Boulder’s Folsom Slam: Taking Poetic License

Taylor Hutchison, a tall 22-year-old in blue jeans and a flannel shirt, is reciting one of his original compositions at the microphone on a raised stage in the corner of The Folsom Street Coffee Co. in Boulder.

“Maybe if I wrote in bold my ideas would be bigger.”

The crowd nods, laughs or applauds as different lines strike them as especially well-penned.

Hutchison is competing in tonight’s installment of the Folsom Slam, a monthly contest where poets have a chance to showcase their talents and oust competing poets in a round of what can only be described as a battle of words in which the pen really is mightier than the sword. The prize? Fifty bucks and Andy Warhol’s legendary 15 minutes of fame.

First Fridays? Nah, enjoy coffee and poetry every last Wednesday at Boulder’s Folsom Street Coffee Co.

The Folsom Slam takes place the last Wednesday of each month, and is judged by a randomly chosen panel of onlookers. Most of the crowd looks like poets, painters, musicians or writers — people who might be at home in the plazas of Montmartre overlooking the Parisian cityscape. The café, only a few short blocks from both Naropa University and the University of Colorado, manages to epitomize the town’s famous college culture.

Though the slam happens only once a month, the Folsom Street Coffee Co. hosts an open mic every Wednesday night, offering a smorgasbord of auditory arts, including poetry, prose, music and spoken word, along with an excellent selection of coffee, teas and espresso drinks.

The place is barely large enough to hold the nearly 50 people who have crowded inside to watch the slam; all of the tables, couches and comfy chairs are full, and a fair number of people — my wife and I included — are forced to stand, leaning against the counter or one of the walls.

The walls are a pale sage green and lavender, and the ceiling is made from corrugated aluminum; original pieces of art — a painting of a snowboarder, red and green abstract canvases, white rectangles with the simple silhouettes of trees — hang on the walls. “It feels like a scrapbook in here,” my wife commented during a break between poets. A collection of brightly colored bottles and glassware sits on shelves in an alcove backed by glass bricks.

One of the more interesting pieces is a large black circle with white letters crossworded across the surface, built around four central words: meditation, illuminate, wisdom and sanctuary.

Folsom Street Coffee Co. offers more than just baked goodies. Open mic nights and a monthly poetry slam spotlight local writers and musicians

I can’t help but think that the coffee shop does provide a sanctuary of sorts. The world outside keeps rushing past — headlights move up and down the streets outside the large window panes on two walls, and the neon signage of the Sinclair gas station across the street can be seen behind Hutchison as he recites his poetry — but inside it’s still and warm, and the world seems to stop. Even the espresso machine, that loveable monstrosity of dials, knobs and shining steam wands, is silent during the recitations.

If You Go

Folsom Street Coffee Co., 1795 Folsom St., Boulder, on the southwest corner of Folsom Street and Canyon Boulevard
(303) 440-8808;

The Folsom Slam is the last Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. Sign-up is at 7:30 p.m.

Josh Bishop, a native of Michigan, is a recent journalism graduate of Metropolitan State College.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.