There are no poets in Texas 0 Comments

There are no poets in Texas

As an outsider looking at the American writing scene, I had the feeling of having to start from scratch. I didn’t know what their reputable journals were, or which places the real poets hung out at. I only had a month in which to find out as well, which didn’t help. But in case you’re thinking of doing the same, or want to see  what the other side of the world is doing, I’ve distilled my findings here.

New York

There was a beautiful contrast with the heavily armed police force that stood guard at the major train stations, and the poetry that they’d put on the wall. It seemed they had an awareness of writing, but that it had to take back seat to keeping their state free. There would probably have been some secret places where performances happened, but they weren’t at Times Square.

New Jersey

We stayed with a poet in New Jersey, who introduced us to people like Sarah Kay as well as the various places of destruction still reeling from Sandy. You could study writing there, but most people were concerned with simply rebuilding.


I didn’t expect to find much that wasn’t occupied with the upcoming inauguration, but we did find a really cool cafe/bookshop called Busboys and Poets. I was also introduced to the concept of backpacker libraries and where I made some fortuitous trades, to be passed on later down the track.

New Orleans

The writing and poetry here was vibrantly alive on the streets. Performers and people lived in a way that made me want to write about them. The number of voodoo shops vastly outnumbered the bookshops but we made up for it by composing impromptu spoken word in the midnight alleyways.


Maybe they buried their arts deep under the desert for safekeeping, but the only thing close to poetry that I found was a clumsy (and threatening) T-shirt that said: ‘Invest in Precious Metals / Buy Lead!’ with a picture of a pile of bullets underneath.

San Francisco

The Big Issue equivalent in San Francisco was a poetry magazine, or it might have just been that that was the poetry issue. Either way, I was glad to see there was enough of a market for poetry to be selling in the street. California did well for itself actually, as I found two free street journals in Venice Beach. These were in a bookstore that was connected to a restaurant. Much like how Borders had that deal with Gloria Jeans where there was a coffee shop in the middle of the bookstore, this was a full blown restaurant joined to the side.

There was more than enough to keep me entertained, but I felt that the time I spent in each city wasn’t enough to get it to open up to me. Maybe being an outsider made it hard to find these spaces (I lived in Melbourne for years before finding out about The Spinning Room, now disbanded).  I did, however, discover The New Yorker, which I proceeded to read in every city except New York. Perhaps research or knowing a local would have helped, but the things were stumbled upon were fantastic in their own way.

By Rafael SW

Rafael SW is an EdCommer who just finished a  degree in creative writing at RMIT and is one of the founding members of Dead Poets’ Fight Club. He writes every single day and has been published in Voiceworks, Ex Calamusand Dotdotdash. He also competes in poetry slams and giant-sized chess games. Find more at

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