Tampa’s ‘Smoken Words’ open mic fosters unfiltered talent every Thursday night

Poet and founder Novacane elaborates on her award-winning event.

click to enlarge Tampa’s ‘Smoken Words’ open mic fosters unfiltered talent every Thursday night

There are open mics on every night of the week scattered throughout Tampa Bay, but on Thursday nights at Tampa’s Whiskey North, Novacane’s 'Smoken Words' experience reigns supreme. Calm, cool, and collected, the poet-turned-event organizer operates her open mic every week, although it might be hard to catch her as she runs (most likely in heels) throughout the venue making sure every part of her event is running smoothly.

If you arrive just minutes after Smoken Words begins, it's easy to find the venue just by listening for the hollering and clapping of the crowd enjoying the performances. Arrive early, and you'll be met with a line packed with local creatives ready to get a taste of what this week's open mic has instore.

Founder and operator Novacane first started this open mic almost five years ago in a small hookah lounge in the SoHo neighborhood of Tampa after feeling like an outcast after performing at a local open mic event. 

“The event organizers felt like my poetry was too unfiltered and decided it wasn’t the sound they wanted for their space,” Novacane tells CL. “They made sure to let me know as soon as I stepped foot off the stage.”

Novacane felt like there was no space in the Tampa Bay area for work like her own, so she decided to build one from the ground up and let like-minded artists flock to her. And she knew they would. 

For someone who has never been to a Smoken Words, the multi-faceted event can be hard to summarize in just a few words. 

“Smoken Words can be best described as a giant Glee club. It’s fun, it’s educational, but mostly, it’s a whole lot of love,” the 30-year-old poet boasts about her event. “From the very beginning of this movement, it’s been a point of mine to demand respect for all artists touching the stage, as well as every guest entering the room. This is the ultimate safe space for artists.” 

Winner of CL's Best of the Bay award for open mics, Smoken Words welcomes talent from every corner of Tampa Bay and accepts performances of comedy, spoken word, dancing, rapping, singing and everything in-between. 

“From comedians to magicians, opera singers to burlesque dancers, we’ve seen so much talent in the last few years, we are always in awe! Every week we welcome new artists, answer questions, give them opportunities for discounted studio time, photos from our resident media team and a stage to practice,” Novacane says. 

It’s regarded as “the ultimate open mic night” for a reason—and lives up to that reputation every week. 

Most Thursday nights are a typical first-come-first-serve open mic, but Smoken Words is also known for its themed events, most often revolving around sex and eroticism. Since the beginning, Novacane has welcomed performances about sex and other taboo subjects that other open mics might reject. 

“When I first got into spoken word in 2014, I couldn’t find many poets like me, with unfiltered sexual content,” Novacane tells CL. “It really just started because I liked it, but then I realized how many other people liked it. The older I get, the more I realize how uneducated people still are about their bodies and sex.” 

Other themes that Smoken Words takes on regularly are topics of black culture and experience during the month of February, as well as events based on a specific holiday. 

The most recent change to Smoken Words coincides with the growing trend of indie markets throughout Tampa Bay, as black-owned businesses and vendors are now welcome to sell their products and services at the weekly event. 

click to enlarge SMOKEN WORDS / FACEBOOK

What once started as a small open mic that was organized and ran by Novacane, is now an all-encompassing experience that an entire team of people make function every week. Photographers, videographers, deejays, hosts, and security all come together each Thursday and make Smoken Words into the multifaceted event that its regular attendees and newcomers love. 

Smoken Words has grown exponentially over the course of its five-year span, and Novacane and the rest of her open mic family only see greater evolution on the forefront. When CL asked her what direction she envisioned her open mic going towards, she immediately responded: “Up, only up.” 

“I see nightly events in different cities, tours, and a crazy social media presence,” she elaborates. “I can already picture swarms of artists from different cities wanting to be here in Tampa at the Original Smoken Words.” 

Visit Smoken Words on Thursday nights at Whiskey North at 11921 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. in Tampa, to witness the Tampa history in the making. 

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About The Author

Kyla Fields

Kyla Fields is the Managing Editor of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay who started their journey at CL as summer 2019 intern. They are the proud owner of a charming, sausage-shaped, four-year-old rescue mutt named Piña.
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