On the evening of Thursday 31 August 2023, Florence café in Luxembourg-Gare held its seventh “open mic” event, attracting around a dozen people of different ages and backgrounds, ready to share, perform or just listen to poetry.
Kelsey Todter, the café’s owner, lived in Uganda before she moved to Luxembourg, which made it particularly important for her to use sustainably-grown coffee in her café. She opened Florence in 2021 and started out with other events, bringing in food trucks and creating a space for people to meet. However, when she went on a coffee shop course in the Netherlands, she realised she had never heard about an open mic space in Luxembourg, although they were common in Dutch cities or other countries. She spoke to her friend, Drees, about poetry on this day for the first time and both realised they wrote poems and that they might like to share. An afternoon’s poetry reading on a Dutch canal later turned into a monthly tradition.
“It turned the café into a community,” Kelsey told Chronicle.lu, adding that she hopes “everyone can feel at home here.” Since her and Drees started these events in December 2022, different people have come to perform songs, play instruments and read poems. According to Kelsey, these events usually gather anywhere between fifteen and 40 people, with around 25 attendees on average. Since Florence has moved into the other corner shop just across the street from the café's old premises in August 2023, it is now larger and can host bigger groups.
Drees, who leads the sessions, encourages attendees to participate and shares witty anecdotes, has been writing poetry for a long time, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s work. He interspersed the poetry reading on Thursday with poetic riddles, which the attendees tried to solve in teams.
The poetry reading itself was surprising (with some poetic ChatGPT making an entrance as well), intimate and welcoming of a variety of experiences and emotions: from fear, love, death, grief and mourning to light-hearted comedy.
While the next date has not been confirmed yet, the events take place every second or third week of the month and they are announced on the café’s Instagram page.