When Stephanie Moothu moved to Squamish from Toronto for work a couple of years ago, she kept an eye out for events that showcased poets.
After about a year, she realized there wasn’t such a regular event in town.
So, she decided to start one and Poet Next Door was born that July of 2022.
She previously ran shows in Toronto under her brand Soul House.
"Soul House is run by me, a Queer Brown woman who is passionate about building diverse creative spaces inclusive of the BIPOC and Queer community. However, my events welcome everyone, and we are all family," she told The Squamish Chief.
The first local Poet Next Door event took place in a friend's backyard and the next in Moothu's own backyard.
The ninth Poet Next Door took place on April 20. They are held on the third Thursday of the month.
While the first events were friends and friends of friends, now there can be 60 to 100 people in attendance, Moothu said. Some folks are regulars and come out to each show, building a community of poet-loving locals along the way.
Now many of the events are held at Zephyr Cafe.
Moothu herself has long been a writer and a poet.
She credits her Grade 4 teacher with the encouragement to see herself as such.
"I didn't really like to rhyme a lot ... so I thought I was a terrible poet. He told me that poetry doesn't have to rhyme and that I was a wonderful writer. I would show him all the short stories that I would write — and poetry. And he gave me a lot of feedback and told me that I would be a writer one day, if not already," she recalled, noting that is the attitude she has toward the Poet Next Door shows.
Poet Next Door is a place for both emerging and professional poets to share the stage, she stressed.
“This means the space is for everyone, whether they’ve been on 100 stages or they have never shared their work in a public space, PND is the place to do it. A majority of our performers are emerging.”
Her philosophy is that art, such as poetry, is made to be shared.
"Art only exists in its true form once it's been witnessed, which is why Poet Next Door is so near to my heart," she said. "It's not only a place for art to be expressed — folks are actually a witness to the transformation of a writer's work as it is never the same on the page as it is spoken from the mouth. That is why First Nations value their oral history so much. Spoken language holds great power and I believe the same is true for spoken word. Art is meant to be witnessed, and the artists are meant to be seen."
If you want to know more or sign up to perform your poetry, reach out to Moothu at 647-390-8092.
Tickets to be in the audience are $5 to $20 on a sliding scale. Moothu noted, however, that no one would ever be turned away for a lack of money. Reach out to her for a code to get a free ticket if need be.
Please note that the events are adult-oriented, with, at times, sensitive themes.
This May, visual artist, poet, and spoken word coach Marie Metaphor will be performing.
Find the tickets for all Poet Next Door shows on eventbrite.