For many, poetry serves as a major creative outlet and a huge inspiration. The same can be said for Raleigh-based host and brand personality, Krystal “DaMuse” Argentin. DaMuse wears many hats in her varying endeavors as she works to build her brand; however, her involvement with City Soul Cafe and SPEndeavors seems to epitomize the role poetry plays in her creative expression.
According to DaMuse, City Soul Cafe, where she has been working since 2018 and hosting since 2019, serves as one of the only poetry-based open mics in the Research Triangle and, for that reason, is very close to her heart. Other local open mics are more music-oriented, which makes spoken word difficult to present.
“Poetry sometimes gets overlooked [in other venues] and sometimes, because poetry requires your attention, when you do go elsewhere as a poet, it’s very difficult to captivate people because they are required to be quiet or be attentive,” DaMuse said. “Whereas that’s the complete opposite of us because that’s built into our culture: respecting the mic and this art form.”
Prior to the shutdown of nonessential businesses in March of this year, City Soul Cafe held weekly open mics at Noir Bar & Lounge. However, since Noir doesn’t have a kitchen, they have been unable to reopen in phase 2, DaMuse said. In response, virtual open mics have been held weekly since the shutdown.
According to DaMuse, creating the right atmosphere in an online setting has been one of the largest challenges because people aren’t able to feed off the energy of those surrounding them at home in the same way as they would at a live venue. However, luckily, this Wednesday will be the last virtual open mic. Moving forward, City Soul Cafe plans to livestream once a month from Jonathan’s Sports Bar, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9.
DaMuse’s involvement with SPEndeavors, a production company, was kick-started by her role at City Soul Cafe, when DaMuse’s current partner Curtis Hill, known by his stage name s.P. The Writer, came to the cafe looking for poets and performers on a night she was performing. Since then, according to DaMuse, they have been joined at the hip.
Poetry is a fundamental component of the work DaMuse does with SPEndevors, and some of the events to note are Inkspired, “In Other Words” and Body of Work.
According to DaMuse, Inkspired is a high-end poetry event which also contains elements of visual and theatrical artistry as well. This black-tie event provides a platform for spoken word artists to perform the works of s.P. The Writer. Typically, this event takes place every three months, according to DaMuse. However, the most recently scheduled Inkspired showcase was set to take place in March, one week after North Carolina entered lockdown.
In Other Words, the second event DaMuse helps facilitate , was held for the first time in June 2019. This event operates much like Inkspired but with one twist: At this event, artists perform their own work.
“We also have In Other Words, and this event is more of a showcase for the artist that has been on the Inkspired stage,” DaMuse said. “The play on words for the show, In Other Words, is its other artists’ words, not ours.”
Body of Work, the last poetry-based showcase presented by SPEndeavors, is a full-body paint and erotic poetry show. According to DaMuse, there have been two of these events already, the first in July 2019 and the second in January of this year.
“We did that twice and that has been a really different kind of situation for a different demographic of people, but it’s been really great,” DaMuse said.
According to DaMuse, bringing together the community and promoting difficult conversations are two of the many aspects of poetry that draw her attention. DaMuse said she just wants people to understand that using poetry as a channel to talk about our differences — especially when it comes to our culture, race and demographics — can sometimes be uncomfortable but can also be a really powerful way to project one’s message about their own experience.
“During this whole COVID thing and George Floyd, you know catastrophic events that have happened in 2020, not to mention the years and eons of stuff, I think for me, I really realized how much community we need outside of tragedy,” DaMuse said. “I think that’s why I’m drawn to spoken word because say what the f--- you want to say, like that is the atmosphere, say what you have to say and mean it.”
DaMuse was explicit about the kind of community she has envisioned cultivating, where, ideally, people of all backgrounds come together to share their artistry.
“The community is not the Black community; when I say community, I don’t mean my Black people, I don’t mean that,” DaMuse said. “When I say my people, I mean this community of people within this art form.”
That being said, DaMuse also understood the duality of her vision.
“A lot of spoken word artistry was founded in the Black community, Black culture, underground, so forth, so yes, there is a portion of it that can seem like it’s catering to just Black people, but it’s no longer that,” DaMuse said. “It has spread, and now it is an art form in and of itself and a culture in and of itself.”
DaMuse said these events are open to everyone, and the point of them is to function as an outlet and source of community. In order to learn more about Krystal and her brand, you can follow her on her Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.