Friday, May 20, 2022
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Swordfish Tom’s: A speakeasy with a love for poetry


Amelia Romine

Stroll through the Crossroads Art district, and you’ll see many peculiar storefronts, coffee shops, art galleries and other locally owned businesses. Take a turn down an alley off 19th Terrace, make your way through a nondescript gray door, and suddenly you’re transported back to the roaring 20s.

The bar, Swordfish Tom’s, is dimly lit and decorated with antique chairs, a rustic wooden cocktail counter and  pieces from an early 20th century locomotive.

The bartender, Jill, pours vintage-style drinks with a smile on her face.

On the stage, poets speak from the soul.

Guests Lola Nation, from California, and Jen Harris, a Kansas City native who was named “Best Poet” by The Pitch last year, graced Swordfish Tom’s stage last weekend for a night of beautiful poetry.

Nation gave voice to the hardships and emotional turmoil she’s experienced as a foster parent.

She described one of her foster children, Samantha, Lola as having, “beautiful eyes, wise before their time,” and continued with stories of what it means to love someone under the dire circumstances of the foster care system.

Harris’s poetry was a whirlwind of passion, focusing primarily on love, loss and the ongoing struggles of being a woman in a male-dominated world. One of her poems was about her complex PTSD, a heart-wrenching analysis of what living with such a diagnosis feels like.

Harris, a former UMKC student, stole the show with her word play and heartfelt inflection. Her prose was both somber and intuitive, immersing the audience in stories about lovers, relationships and self image.

“The relationship I have with love is superstitious,” she said.

Comical and painful, endearing and angry, her words captivated the audience from beginning to end, proving once and for all that she truly is one of Kansas City’s best slam poets.

Swordfish Tom’s proves to be one of Kansas City’s best kept secrets. It’s a place where both artistry and individuality are celebrated wholeheartedly. It’s a perfect spot anyone looking for an atmosphere of acceptance, and maybe a drink or two.


Photos courtesy of  Jacob Buchanan

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