Select Page

20th Anniversary Poetry Festival

20th Anniversary Poetry Festival featuring
Martín Espada: A Full Day of poets & Poetry

Join us to celebrate 20 years of Caffè Lena Poetry hosted by Carol Graser!

On the first Wednesday of the month in September 2003, Carol Graser initiated an open mic poetry reading series with a featured poet. Since then, with Carol at the helm, the series has flourished, featuring a slew of talented and accomplished poets of all kinds, and providing a welcoming open mic stage for every poet.  On September 23, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of this event.

Kicking-off the festivities, and to honor the talented, varied, fantastic and unpredictable open mic poets we’ve had over the years, there will be an extended open mic reading from 2:00-6:00 p.m.

This event is free. Sign-up in advance is required.

At 8 p.m. that night there will be a reading by National Book Award winner Martín Espada, with opening poets Sarah Giragosian and Roger Wyze Smith. Tickets for this part of the celebration are $20 (General), $18 (Members) or $10 (Student or Child) and can be purchased by clicking the button below.

Throughout September, we invite you to enjoy “Poems-on-the-Tables” at the caffe, curated by Saratoga Springs Poet Laureate Joseph Bruchac.

Poetry Open mic 2:00-6:00 p.m.


The open mic welcomes all poets and spoken word artists to share their work. Each reader will have 5 minutes at the mic. Participants will have a limited time to sign up for this event. Our kitchen will be open with a full menu of refreshments available for purchase. Hosted by Mary Panza. This event is free.

Headliner of the Evening: National Book Award winner Martin Espada

Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His new book of poems from Norton is called Floaters, winner of the 2021 National Book Award. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016), The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006) and Alabanza (2003). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump(2019). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of his collection Alabanza, about 9/11, has been widely anthologized and performed. His book of essays and poems, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and reissued by Northwestern. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

featured poet: Sarah Giragosian

Sarah Giragosian is the author of the poetry collections Queer Fish, a winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and The Death Spiral. In 2023, the University of Akron Press released the craft anthology, Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems, which she co-edited with Virginia Konchan. Sarah’s poems and essays have appeared in such journals as Orion, Ecotone, Tin House, Pleiades, and Prairie Schooner, among others.

Featured Poet: Roger Wyze Smith

Roger Wyze Smith is a Brooklyn-born poet of Bajan heritage, raised in Queens, NY. A working-class, married father of three, Smith is the author of two self-published collections of poetry, Laundromats & Lounges (2013) and Chambers of a Beating Heart (2015). His third release French Kissed Black Roses (2015) won third place in the Local Gems NaPoWriMo chapbook contest. Smith was a 2012 Inspired Works Contest Winner, the 2017 Louis Armstrong House Archives Writer-in-Residence and served as co-editor of poetry on Armstrong Literary Online Magazine 2018-2019. Smith holds a BA cum laude in English from Molloy College, an MFA in creative writing and literary translation from CUNY/Queens College and is a member of Lambda Iota Tau Literary Honor Society. His new collection, Radiation Machine Gun Funk is forthcoming from The Word Works, and is a “…masterful interweaving. Intense doesn’t begin to describe the impassioned, heated, and committed voice. Unique? Smith’s work is sui generis. This poetry is for the times and beyond. —Kimiko Hahn, author of Foreign Bodies