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Poetry Jazz Cafe

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Robyn Urback / June 9, 2011

Poetry Jazz Cafe is not a cafe, nor is it a poetry club. There's no appreciative snapping, subtle allegories, or hushed, whispered words between friends. Rather, Poetry Jazz Cafe a lively new Kensington bar, swathed in bits of vintage decor and set to the soundtrack of phenomenal live jazz.

"There's this movie called 'The Commitments'" owner Sean Pascalle tells me as we escape to Poetry's cozy back patio. "And it's about these kids who are looking to create a soul band." Sean continues to describe the plot, which concludes with a final performance by the group where Wilson Pickett is supposed to attend. But he doesn't arrive. "So this character," Sean continues, "Jimmy the Lips, he says something like, 'If this guy had shown up, it would have been predictable. This way, it's poetry."

That's where Sean got the name for his jazz bar. "I've put everything I have into this. And things are going to go wrong. I've put in more money than I thought I would, and things haven't worked out exactly as I planned. But at least it's poetic."

Sean has never been a bar owner before, but he's always loved jazz. "Billie Holliday, Ella--all the classics," he says. But Sean has a special affinity for Miles Davis, whose pictures you can find around the bar. He hands me a Bitches Brew ($9.50)--the bar's signature drink--which is a tribute to his fandom, named for Miles Davis' studio double album released in 1970. And the big graffiti hand painted outside the front door? That's Miles too.

There may be some poetry in the future, Sean concedes, but right now, he's focused on the jazz musicians. And he's out to find a certain breed in particular.

"I want this to be a sanctuary for the young, emerging jazz musicians," Sean tells me. "They've gone to school, they have that discipline, but now they want to experiment."

"Miles Davis did that same thing," he continues. "He was accepted to Julliard, but then he met other musicians outside of the school and started to break the rules."

New talent is great, and so is the bar's retro and cool sort of atmosphere, but the back patio is the main winner for me without a doubt. It's inexplicably secluded despite being right in the middle of Kensington, and perfect during the day for a book and sangria, says an already-regular I meet by the small fountain in the back. Poetry also has a wine list of "nothing you'll find at the LCBO," Sean tells me, mixed drinks starting at ($6.50) and bottles of beer. All to be enjoyed while listening to fresh talent, and if they make a mistake or two--ah, it's poetry.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Just bottles
Signature Drink:
Bitches Brew (premium vodka, tequila, lime, angostura bitters)
Bar Snacks:
Finger foods
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Currently being discovered by locals
Tuesday to Sunday, around 12:30 p.m. to close



The Real Johnson / June 10, 2011 at 10:38 AM

This place sounds great. Though I think I'd have hard time ordering a beverage for bitches. Especially given that it celebrates the worst album Mile Davis ever made.

Blatantly obvious / June 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Is this from the same people that brought us the brilliantly named Tattoo Rock Parlour?

Such a blatant plea for attention leads me to question the quality of the music that will be going on there. Has anyone seen any performances yet?

user In replying to a comment from Blatantly obvious / June 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM

did you read the article?

Ella / June 10, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Robyn, thanks for this...good to get Sean's genuine back story.... makes me wanna support his dream....also refreshing to read about a new place that has nothing to do with coffee, cupcakes or poutine....

gojaysgo / June 10, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Sounds like a good place with good ownership but who opens a bar without draught beer??? Some local craft brews on the menu would be a good look

SomeKid In replying to a comment from Blatantly obvious / June 10, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Oh the irony of your's blatantly obvious if you read the article that Sean has not owned a bar before.

Sterling Silver Jewelry / June 24, 2011 at 6:42 AM

have enabled the party that gave us 8 years of dismal job growth. I'll never understand the logic behind voting these guys back in power.

SEAN PASCALLE / June 27, 2011 at 12:30 AM

Replying to the comment by The Real Johnson:
"Worst album Mile Davis ever made"? What piece of work have you done?
How do you spell the genius’s name you are so critical of? Let me help you, it’s Miles Davis!

Tru / July 19, 2011 at 2:24 PM

let me tell you ..I have been to "Poetry" twice and I'm completely hooked..A good friend brought me there to relax for drinks and now i am doing the same with my crew.
I feel like i am in NYC(a little bit) which i miss dreadfully.
I am already setting up informal creative meetings on the Patio.
I have been to quite a few elegant and stylish places between T.O., NYC and UK and this space hits the spot!
They make you feel at home on that patio.
Mr.Pascalle seems to have great taste in decor and the bitch's brew is my Drink!!!

SEAN PASCALLE / July 20, 2011 at 2:02 PM

IN RESPONSE TO Tru: Thank you so much for your inspiring words...
Considering the short time since the soft opening of Poetry, I’m humbled by all the positive feedback and also the constructive suggestions and advice.
I created the space to give emerging jazz musicians and writers a sanctuary to step outside the norm, to experiment, to write, to share their gift, and to mess around.
I molded Poetry's private back patio for you to escape the noise and scrutiny.
I hope my poets and i are on the right track.
Sean/ Love & Light

Ella / July 23, 2011 at 12:28 PM

I've ended up at Poetry a couple times now. I really enjoy the vibe of this place. It's got some edge! The back patio has an ecclectic mix of furniture, with fountain and's way cool. You can talk easily with friends and listen to the live jazz in the background. It's like a little oasis in the heart of Kensington worth checking out.

Dave / August 7, 2011 at 10:02 PM

I dropped in with my brother last night and - loved it! what a chill and relaxing place to sit and enjoy a cool beverage. Annika was both helpful and really pleasant to chat with.
I will definitely be returning.

M / September 26, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Reading this review makes me want to like this place but I just can't do it. I thought this place was awful. Seemed more suited for king west than Kensington market. That being said the back patio is cozy.

Peggy Jarvis / October 6, 2011 at 7:47 PM

We were at Poetry last night and loved it. The decor and atmosphere were fantastic and we loved the various available sitting areas. There was even a lit fire place out on the patio. The Patrick Hewan jazz trio was refreshing, providing varied and energetic set lists. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and plan to return in the near future. It's just a great place to cool out after a tough days work.

Husk / December 9, 2011 at 7:31 PM

man, I went here a few weeks ago and there was this trio playing some killer latin jazz. it was a neat little place. I'll definitely go back some time.

proxy list / December 31, 2011 at 1:23 AM

I’m a long time watcher and I just believed I’d drop by and say hello there for your very first time.

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koinpin / January 29, 2012 at 7:13 PM

I love this place. When I first noticed it, it seemed intimidating from the street. But I've been there a few times since, and its got a great vibe. I love what the owner is trying to do in terms of supporting younger musicians, but I was there in the fall and this sax player from Chicago blew me away.

2966010 / May 25, 2012 at 3:29 AM

What a lovely day for a 2966010! SCK was here

Anon / June 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

This place is would be so great if it weren't for the unfriendly service. We went there with a group of about 8 and had a seat in the front patio area. Before we even had a chance to order, the server came up to us and aggressively said "Just so you know - everyone here has to be drinking. You can't just sit here without a drink. Every single person has to order a drink". Not exactly a way to welcome a group of people who would later actually spend quite a bit of money in your bar. It was a fun night but I won't go back.

Poetry Jazz Cafe In replying to a comment from Anon / June 4, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Anon, first of all, my sincere apologies for my tone, I am the owner Sean, and my serious business disposition gets me in a jam all the time.

It was me that approached you guys with the no-seat-without-drinking-eating-policy.

Seating is very limited at Poetry and there are always guests waiting to be seated to have a cocktail and live jazz experience.

I saw about 15 people plus a dog seating themselves in the private front patio, but ordered 3 beers. I guess you guys just needed more time, what can I say?

We are very, very strict at controlling the vibe at Poetry, we provide free LIVE high-end experimental jazz, and our regulars get it.

So Anon, I know you will be back (well hopefully), you guys stayed for a long time enjoying the jazz and records and vibe. Just grab me next time and say: “I’m the extreme blogger guy Anon and I wasn’t happy with the service last time”

On me, any drink for you and a guest on the house. Again sorry man, I’m not perfect, Poetry isn’t perfect and Poetry will never be complete’

Sean Pascalle.

Wilhemina / June 12, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Man that was very entertaining and at that the same time informative.

Bryan.C / June 13, 2012 at 5:56 PM

I'm looking at hosting a birthday party, around 15 people (possibly more), within the coming weekend. Can this place facilitate that many people or is it a smaller venue?

POETRY JAZZ CAFE In replying to a comment from Bryan.C / June 14, 2012 at 10:06 PM

to discuss further please email details to
we can definitely handle 15+


Higgins / August 24, 2012 at 7:20 PM

This place is great. Went here a month back and the music was amazing.. some, jazz, soul, R and B on an amazing patio with great ambience. I left there feeling incredible. I'll definitely be back.. Tonight!

mike / December 7, 2012 at 12:15 AM

went for first time last night. great spot.

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The Drewman / August 11, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Hey Sean. Just wanted to say thanks for the amazing time which my family and I had at Poetry this past Saturday afternoon. We are from the Guelph area and embarassingly, had never been to Kensington Market before. We had such a great time just taking in the young trio which were playing. Mesmerizing!!! It was also great to meet Martin and Melody(?) from Fennlon Falls. I think we're all looking forward to going back. It is our strongest memory of our first visit to the Market. Thank you!!!

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