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dateline: Chicago, July 2004

high summer in the city

July settles down as summer's warm wiles distract Chicagoans from, uh... What was that? Oh, yes... Poetry. How could we forget?

two Chicago women go "Def"

It's a long way from the open mics at Mental Graffiti in the 1990s to a featured poet on network television. But two Chicago poets are navigating this space with ease and grace: Tara Betts and Nikki Patin.

This writer's favorite simultaneous moment with both poets came in the form of a crosstown car trip after such a Monday night at Mental Graffiti about three or so years ago. Patin was at the wheel, Betts was on the passenger side, and everybody in the car was rocking out to Cree Summer backed-up by Lenny Kravitz, singing, "Curious white boy... When I gonna meet yo' mamma? (Met yo' daddy already...)" Both poets share a creative spirit that sometimes comes with a "take no prisoners" edge. Mental Graffiti can energize a young writer that way. And today, audiences are beginning to see that venue's legacy and spirit in performance poetry, as the Graffiti writers mature, evolve, and make their presence felt.

Tara Betts is launching a new website,, on July 18, to coincide with the kickoff for Def Poetry Jam's fourth season. She's also been doing some traveling. Yours truly briefly caught up with Betts in Berkeley, California in early June. She had taken a moment from her travels and workshops on the west coast to attend the wedding of Lucy Anderton and Nick Fox, where conversation ranged from slam poetry, to "standard" tunes of the American/Broadway canon, to post-modernism's bearing on new writing, to the fabulous salmon dinner.

But young Nikki Patin is also on the move these days. She, like Betts, wowed audiences at the Loop Theater as part of Kevin Coval's poetry revue this past winter, which was styled after Def Poetry Jam. She has also sustained her involvement with the teen National Slams, and is now the slam MC at Mental Graffiti. Red Eye, a trendy Chicago daily tabloid, took an interest in her for their feature on "20-somethings" to watch.

Patin will also appear in an episode for HBO's Def Poetry on Sunday, July 25th. Click to the HBO Def Poetry website for more on the show. To click into Patin more directly, try her website. Check out her new music/spoken word EP, "Retro-Indestructive: The Pre-Release Peek", featuring five songs off her upcoming debut album. is proud to have enjoyed the creative and critical contributions of both Tara Betts and Nikki Patin, and wishes them more success in the years to come.

new in the Book of Voices:
Heather Haley

Canadian poet, media artist, and musician Heather Haley takes center stage at, with two very sizeable features. In late June, Haley released a new spoken word album, called "Surfing Season." has the album for your auditioning pleasure in Haley's Book of Voices profile. That's followed up by an in-depth interview with the artist. Buzz around the net suggests that the album is already a very creating a positive stir in Canada and elsewhere. And we're glad to have had a hand in that!

if it's digital, then why
does it still deteriorate?
ELO intros "acid-free bits"

New media artists have begun to face a conundrum as their works accumulate across years and various media platforms. Namely, what can a digital artist do to preserve their works? As computers and software from earlier days fall into obsolescence, what safety measures can an artist take to ensure their creative electronic works will survive? A lot of art and literature from the first blush of the Internet is already lost ephemera, and many more creative works will succumb to the proverbial "bit bucket" if nothing is done.

The Electronic Literature Organization's (ELO) e-lit' preservation committee offers some basic guidelines. In a five-part paper, written by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, ELO suggests strategies for protecting one's careful investment in online labor and creativity. And like XHTML, an extensible version of the very HTML that drives much of the internet, the paper speculates upon X-lit', or "extensible electronic literature," where the technology that supports a given manuscript is itself open to future modification and upgrades without destroying the original content. It's a sobering but enlightening report. Click into it at the ELO website.

The section on "Principles for Creating Long-Lasting Work" is particularly useful to any online publisher who hopes to support their website more than a few years. Because we know our websites are used in schools and poetry workshops, and because we aim to present spoken word of lasting value, already takes many of these principles to heart. will continue to stand beside our online content in the future, as we have done since our founding in 1999, and since even before that from our former Telepoetics/Chicago days. For example, parts of the Incomplete History of Slam date from early 1995, while electronic manuscripts for it date back to the summer of 1994. Jill Battson's chapter in the Book of Voices first took shape with us in 1996. We have a vested interest in keeping electronic literary works alive, and we've been doing so for almost a decade, longer than any other lit'/arts presenter in Chicago, bar none.

Show us some LIP:
Buscani curates July spoken word fest

Lisa Buscani is back in Chicago. And she's curating a strong line-up of performers in a summer festival she's calling LIP, at the Neo-Futurarium all through July. LIP commingles monologuists, performance poets, and dramatists on a single stage.

Performers will rotate in and out of the bill on selected weekends. Even so, some performers will be doing different things on different weekends, so return visits may pay off with seeing different repertoire. On opening weekend, for example, the bill will include Lisa Buscani, Mary Fons, Nicole Garneau, Dave Awl, Jenny Magnus, and Marc Smith. Other performers over the course of the series include Beau O’Reilly, Cin Salach, Kate Anderson, Joel Chmara, Scott Hermes, and Stephanie Shaw. Spoken word enthusiasts seeking some of the best work in the city, without wishing to endure the triflings of an open mic, would do well to start here.

LIP takes place Fridays and Saturdays, 9 July through 31 July, with curtain time at 8:00 PM in the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, Chicago (Andersonville neighborhood). Tickets are $12. For more information call the Neo-Futurarium, 773-275-5255.

the solid citizen:
Buscani presents one-woman show

The "Solid Citizen" monologues focus on people who serve their community and the conundrums this service can create. It relates moments in the lives of an abortion clinic escort, a grand jury member, and a woman helping a friend through a dissolving marriage. "Solid Citizen" considers the real costs of reaching out, and the price both parties must pay.

"I was brought up to believe the concept of service, in volunteerism and helping your neighbor," Buscani says. "But no one ever addresses the indignity of needing help, and the awkwardness of trying to give it. 'Solid Citizen' is about the mess that can be created when you try to muddle through a problem."

Buscani's work, as seen in the LIP revue above, is as strong as ever. Today it is seasoned by the writer/performer's life experiences and years of creative work beyond Chicago. Whereas LIP is Buscani's informal re-introduction to Chicago audiences, the "Solid Citizen" monologues should instigate a much fuller dialogue with the audience. This columnist believes there will be much to talk about. Check this out!

Fridays and Saturdays, 6 - 28 August at 8:00 PM at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland (Andersonville, Chicago). Tickets are $12, $8 for students and senior citizens.

Danny's Reading Series, this summer

Danny's Reading Series departs from the usual poetics this July, and offers a mix of comedy, monologue, improv', and (happily) air conditioning:

for 21 July: Bare, Olson & Poirer

Bare is two men who perform with the energy and presence of a ten-person group -- a ten-person group with some acrobats, a fire-eater, and a rock band in there somewhere. Fuzzy Gerdes and Shaun Himmerick have been performing together in one group or another for eleven years (with a break for Shaun’s unmentionable Colorado years). They both have impeccable improv pedigrees, with training from institutions like the ImprovOlympic and Annoyance Theater and from instructors like Del Close, Mick Napier, and Keith Johnstone.

Mike Olson attempts to confuse people with words until they enjoy it or not. He'll masquerade this as entertainment, but may slip you the dagger of art in the process.

Liz Poirier mostly performs character driven monologues that are, hopefully ... funny... and sees patterns now in her writing and performance style. One is a lot of "High Drama." As she sees it, the more dramatic the better. It's more fun that way.

for Wednesday 25 August:
The Danny's Reading Series
3rd Anniversary Party!

Featuring poet John Tipton, plus brief readings by your hosts. Celebrate the Danny's Series successful and continuing run, and the many artists who've contributed to it.

The new, mostly complete fall schedule is available online. All regular events in this series begin at 7:30 PM on their given date at Danny's bar, 1951 W Dickens (in Bucktown, near Damen and Dickens). This is a 21 and over venue, so please bring a valid ID.

Homolatté in July, 2004

Queer words and music grace the stage every Thursday evening with Homolatté. The venue is regularly MC'd by Scott Free starting at 8:00 PM at the No Exit Café, 6970 N Glenwood, Chicago (in Rogers Park). This is a "no open mic" venue, featuring one spoken word artist and one singer/songwriter or band each week. Phone the venue at 773-743-3355. See the website for full program details.

Here's what's up for July at Homolatté:

  • July 8th: Donna Rose & Wishing Chair
  • July 15th: Kathie Bergquist & Kerri Grant
  • July 22nd: Halsted 3 Defense Fund Benefit with Liberté Unlocked, Jennie Mutation, and more to be announced
  • July 29th: Elizabeth Whitney & Ripley Caine

poetry radio: Wordslingers

Michael Watson's Wordslingers show takes to the airwaves the first and third Sunday night each month at 9:00 PM, heard in the Chicago area on WLuW-FM, at 88.7 Mhz. The station supports a real-time streaming webcast of its outgoing program on its very groovy website, The program's stated mission is simple: "To feature the works of Chicago jazz, blues, rock, psycho, political, love, published,unpublished, page, stage, slam poets." Featured talent in the days ahead are:

  • 18 July: Jacqui Wolk, an ascerbic wit and a longtime favorite on Chicago's open mic circuit
  • 1 August: Jason Bredle, the 2nd place finalist in the Poetry Center of Chicago's Juried Reading contest
  • 15 August: Anna West, teacher, performance poet, and Young Chicago Authors workshop leader, whose literary excursions have taken her from the heart of Chicago's hardscrabble west side, to outlying Havana, Cuba

17 July: Lawrence Tyler memorial

There will be a memorial for Lawrence Tyler on Saturday, July 17th. A memorial mass will be held at St. Edmund's Church, 188 South Oak Park Ave., Oak Park IL, at 11:30 AM. Early open mic poets in Chicago in the 1990s knew Tyler (with a nudge and a wink) as, "the man who talked with God." He was a frequent contributor to readings at the Green Mill and FitzGerald's, early on, and a steadfast booster of the local publisher Puddinhead Press. Tyler's warm demeanor won him many friends.

Following the mass, there will be a memorial reading which will feature some of Tyler's work. And true to Tyler's spirit, there will be an open mike. Friends are encouraged to bring a brief piece in homage to the deceased. The venue will be two blocks north of the church at The Oak Park Library, at 834 Lake Street (at Oak Park Ave.) at 1:00 PM It is near the Oak Park Ave. Green Line stop.

For more information call 708-656-4900 or visit Puddinhead Press.

Keep your news and bulletins coming! More news soon, as it rolls in.

- Kurt Heintz, founder
e-poets network, Chicago

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