they’re at. What I am going to hear tonight?”

“It’s always a mixed bag, but more often than not you’ll get an extremely remarkable display of talent, and a diverse talent as well.”

The entire set-up could be described as an intimate snapshot into someone before leaving and becoming strangers again. I see the 50-year-old who struggled to get through a heart-wrenching poem about finding her identity after divorce sharing a drink a woman in her late 20s who delivered a comedic account of messages she’s left for a situationship. On the balcony, groups who didn’t arrive together mingle and share lighters. Perhaps they may never speak again, but the sharing of innermost happenings envelops everyone with the assuredness of the communal space.

Behind this curated environment is Kiva’s careful planning. Talking to her, I can hear the thought and time that has been put into the cultivation of this respectful and “really meaningful, authentic experience”. She talks to me about how important it is to her that everyone should feel welcome in the space.

Kiva describes the place as “pure emotion”. The performances leave place for the audience to project on it, and so different voices or poems in another language are important to include.

“I’m trying to create a space for people to be vulnerable. It’s means respecting the space and sharing in mutual understanding. I think Cape Town needs more diverse and integrated spaces.”

Third House Poetry is a space specifically open to novices or professionals and people of any background. The only requirement to utilising it is respecting the other voices that come through. Third House is made to be the place that gives the power back to any poet wanting to share the art.

Third House’s reach shows its diversity. I hear a poem titled “Why My Boyfriend Reminds Me of Loadshedding” which explores mental health and has quick witted quips. Another short limerick about self-confidence has a clever rhyming schemes. The poets who get on stage cover fear, death, the important of black voices, feminism, sexual assault and beauty standards. As Kiva puts it: “I just want people who are passionate about poetry, and respect it.”

As a space intended for no one particular person, Third House Poetry caters for every type of voice out there. It’s a community well worth the time, and I can safely say I felt nothing but enriched walking away.

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