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New Poetry Series @ Caffe Sempione

Sure, you know about the salami at Molinari's and the pipe organ at St. Francis of Assisi's shrine, but did you know about the New Poetry Series at Caffe Sempione?

Started by Mark Schwartz in mid-2002, it's a natural for attracting the conversationalists usually seen hanging out at Caffe Trieste up the street or chewing the bartender's ear at Specs. Even if you live in other parts of the city, you have no excuse not to go there -- it's a great walk that's alive with numerous sights and sounds.

Instead of hitting your usual stop at Steps of Rome or Big Al's, try bypassing them for a smaller destination with a more valuable cause -- an open mic that continues the North Beach tradition of welcoming those who have the gift of gab (never mind its lack of amplification equipment).

Turn on Vallejo and you'll see that side streets here hide rich worlds of their own. Entering Sempione, it's hard to walk past the coffee counter and glass pastry cases without stopping don't. Once you have your cuppa joe, cut a U-turn around the low wooden partition that partly cordons off the seats and make yourself comfortable.

The readings happen in the open mid-area of the room, right by the shiny grand piano, which attracts musicians here to perform for the assembly (they even had a harp player once). Of course, the beat-inspired represent themselves well, with bohemians drifting in to make it a neighborhood crowd, but many styles and generations show up in earnest. People can come here to get those impassioned views out in the air.

With so much steam, it's amazing how they keep it all looking so polished. The wall of high mirrors go up pretty far, surrounded by light wood panels but there's still room for rows of pictures by a local artist.

Put on your thinking caps and engage those perceptions, or else just zone out and enjoy the company. Eavesdrop on the group meeting at the next table if you feel like it.

Poetry and music enhanced by revolving art shows -- isn't that what drew you to San Francisco in the first place?

New Poetry Series @ Caffe Sempione
Black Dot Café
641 Vallejo St. (near Columbus), SF, 415.362.6317
Every Saturday @ 7 pm - 9 pm; sign up by 7:15 pm
All ages, Free