Pop-up poetry cafe: a birthplace for flourishing poets

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Poetry Cafe, held at North Carlton’s Afro Hub, is a beautiful space that transforms undecided and inexperienced voices into standout performers.

The pop-up poetry cafe, happening on the second Saturday of every month, is simultaneously a performance space, social space and patisserie.

Creator and poet Jehnet Kaya (Jay for short), also known as Ms Millie, could not attend Melbourne’s poetry events because of her five-year-old son. Taking matters into her own hands she created a safe and inclusive space for community members to share their poetry and indulge in home-cooked sweets.

“I figured I could just get the poets to come to me,” Jay said.

The performers and audience experience a range of emotions. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

The strength of Melbourne’s poetry scene lies in its close-knit and caring community.

“The poetry community is paramount. It’s so important on so many levels for poets. The poetry community gives – it gives comfort, support, assurance and assistance,” Jay said.

At the event, cheers and encouragement can constantly be heard in support of the performers.

“I get to listen to people perform for the first time and see them gain their voice and see their confidence climb,” Jay said.

Jay hosting Ms Millie’s at Afrohub. Photo: Brendan Bonsack.

Ms Millie’s Pop Up Cafe has been a stepping stone for many, but also for Jay herself. Encouraged by those around her, she began performing her personal poems for the first time.

Even as a child, she remembered having a penchant for food. Merging her Turkish and African American ancestry to influence her bite-sized culinary delights, Jay’s sweets are a standout to be anticipated at each pop-up poetry event.

“I’ve always had a love for sweets and poetry so I figured I could combine two of my favourite things together and make it a thing, and people responded really positively,” Jay said.

“The influence of sugar either in the form of cake or syrup drenched baklava has carried over into my adult life,” Jay said.

Ms Millies Pop Up Cafe Facebook page is punctuated by delicious and evocative descriptions of food. Consider options “varying from honey pistachio cheesecake to sweet potato pie, orange marmalade cake to cherry pie”. They fire up the imagination and materialise as a picture perfect reality.

Jay’s personal favourites are her banana cream pie and sticky date cake. She calls them her “favourite dishes” and cites the influence of her father’s African American family.

Jay has big plans for the future, hoping to expand the pop-up event into Melbourne’s first “poetisserie” – a hybrid of a patisserie and a poetry space.

Ms Millie’s next event is on the 11th of November from 7.00 pm. Click here for all the information.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Devana Senanayake

Devana Senanayake is a digital specialist, journalist and radio presenter. She writes about feminism, race and cross cultural identity. She is interested in the exposure and celebration of the diverse voices, experiences and projects run by people of colour.

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