by Tamara Anderson
Darius Lantz, who says his age is “40 years timeless,” is a Germantown poet and “acting patient” for medical students who provides “family friendly” events featuring poetry and live music during “Coffee after Dark” every Thursday, 6:30 to 10 p.m., at DeLink Social Club, 4172 Germantown Ave. The idea was conceived while Darius lived in Texas. While working as a masseur there, the graduate of Atlantic City High School and the Philadelphia School Of Massage Therapy supplemented his income as a barista at a local café. (He is an “Unofficial Coffee Master.”) He moved to Killeen, Texas, in 2007 to pursue a personal relationship but returned to Philly in 2009 when that relationship broke up.
The partnership between coffee houses and spoken word was birthed at Darius’ first event held during a spa retreat in 2007. After re-settling in Germantown, Darius created Clef Poetry Plethora at the historical Clef Club in South Philly for eight shows. It was so popular that he realized he needed a new location.
Thus, “Coffee after Dark” made its debut at a Germantown coffee shop called Wired Beans in 2011 and remained with the café when it moved to Chelten Avenue until it unfortunately closed this past June. The event then moved to its current location and just celebrated its two-year anniversary last month. It was a night filled with sensational music and inspirational poetry.
Although Darius was born in Atlantic City, he spent his early years in North Philadelphia and Germantown. He is a middle child with an older brother and younger sister. He returned to New Jersey to attend high school, but after graduation, “I always felt compelled to come back. Philadelphia is home to me.”
His love for words and poetry was inspired by his older brother, who was a hip-hop DJ. “I always wanted to impress him by writing lyrics and ‘raps’ on brown paper bags.” These rhymes transformed effortlessly into poetry later. His poetic influences have been “the great Sonia Sanchez, who is from my (Germantown) neighborhood, and I love her poems because they seem timeless. Also Amiri Baraka, Saul Williams, Ezra Pound and many of my poet peers who inspire me by doing this for a living.”
When Darius performs his poem entitled “I Have a Bright Idea,” the audience is transported into the mind of a barista working at a high-end coffee shop. The customers see him as someone who is simply there to make coffee, although he believes he is worth so much more. It speaks directly to the plight and feelings of those who work in service professions.
“The Last Piece of Cake” explores the idea of not being chosen or selected. Darius’ poems all examine and diagnose in one way or another the ideas of “family, spirituality and love.” He brings his 9-year old son to all of the events. (“His name is Mehk’I, even though since the age of 3 he has told me that his real name is Xten.”)
“The Pursuit Of Poetry” is Lantz’ mantra; he urges audiences (and his son) to pursue their passions with the same zeal that he pursues his own poetry. “It is the journey I am on to sustain myself and my son through my art as a single parent,” he explained. “The movie ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ (with Philadelphian Will Smith and his son) spoke to my challenges as a single parent, seeking to evolve in my art and still take care of my family.”
Is it possible to actually make even a meager living as a poet in Philadelphia? “One can make it as a poet in Philadelphia,” said Lantz. “I just have not 100 percent figured it out, so part-time I am a ‘standardized patient’ (pretending to have a certain ailment, as in the famous Seinfeld episode) working with medical students at the Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine. We make sure medical students are on their p’s and q’s in assessing and physically examining patients so they can become the best doctors possible.”
“Organic Expressions,” another weekly poetry performance event involving Darius, convenes every Tuesday, 6:30 to 10 p.m., at East Eden, 5600 Germantown Ave. The restaurant features organic wine and vegan food selections. Darius describes it as a “creative village featuring a mixed-age group of poets, musicians and audience members who are all encouraged to create in the moment if they choose to.”
Organically, this environment has emerged as a result of the loyal following for poetry “jams” (dramatic readings). “Art bridges the young and the old because it connects us and allows us to learn from each other,” said Darius. “Both events pay a feature poet anywhere from $50 on up, depending on the artist’s following, and almost any poetry event in Philly that has a feature poet does pay him/her something.”
When you attend “Coffee after Dark” or “Organic Expressions,” you simply feel at home and honored to be in the presence of local artists. For more information about either event, email dariusLantz@yahoo.com