I couldn’t say how I first heard about the Poet’s Cauldron. Much like the shifting of seasons, I simply woke up and the Worcester world of poetry had blossomed. The White Room, situated in the Canal District, one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, began hosting the cathartic event on the 3rd Sunday of the month at the turn of the year.
I had the absolute delight of speaking with the organizing mastermind behind it all, BrujaTheVillain. Bruja is pixielike in stature, but has the otherworldly ability to effect monumental change. An artist and a poet, at heart, Bruja has been actively beautifying her community for all of her life.
One of the local haunts where she made an impression was the Dirty Gerund at Ralph’s Diner. “I used to visit the Dirty Gerund every Monday night, I love slam, I love spoken word, I enjoyed being up on stage and making myself vulnerable for everyone. Then I started doing slams with them. I even had my art featured there in that space and, as a result, hold the record for the painting sold at the highest bid in auction. “
A few years ago, Bruja made a personal choice to withdraw from public life. “I left my art, my poetry, everything and just took a long break. Then last year, while chatting with my friends Lou and Birgit, owners of the White Room, I remembered how much I’d missed spoken word performances and poetry. They were looking for an event to host in the space, and so a collaboration began.” It was that collaboration that became the Poet’s Cauldron.
“I worked really hard at promoting it, I went door to door on foot to local businesses, called up old artists friends, just really got the word out. Lou, Birgit and I met every Sunday the two months before the first event. On opening night, I was so nervous. Lou asked me if I thought we’d get up to 60 people. I tried to remain confident, but responded that even if we only got 15 people we’d still have a good time, and put on a good show.” Of course, no one needed to worry. That first event drew in 160 people and the crowds have not slowed down.” And it is easy to see why.
I attended the most recent event in April, and upon entering the white room, the feelings of inclusion and belonging are palpable. Between the twinkle lights strung up overhead, & the smooth musical accompaniment, the space invites relaxation and opening yourself up to the experience.
When pressed to take stock of her 30 odd year career, Bruja is not quick to make sweeping statements. “I can’t tell you what my proudest moment has been in my career because most of it comes from trauma but I see what I’ve done and how it has affected people. I know I’ve been asked to perform and display my work countless times in countless spaces. I know that in my career I’ve attracted doctors, lawyers, politicians alongside, my people from the hood, rappers, soul singers, artists and chefs. Everybody shares the same space.”
Though Bruja occasionally participates in the open mic night herself, she is committed to helping her own community shine. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities in my time. It’s important to me to allow other folks to get on stage and share their stories.”
The Cauldron is going strong and the shows are booked six months out. “It has become an oasis. I make sure that it’s a safe space, that’s number one for me. The audience and performers are multigenerational, multicultural, different genders, and not all of them go on stage but they engage, and that’s major.”
The Cauldron’s next performance on May 21st will feature the two Worcester Poet Laureates, Oliver de la Paz and Adael Meija. “They have different backgrounds and styles and I’m looking forward to seeing them both on stage.”
Bruja is hopeful that the Cauldron will help revitalize the poetry community and give other event creators a foothold. “My hopes are that it does flourish into something bigger than me, and I hope to be able to pass it down to someone else entirely.” If, or when, the time comes Bruja’s witchy boots will be some big shoes to fill.