nycSarah SimonnycComment

NYC's BEST brothel: The Poetry Brothel

nycSarah SimonnycComment
NYC's BEST brothel: The Poetry Brothel

I’m about to take you to a place that’s not unlike “The Escape Room,” skydiving, or those trendy “paint n’ sip” things that you see on Instagram.

By now, young adults around the world are already accustomed to paying for “the experience.” It’s great to read a crime drama, but why not pay to get locked in a room to figure one out? It’s great to fall in love, but skydiving gives you a rush that you’re so much more in control of. And who knows, maybe you’re great at painting (especially after a few glasses of wine).

We are creating and exploring an economy of experiences. Various types of experiences (and then Instagramming about them) make up a burgeoning industry, with both its pros and cons. But the point is to get you doing something that you wouldn’t normally do, or that could be risky – while offering a safe space to do it. So the next time you’re in New York City, experience where I moonlight, The Poetry Brothel; you’ll find yourself soliciting without having to worry about STIs.**

Source: Flickr (Creative Commons)

Source: Flickr (Creative Commons)

You are there because there is nowhere else.

You are here because nowhere else is here.

Here is where nowhere


Too many poetic works champion vague extremities of place – especially through the use of the word “nowhere.” I mean, come on – help the reader/listener out here.

But I reference “nowhere” well-aware of it as a poetic bromide. It’s because this “nowhere” is the Poetry Brothel, the least trite, hackneyed, banal, cliché, bromide-y poetry organization of all. You don’t go there to listen to monotonously-read metaphors or find yourself raucously cheering one slam poet over the other. You go there to, most of all, be engaged in your own way: The Poetry Brothel, poetic bromide, peanut butter; PB, and you’re the J.

Source: Flickr (Creative Commons)

Source: Flickr (Creative Commons)

You might be wondering why I just referenced food. Well, that’s because my brothel persona is obsessed with it. Hello, I’m Sarah Simon in real life, and Tibia, well – she’s who I become in the brothel at night.

Sure, you’ll say all of us are obsessed with food, naturally obsessed with something that naturally keeps us alive. But she – Tibia, like your bone – Tibia’s obsessed with it in a way that is actually killing her. She’s a supermodel, but she’s also sick. We’ll get more into that later.

I could try to explain the brothel to you, but as the saying goes, why reinvent the wheel – why re-fry the egg? Let’s let an excerpt from journalist Matthew Wilson’s investigative piece do that:

In the dim shadows of The Back Room, —a 1920s speakeasy located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and one of only two remaining speakeasies in the city— the poets of the Poetry Brothel, a theater troupe of professional writers who often perform here, look like a gaggle of Victorian ghosts on this cold November Sunday morning. When the winter coats come off and the corsets, lace, and bras come on, they look like they stepped out of a Gothic painting, like they might be discussing how they can best attract a ‘john’ in private. If you are one of the many paying customers that flock to their shows, one token will get you a five-minute private poetry reading in one of backrooms. But, if you want a second, well, that’s going to cost two tokens.

Ugh, Matt does such a good job at building the allure.

ANYWAY, so, yes – that’s us. The Poetry Brothel. If you want to get fancy, we’re an interactive literary cabaret; we deal in the business of poetry, not sex. And as our perennially drunk cast member, Tennessee Pink, slurs, “To have someone whisper a poem into your ear [can be] better than sex.”

As a cast member – what we endearingly (and with permission, only) call a “poetry whore” –, I created Tibia as the medium through which to perform my poetry. Each of us creates an alter ego who often speaks to something deeply personal. In my case, Tibia speaks to my own struggles with eating disorders – and is convenient, because so much of the poetry I wish to share makes references to food, body image, feeling empty, feeling full, the conveyance of bones, cheekbones, your bones in a K-Mart shopping center – but I wouldn’t want to give too much away. It’ll cost ya.

Think of the brothel as skydiving for introverts, the literary-inclined, or just anyone who’s smart enough to not jump from a helicopter. As Tank and the Bangas sing, rap, scat and beepbox in their piece “Rollercoasters,” the johns and the janes, customers (you), of the poetry brothel – “they wanna know how it feels to just fall.”

**I say this with no intention to offend sex industry workers – many of whom are supporting bodies and lives in addition to those that belong to them. But still, I say it because you may enter this brothel with all these preconceptions, but we hope you leave understanding stigmatized groups differently.

For more on The Poetry Brothel, visit their website.

For more on Sarah and her character Tibia, take a look at this extraordinary promo vid.

Later in 2019, Sarah will be publishing core collection: poems about eating disorders with Adelaide Books. Keep up with her on Instagram.