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dateline: Chicago, March 2002

Shifting gears

e-poets.net is in transition, as you can see. Our new site is a big departure from the old "cathode ray green and black" site we launched in 1998. After that much time on the web, change was overdue.

To begin with, we're bringing our partnerships forward to a more visible place. Note the links to our Network partners in the left margin. They (we) are an alliance of literary/arts presenters and creators, with a wide geographic dispersion across the world. We collaborate on videoconferenced poetry readings, poetry video screenings, performances, critique, and much more. The geographic breadth of our partnership gives us a clear view into what's local and what's truly international in the language arts and new media, and we'll be sharing more of that understanding with you in the months to come.

But you'll see some things you'll recognize through all the change, too. We're keeping the features you know and appreciate. New material is coming in -- audio, text, news, essay, and more -- while we're carefully organizing the old for future reference. If you're seeing this, you've linked to our new webhost where we're rebuilding the site with dynamic content. Stay abreast of the cross-development of the language arts and new media with e-poets.net!


Interactive fictions

Like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" but perhaps a little more sedate, and less complicated... This is how Andrew Stern describes the latest interactive fiction project he's producing with Michael Mateas, called Fašade. You, the player, are dropped into the middle of a couple on the verge of breaking up, and you will have some influence in how the situation evolves. Fašade is short by design, but nevertheless requires sophisticated software to interpret the player's language, and then construct their actions and responses. It's not exactly the holodeck on Star Trek, but it may be a solid first step in that direction.

If anyone in Chicago has the chops to build such a story, Stern does. He is a co-creator of the "Babyz" and "Petz" interactive toys, which feature characters whose behavior, growth, and appearance evolve as an outcome of play. Read about Fašade and other projects that Stern and his colleagues are into on their website.


"Def" equals hearing good stuff

This note from Bruce George, of the Def Poetry Jam: "Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it. . .if you hate ot because the work is not to your liking, than submit yours. I'm one of the executive producers of Def Poetry Jam (HBO). We recently got word that we will have a series, and we would like for you to submit some audition VHS tapes to: Def Poetry Jam c/o Broadway Video, 1619 Broadway, 9th fl., New York, N.Y.10019 Attn: Bruce George contact info: 212 603-1808 Thanks! Please feel free to visit our site: defpoetryjam.com.


Illinois screenwriting

The IC Screenwriting Competition is a biennial event sponsored be the Illinois and Chicago Film Offices. They support and promote the talents of local writers. In offering this competition they create a unique opportunity for the recognition and possible production of work in Illinois. Submissions will be accepted an April 1, 2002 deadline. Winners will be announced in late fall at a special awards gala. A Writers Seminar will be offered during the competition. Interested participants should call the IC Hotline at 312-814-8711 (TDD: 312-744-2964) for further information, or go to the website.


Rogers Park: new poetry mecca?

We see promos quite regularly here at e-poets. Beginning with the new year, we noted that the number of live poetry venues going up in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood was growing, while standard performance poetry open mikes in the rest of the city were either becoming more specialized, in recession, or doing their best to hold their core audience and artist base.

On 11 January, Nicole Macaluso launched a new Thursday night series at Inclusions Art Gallery, 6932 North Glenwood. While her gig changed over to Café Aloha in Lincoln Square. No matter though, since the Chase Café is booking a range of coffeehouse events solid through the next couple months, and No Exit Café becomes the host venue of Grinder: Queer Words and Music at the end of February. So Rogers Park loses one venue, but picks up two.

The Heartland Café continues as it always has, a poetry open mike dreadnaught running late into Wednesday nights. Cocoabean Expressions, just around the corner from Heartland, recently launched a poetry, music, and performance open mike MC'd by the former host of the Geneis series, Moses. Five venues within a mile radius: that would be the most dense packing of poetry open mikes witnessed in Chicago since the Wicker Park Rennaisance, circa 1990. It feels like a trend toward geographic specificity.

Meanwhile, the younger venues elsewhere in town are specializing on cultural themes. Best new example: Dyke Mike, at Bailiwick Theater late on Friday nights. The name says it all. Wimmin makin' fun noise: stand-up comedy, original music, and much poetry. The venue was originally slated to have a short run, but its popularlity has encouraged the producers to go a few extra rounds with the series, well into spring, and possibly indefinitely.

Mojo's Pen, UIC's Afrocentric spoken word/performance venue, has been making moves lately, too, occasionally trekking to special sites outside their campus base. So the another, distinct trend seems to be that audiences and artists want a closer match of interests. Venues actively place their poetry within a specific culture and audience, and cater to the particular needs and dialogues within a given community.

Are these necessarily conflicting trends? At e-poets, we don't think so, since we see very specific audience/artist dialogues across much larger frontiers than the span of a single city, and they're perfectly meaningful. To us, it's just a matter of a different scale on the map. It's a perfectly natural human tendency to seek identity by assembling individuals who share a common experience, and then explore the implications within it. That common experience can be based upon race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion, or geography, and each of these elements mutate the others as the audience and artists further refine their collective identity.

How far will these trends go? As long as the public are willing to continue supporting new and more specific venues, it's anyone's guess. At e-poets.net, we've long believed that culture and place are interactive formants of fresh literature, and it fascinates us that their interaction can be seen within the relatively compact city limits of Chicago. More power to all, we say, since the audience reaps the benefit of more diverse language arts in the end.


Life in the Big Town...

The Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Competition has a call for entries open through 15 April 2002. The final judge will be award-winning poet Reginald Gibbons. First Prize is $500.00, plus publication in Urban Life Center s First Voices 2003 Calendar. The top twelve runners up will be published in Urban Life Center's First Voices 2003 Calendar (subject to editorial guidelines). All winners will receive a complimentary calendar!

Each entry must be about Chicago, a Chicago neighborhood or any aspect of urban living. Each entry must include:

- A reading fee of $15.00 for each entry, as a check payable to "Urban Life Center"

- Two (2) self-addressed, stamped letter sized envelopes

- Cover sheet stating only the author's name, address, telephone number, title of manuscript(s).

- Your unpublished manuscripts limited to 3 poems, 1 page per poem, typewritten. Letters and synopses will be discarded and will not be read.

- The body of the manuscript should contain NO names or other indications of author identity.

- Manuscripts will not be returned.

- Entries must be postmarked no later than April 15, 2002. Winners will be announced by June 1, 2002.

Send your entry to: Urban Life Center Poetry Competition, 5240 S. Harper Ave., Suite A, Chicago, IL 60615


Dialogue echoes

The 2001 Dialogue Through Poetry Anthology is ready for review, featuring poems that were read throughout the world during the final week of March, 2001. The readings celebrated the United Nations' Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry program. It's available for a mere click as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, with over 600 pages. It includes poems in English, Russian, Spanish and many other languages, and was edited by Ram Devineni, Larry Jaffe, and Andrian Taylor.


Soul Connections

A. Wone is launching youmeversecity.com, a roundtable of poetry and related arts with an African-American focus. This particular project has been Wone's dream for some time, as much past correspondence among e-poets.net partners is evidence. We wish Wone and YouMeVerseCity all the best!

On a related note, Chicago's Pierre Sutton, Jr. has brought his original book out for sale on the web, "Soul Rebuttals". Sutton's earned some positive critique of the work. Read about it at these links: soulrebuttals.com, aalbc.com, and mosaicbooks.com.


Sounding out

The Milkwood Foundation is yet another local manefestation of audio arts nudging our community closer together. WLS-TV (Chicago, ABC) reporter Harry Porterfield recently covered them for his "Someone You Should Know" segment. The Foundation are Eric Markowitz and Jeff Kowalkowski. Click to them and see where audio art is going with Chicago's grass-roots artist community.


Sounding out some more

Experimental Sound Studio is now accepting proposals for its Artists Residency Program 2002. This program, offerred annually by ESS, is an excellent opportunity for spoken word artists and groups in and around Chicago. Application categories include Sound Works, Performing Arts Collaboration, Sound for Film and Video, and Creative Use of Radio. Each residency includes 40 hours of free studio time at the ESS recording facilities, expert engineering assistance, and a cash honorarium.

This year, the ESS Artists Residency Program will award six production residencies to Chicago area artists for the creation of new works that involve innovative approaches to sound. Since it began in 1999, the Artists Residency Program has facilitated the creation of 15 new art works by 15 local artists and ensembles -- audio art, experimental music, performance works, installations, radio art, and soundtracks for film and video.

The postmark deadline for applications is April 22, 2002. There are very specific guidelines for each category. You can read the detailed guidelines and download an application form from the ESS website, or call ESS at 773-784-0449 to receive information by mail.


On the queer tip

Gregg Shapiro, who's organized numerous Pride Readings for Chicago at Women & Children First Books, is enjoying the online publication of his short story Money Changing Hands in the fall 2001 issue of Blithe House Quarterly, a site for gay short fiction. Lately, he's also been picked up by a queer erotica web-site called Velvet Mafia - Dangerous Queer Fiction, who've published his first piece of erotic fiction, "Chocolate Dipped." Hmmm...!


While we're on the news...

e-poets' own Kurt Heintz is now a contributor to for About.com. If you like tracking poetry news in the USA, Canada, England, and elsewhere, the Museletter might be just the thing to subscribe to. You can read the local Chicago news (that's right: news, and not gossip), and scan literary bulletins from across the world.


On the zine front

Some URLs that we'd like to share with you... Chicago's Ex-Pat' Café, New York's somewhat media-critical and political new media poets (try their quiz), their aesthetic cousins in Illinois, Newspoetry... and zines Weep, NewZoid and Opium.


Cousins abroad

Check out Lyrikline, Hamburg ist Slamburg, Writers' Room, and Macht Organisierte Literatur from Germany; Comrades, from England; Poetry Africa, from South Africa.


Links we like:

Some sites we think will give you something to think about: The Baffler, Nervous Center, the Poetry Museletter from About.com; Real Chicago Poetry; AudioHyperspace; National Griot Society; Virtual Street Band; Poems That Go; Clickable Poems; Weeds online; Pastiche Poetry; Anthology Magazine; Dialogue Poetry; nowCulture.


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