Friday, June 05, 2009

25 years of Poetry Slams

In The News

Once on the fringes, poetry slams have firmly entered the mainstream, and an early pioneer expresses concern

Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft? [Free registration may be required]

Slam's new round: The founder of the poetry slam issues two books to renew the genre

Obama Hosts White House Poetry Night

Poetry Slam, Inc.

The Poetry Foundation: Chicago Poetry Walking Tour [iTunes]

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

While the exact origins of the poetry slam are hard to pin down, some might point to the northwest corner of Broadway and Lawrence Avenues in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Here, hidden by a dazzling neon sign, is the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge where poetry slammer Marc Kelly Smith fused various elements of spoken word performances, poetry, and a touch of Tom Waits into what is now called a poetry slam. 25 years later, Smith is concerned about the future of poetry slams, noting in a recent interview in the New York Times, "Now there's an audience, and people just want to write what the last guy wrote so they can get their face on TV." This unique art form has certainly flourished over the past several decades, and poetry slams have been organized from the Ozarks to Reunion Island. Others still remain ambivalent about such events, including literary critic and scholar Harold Bloom who once called poetry slamming "the death of art." Despite being co-opted by some in the mainstream media, Smith maintains that the poetry slam can retain its unique qualities and its subversive form of social commentary. [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a news story from this Tuesday's New York Times on Smith and the world of poetry slams. The second link will lead interested parties to a recent article from Time Out Chicago that talks about Smith's two recent books on the subject of poetry slams. Moving on, the third link leads to an NPR news feature on the recent poetry night held at the White House. The fourth link leads to the homepage of Poetry Slam, Inc., which is the organization charged with overseeing the international coalition of poetry slams. The fifth link leads to an excellent audio walking tour of important poetry sites in Chicago, created by the Poetry Foundation. Finally, for those who might be in or around Chicago soon, the final link leads to the homepage of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, where Smith and his band do their thing every Sunday night. [KMG]

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