Poetry / You Know Its Me

Houston's poetry scene has exploded. In the early days, there were underground Midtown Art Center gigs with Israel McCloud and the infamous Roots Collective, and those unforgettable sets at Mahogany Café. Now spoken word in Houston has acquired a force of its own, and if you know where to look, you'll hear radical talk on par with Brand Nubians lyrics, and witness drama that rivals any Real World episode.

The Blackout Arts Collective isn't into watercolor-illustrated poems about flowers, bees and thee. In their hip-hop world, poetry is written to be spoken, and this posse drops politically conscious lyrics every time it rocks the mike. Wednesday nights, the seven-man, four-woman crew can be found at Industry Café, hosting an open-mike and performing inspiring pieces that will have you reaching for your own pen and pad. Three of their members will be going to the National Poetry Slam Championship in Chicago in August: the ever-so-eloquent Karega, the superbly talented Keshia and the realist Marcel Murphy. The collective performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Industry Café, 2110 Rusk, 713-222-2233. $3.

The folks at Paesanos offer up spoken word with a more personal bent. Each week, the downtown lounge becomes the meeting ground for the poetically inclined; on the blue-lit stage, poets offer up erotic tales about sexcapades and rants about love gone wrong. The always-vivacious Tosha Terry hosts, with her homegrown and sometimes acerbic wit. Poets, watch your time, because Tosha will come get you off the stage. 7 p.m. Sundays at Paesanos, 315 Milam, 713-221-5483. $7. The release party for Terry's own CD, Renaissance Woman, goes down July 20 and will feature Blackout stars Keshia and Equality, the mild-mannered Deep Blu See and D-Rebel.

Some other poetry spots to check out: Starving Poets present Soul Explosion I at Industry Café, featuring Hahleema, James Jones and PJ, 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 5. $5. Comfort Zone, 8 p.m. Mondays at G's & Z's, 4412 Almeda, 713-737-8366. $5. For information on all these events and more, visit www.houstonpoets.com.

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Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc