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dateline: Chicago, October 2004 takes a look at the local and global poetry affairs.

jump to: calls for written and media works | local Chicago events

in the greater sphere of literature...

big money for fast words:
local slams raise the stakes

Poetry slams continue assimilating into the American literary landscape, just as they have for nearly two decades. Where the slam phenomenon is relatively new, novelty is often enough to attract an audience. But what if slam poetry has been established for some time in a given place? How do poets and poetry promoters capture the attention of a public who have adapted to slam's presence, and no longer consider it new?

One answer: Bigger money. Prizes at local poetry slams in this writer's experience have ranged from bottle openers (Hamburg, LAOLA Club, 1996) to boxes of macaroni and cheese (Chicago, Green Mill, 1990s). Typical prize money might buy enough food for a good, home cooked meal. However, some poetry venues have been upping the ante and so hoping to attract larger crowds and more competitive poets to their stages. They are beginning to offer prizes in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. A few manage to do this on a regular basis.

Charles Ellik, the host of the Berkeley, California slams, announced that his venue's October programming will build around a "$1000 Slam." The prize pot splits thus: $500 for first place, $300 for second, and $200 for third. 2004 is the second year he's managed to do this, and he anticipates it will become an annual fixture on Berkeley's lit/arts calendar.

Ellik's venue is officially sanctioned and recognized by PSI (Poetry Slam, Inc.). But big money prizes are not all contained by the official domain of slam. In Baltimore, Maryland, Lamar Hill is producing a $500 slam on 7 October. Similarly, slams for special causes have been launched here in Chicago and elsewhere, as a way to gather audiences and artists in recognition of particular causes, and part of their draw has been built from offering large awards.

The ecological effects of adding money to slam poetry's audience/artist equation are not well-known outside National Slam events, though there is plenty of precedence for extending large prize monies to poets. Such money would hardly be snubbed by most page poets, for example, since big money prizes have been offered for print-based poetry contests for years. Reviewing the back pages of back issues Poets & Writers magazine establishes that very well.

But once a performance poet has built a reputation, they can also charge significant amounts as featured readers/performers on tour. Honoraria for featured artists in the US range from around $50 for modest venues in city- or neighborhood-based festivals, to $500 or more for one-day appearances at universities or main stage venues in larger cities. Additional perks may include lodging and/or transport. But that higher price may not include the poet in a workshop or a panel discussion; goodies such as those are often negotiated.

Follow the story in-depth by clicking into the Plain Text section of this website. There, you'll find interviews with Charles Ellik and Samaiya Ewing, as they describe their experiences with slams and bigger prizes.

in cyberculture...

in the mix, or not?
Madonna resampling leaves original artists' rights at issue

Ordinarily a remix of Madonna isn't newsworthy here because we don't confuse Madonna's work as a pop music artist with poetry. But we were piqued when we discovered how one particular remix of this pop star amounted to cultural blowback from the cyberculture. To follow this story deeper, click to the Madonna remix project on

It runs like this: Madonna was concerned that her latest club tracks were suffering diminished sales from peer-to-peer sound file swapping. Thinking she might subvert the process, she released MP3 files of her own into KaZaA, a peer-to-peer network. Online, the files had the appearance of being genuine until the user played them, whereupon they'd hear Madonna's blunt admonishment, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

Naturally, such a sample was too good for DJs and mixmasters to leave alone. And so began the Madonna remix project, giving rise to numerous tracks bearing the initials "WTF". Some of the mixes are fairly artistic, too, which does much to elevate the cultural criticism of Madonna, and legitimize online fileswapping practices. A statement on behalf of KaZaA regarding a recent judgement in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, advocates responsible file-swapping while praising the Court's judgement. The Court found that peer-to-peer software by itself does not violate US copyright law. The judgement may have some effect on similar cases in Australia.

The Madonna remix story refreshes issues known since Negativland's "The story of the Letter U and the Number 2", a book based on the making of a CD and the legal issues descended from sampling. Negativland's CD, released in 1991, appropriated music by the band U2 and out-take voiceover by syndicated radio host Casey Kasem. Legal disputes over the band's fair use of that material pitched them all into court. (An archived Wired magazine article outlines this.) Common to Madonna's, U2's, and Kasem's situations is their fame. The fact that their voices are iconic creates an incentive for their appropriation.

Interpreting the situation deeper, the Madonna remix story also reveals concerns to lesser-known originating artists. Without fame to signify them first, and so establish their reputation, such artists may have more to fear from resampling. There appears to be a cultural frontier that overlays legal prerogative. In DJ culture, a remix is often considered a complement, and remixing is an accepted token of recognition. But in other literary cultures where credit particularly goes to originality, appropriation can take on many shades of language and intent: an homage or elegy, a simple acknowledgement or friendly nod, a criticism, a parody, possible libel if maliciously contextualized, or outright plagiarism.

A spoken word artist can sometimes ride such a sample to aid their own fame. In the early 1990s, the group S-Express mixed samples of Karen Finley's monologues into their own club music tracks. As a result, Finley enjoyed a revival of her reputation among an audience where she hadn't been well-known, in the house music scene of the day. Reading the recording, one can hear a sypathetic (if bodacious) use of Finley ranting, "Suck me off! Suck me off!" lifted out of context from her original performance, but nevertheless serving the purpose of the track and, to some degree, of Finley, too. (For background on Finley, click to Yahoo's directory, or read this tribute by Matt Gleason on

Finley's language is at least as blunt as Madonna's in this case. Both women are about the same age and have fashioned "bad girl" reputations for themselves in the public eye. But where one operates in pop and profit, the other operates in gritty art and relative poverty; music mixers can read this plainly. In the S-Express track there seems to be a positive relationship between speaker and music, framed in the traditional citation-as-homage of the DJ. But where the antipathy was offered plainly in Madonna's red herring track, it was answered in kind, albeit also in artistic ways, as cultural blow-back.

the view from here...
As poets and monologuists shift more and more to audio and new media, their language will be more remixed. What happens when the language of the poet becomes the sound of the DJ? What ethics and law will govern the creative (re-)application of their original works? And will poets take a more active role in behalf of their language as audio art?

Thanks go out to for bringing this thread to our attention. For artists and readers interested in pursuing this further in the academic domain, see the call for papers below from the University of Iowa.


calls for written and media works...

in Britain...

Buffalo Film Festival seeks poetry driven short films

The Buffalo Film festival is a celebration of Black and Asian short film taking place in the main space at the Battersea Arts Centre on the 7th November 2004. The organisers are looking for short films (30 minutes or less) to be considered for entry in the festival. Development executives will attend the festival from the BBC, The UK Film Council, The British Arts Council, Miramax, and Working Title, as well as other film and media professionals. A specially commissioned prize [designed by Shannel Johnson] will be awarded to the Director of the "film of the festival" voted for by the audience on the night.

The closing date for the submission of entries for this event has been extended to 7 October 2004. Interested parties should send submissions to: Festival Director, Buffalo Film Festival, 2 Grandison Road, Clapham Common, London, SW11 6LW. Note: VHS / DVD copies only please! For further information please telephone Wade A. Jacks (07961 382298) or Toks Majek (07958 724947).

in the USA...

Collage as Cultural Practice
Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City
24-26 March, 2005

Call for Papers: Deadline 15 October
The "Collage as Cultural Practice" conference seeks to examine interventionist collage practices in all media, with an emphasis on the social, political and legal implications of this method of appropriation.

The conference will interrogate the political and social dimensions of collage as a practice that enables oppositional commentary across the cultural spectrum: from the leftist collages of the Dadaists and Situationists to the unauthorized use of corporate trademarks, interventions by queer activists, as well as the more recent flurry of internet-distributed anti-war video collage pieces that appropriate from the mainstream media in satirical ways.

This conference will gather scholars of, and practitioners in, the media of film and video, music, literature, visual arts and beyond -- putting together a series of panels, performances and screenings, as well as an exhibit at the University of Iowa Museum of Art on "Interventionist Collage: From Dada to Negativland."

Confirmed Speakers: Patricia R. Zimmermann (Ithaca College, Department of Cinema and Photography); Rosemary Coombe (Canada Research Chair in Law at York University); Carrie McLaren (Curator of Illegal Art Show, Publisher of Stay Free! magazine); Mark Hosler (Negativland); Lloyd Dunn (Tape-beatles); Philo Farnsworth (Illegal Art); Douglas Kahn (UC-Davis); Ximena Cuevas (video artist, Mexico City)

Possible Session Topics:
Collage and the Beat Movement
Collage and Copyright
Found Footage Film and Video
Dada & Surrealist Collage
Situationist and Fluxus Collages
Feminist Strategies of Appropriation
Collage in the Digital Age
Collage: Remixing Cultures
Collage: The Cultural Politics of Appropriation
Collage: From musique concrète to Hip Hop
Collage: Queer Interventions

Send 250-word proposals for papers to Rudolf Kuenzli or Kembrew McLeod by 15 October, 2004. Conference registration is free.

Seattle showcase extends open call for poetry videos

Eleventh Hour Productions is always collecting videopoetry or video poems by authors and filmmakers for Ekphrastika and other upcoming events. Ekphrastika is the new literary reading series from EHP, and takes place every Third Thursday at the Center on Contemporary Art, 410 Dexter Ave N, in Seattle between Denny and Mercer at Harrison.

If you have a video, or know of anyone who creates them, please write to Eleventh Hour Productions. The Eleventh Hour website has more info about Ekphrastika and other projects, plus a calendar of poetry events including poetry slams in the Puget Sound area.

viva Las Vegas:
another call for poetry videos

Untamed Tongues dubs itself, "... the world's newest premier poetry spot. Poets from all over come to Las Vegas, Nevada, the entertainment capital of the world, to put their stuff down for the host Warrick 'Husbandman' Roundtree, teamed with his wife and Chief Executive Officer, Takicha Roundtree." And they're searching for fresh poetry videos, too. So, while you're burning discs for the above two organizations, why not toss a spare in this direction, too, hm? Sounds like a jazzy kind of place to us. And anyway, it's Vegas!

Send videos, audio recordings, books for review to:
Untamed Tongues Poetry Lounge
7575 W Washington Ave
suite 127-171
Las Vegas, NV 89128
Or click to for more jazzy info.

Louisiana State University
15th annual Mardi Gras conference:
call for papers on merging word & image

From Logos "the word" to Logo "the icon," the situation that English Studies finds itself in at the beginning of the 21st century is one of mixed cultures, integrated technologies, and hybrid writing styles. Visual rhetoric is vying for the same status as textual rhetoric, and scientists, educators, and artists continue to utilize a postmodern idea of fragmentation to redefine the stark binaries and boundaries of literacy from critical/personal to art/science to left brain/right brain.

The current trend towards hybrid genres creates a new kind of literacy that has gained recognition through interdisciplinary fields, such as film studies, American studies, educational technology studies, and communication studies. This conference invites presentations from all disciplines to explore the relationships between text and image and its impact on literacy.

Possible panels include:

  • performative, intertextual and/or hypertextual writing
  • new media practice in the classroom
  • pedagogical exploration and application of visual literacy
  • (computer) memory and self: searching for the individual online
  • fragmentation of identity through fragmented text
  • somewhere between the written and the oral: using film as a pedagogical tool
  • photography: a visual text
  • conferencing the performative paper; performing the conference paper
  • orality in a textual world
  • advertising as a cultural mirror
  • literacy lost, literacy found: medieval women's writing
  • Barthes and punctum: memory as text
  • ethnography: mapping the personal
  • searching for the diegesis in different mediums
  • hybrid truths: the nonfiction ego
  • FragmentNation: the subversion of racial and gender identity markers

Abstracts are invited on these topics or on work that interprets the conference theme more broadly. Creative submissions are definitely welcome. The conference is also open to those who wish to attend without presenting a paper. The deadline for abstracts (no more than 500 words) is October 15, 2004. For a more detailed outline of the conference, see the LSU English graduate studies website or the conference website.


in Chicago's lit/arts community...

on regional (arts) radar: CSU/Brooks conference & humanities fest

Major lit/arts in the local press... One is the 14th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference at Chicago State University, starting 20 October. Another is the Chicago Humanities Festival, beginning 30 October, with themes this year based upon concepts of Time.

Rhino Theatre Fest for 2004

Each autumn, performing arts cogniscenti in Chicago look forward to Curious Theatre Branch's Rhino Theatre Festival. Functioning like a single-cabaret fringe festival, Rhino Fest gathers the Curious company and their friends for original, literate, and unique performances. was kindly forwarded the entire Rhino schedule for this year, so we've got it to share with you. Rhino runs from late September through November, and features local artists such as Jenny Magnus, John Starrs, Jeff Dorchen, Sherry Antonini, David Kodeski, and many others. A performance of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood and a panel on buzzword language complement the calendar, too. Click here for Rhino Fest or go directly to Curious Theatre Branch.

Word Gourmet at the Guild:
Mars Gamba-Adisa Caulton

Host Nina Corwin and The Word Gourmet Series return to the Guild Complex on 13 October, featuring Mars Gamba-Adisa Caulton, Corwin's longtime co-host from the days then Word Gourmet was in the south loop. As usual, the revue will be joined by some of the perrformers of the Serendipity Percussion Ensemble.

Mars Gamba-Adisa Caulton is a performance poet and former co-host of the Word Gourmet at the Gourmand Cafe who has been a political organizer/activist for nearly 20 years. She is artistic director for She Laughs, a women's inter-disciplinary improvisational group; runs Renaissance Street, a small company that produces and promotes art of progressive social/political nature; and is vocalist for the trip hop group Redeye Renaissance with jazz bassist and husband Darius Savage.

Word Gourmet at the Guild Complex on Wednesday, October 13 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division, Chicago (Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village neighborhood). Open mic sign-ups start at 7:00 PM.

in Forest Park, 11 Oct:
Molly Malone's Open Mic

Molly Malone's Open Mic, with your hosts Nina Corwin and Al DeGenova, invites you to be part of one of the most highly respected open mics in the Chicago area. On Monday, October 11, join them for a very special poetry performance by featured artist "Tennessee" Mary Fons.

Mary Fons has been writing and performing poetry in cities around the country for over two years. A member of the Green Mill team representing Chicago at the 2003 National Poetry Slam and the Chicago Slaughterhouse (Midwest Slam League) she has featured in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Dayton, New York City (Bowery Poetry Club) Boston, Chicago, and Ann Arbor, among others. Mary also completed an 18 date, month long West Coast Tour in February of this year that took her from Vancouver, B.C. all the way to L.A., featuring her way down the coast. In February of 2003, she performed her "love poem 2002" in conjunction with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and is featured in the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Slam Poetry." (AlphaBooks.) Mary is also an original ensemble member of The Gift Theatre Company.

At Molly Malone's Irish Pub, 7652 Madison Street, Forest Park, IL (near-west Chicago suburbs) Phone 708-366-8073. Donations accepted, $5 to $3 recommended. The evening's schedule is: 7:00, open mic sign-up begins; 7:30, open mic; 8:30, featured reader.

Kristoffer’s Café, 8 October:
Trigilio & Evich read

Pilsen East's artistic, Latino ambience sets the background for host Vittorio Carli's twice-monthly reading series at Kristoffer's. This night, see two longstanding comrades in verse. Trigilio, an contributor, will have fresh selections from Spoon River Poetry Review and the forthcoming anthology American Zen. Evich will be reading from his semi-autobiographical account of the absurdities of gypsy adjunct faculty life, The Clandestine Novelist.

Tony Trigilio is the author of poems in many journals, including recent work in The Spoon River Poetry Review (Illinois Feature Poet in the Spring 2004 issue), Big Bridge, and in the anthology American Zen: A Gathering of Poets (Bottom Dog Press). A former Pushcart Prize nominee, his poems also have appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and Jack magazine. He is the co-editor of the poetry magazine Court Green, and serves as Director of the Undergraduate Poetry Program at Columbia College Chicago.

Mitch Evich has made a living as a newspaper reporter, an adjunct writing instructor, a commercial fisherman, and an editor of newsletters about the venture capital industry. He is the author of The Clandestine Novelist. His short fiction has appeared in the new renaissance and in the premier issue of the online journal Mystic River Review, where he now serves as a fiction editor. For many years he contributed book reviews to the Patriot Ledger newspaper, just outside of Boston. He lives with his wife and two children in Somerville, Mass.

Tony Trigilio and Mitch Evich read at Kristoffer’s Café, 1733 S Halsted, Chicago (East Pilsen neighborhood), Friday, 8 October, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Phone 312-829-4150 for more info.

Homolatté for October 2004

Queer words and music reign each week at Homolatté, MC'd by singer/songwriter/activist Scott Free. Homolatté is a "no open mic" venue, featuring at least one spoken word artist and one musical act each week. All shows begin Friday nights at 8:00 PM:

  • 1 October: narrative by Christopher Piatt & "rock the house" music by Ellen Rosner
  • 8 October: stories and poetry Yvonne Zipter and music by Joni Laurence
  • 15 October: words by Lani T Montrael and music by The Sheathens
  • 22 October: poetry by prizewinning author David Trinidad & folk music by Tom Yore
  • 29 October: Alvin Orloff & Kim Char

Homolatté is at Soul Cafe, 1301 W Hollywood, Chicago (Edgewater). Phone 773-470-7605. See the full listing at Donations always welcomed in Scott's renowned "Ikea tip jar."

ongoing, online reading:
BHQ fiction for fall 2004

Blithe House Quarterly invites you to browse its Fall 2004 edition, (Volume 8, Number 4) guest-edited by Tisa Bryant. The current issue features Lisa Alvarado, Nona Caspers, Embrialla Chase, C. Bard Cole, John Keene, Ana M. Lara, Ali Liebegott, Rob Nixon, John Reoli, Kate Schatz, Joshua Thompson, and Ronaldo Wilson.

"Internet-based fiction journals have become a significant force in publishing, especially for serious short fiction. In Web-only lit journals such as Blithe House Quarterly, the short-story form is alive and clicking." -- Baltimore City Paper

Blithe House Quarterly is fully readable online at

Wordslingers poetry radio:
Anna West

On Sunday, 3 October, Wordslingers features Anna West, a Chicago poet, lit/arts organizer, and recently a new mom. A graduate of Columbia College with a B.A in creative writing, Anna's work has been featured in Chicago at the Guild Complex, Mental Grafitti and Women Outloud. She also has one of the coolest jobs around- Program Director of Young Chicago Authors where she organizes creative writing programs and events. Her recent work explores childbirth and motherhood from a personal as well as political perspective. The Wordslingers mission is simple: "To feature the works of Chicago's jazz, blues, rock, psycho, political, love, published, unpublished, page, stage, slam poets, because the words we live are not the meek." Pass the word on.

Wordslingers airs live on the first and third Sunday nights of each month at 9:00 PM on 88.7-FM WLUW, with a webcast on The program is hosted by the writer and a true veteran of poetry radio in Chicago, Michael Watson.

Danny's & Open End Gallery:
Damon Krukowski & Peter O'Leary

The Danny's Reading Series + Open End Gallery present Damon Krukowski and Peter O'Leary at Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton St., Chicago (West Town), on Friday, 1 October, at 7:00 PM.

Damon Krukowski's book The Memory Theater Burned is coming out from Turtle Point Press this fall. He has published two chapbooks of poems, Vexations (Impercipient Lecture Series, 1997) and 5000 Musical Terms (Burning Deck, 1995). He is the editor of Exact Change, a publishing house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that specializes in the literature of Surrealism and other avant-garde art movements. He is also a musician, and together with his partner Naomi Yang has recorded four albums as "Damon & Naomi". From 1987-1991, Damon and Naomi were two-thirds of the band Galaxie 500.

Peter O'Leary is the author of a book of poetry, Watchfulness (Spyten Duyvil) as well as a book of criticism, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan & the Poetry of Illness (Wesleyan). As executor for the literary estate of Ronald Johnson, he has edited two collections of Johnson's poetry: To Do As Adam Did: Selected Poems (Talisman House) and The Shrubberies (Flood Editions). For more than a decade, he has edited, along with his brother Michael & Joel Felix, the literary magazine LVNG, which has the unusual distinction of being free. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son, and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Full details on Danny's are at

at DvA Gallery:
4 Poets In Search Of A Venue

4 Poets In Search Of A Venue is the title and it fairly explains this curated revue of spoken word artists. And the four poets are Michelle Rigot, Katia Zalkind, Nina Corwin, and Tom Roby.

Friday, 1 October, 8:00-9:30 PM at the DvA Gallery, 2568 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago (Lincoln Park/Lakeview). Hosted by Charlie Newman.

sundry items

Big "ups" going out our Network friends...

Kuzhoor Wilson, journalist, poet, and e-poets correspondent in Dubai, recently won the N. M. Viyyoth Memorial Award for Poetry. It was presented to him by the esteemed Arab poet Shihab Ganem.

Book of Voices contributor Elizabeth Marino has published her first chapbook, Debris, by Moon Journal Press (Arlington Heights, Illinois). The feminist press is celebrating its 10th year. Marino is not only in print these days, but got a walk-on role on the big screen, too. The upcoming Chicago International Film Fest will present "Boricua" as a World Cinema feature. The indy flick was shot in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood, and premiered in New York City's Tribeca Film Festival. Look for Elizabeth in the credits as "Micaela Mastierra," her original birth name.

And finally congratulations go out to Fred Pienkos, who was a technical assistant for us back when we called ourselves "Telepoetics/Chicago." Pienkos won an Emmy for his special effects work on the Star Trek: Enterprise television series. We knew he was good with tech back then, but wow!

We salute Book of Voices contributor Elizabeth Whitney on her recent move to Massachusetts. She's appearing at the WOW Cafe (NYC, 8-10 Oct), Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto, 5 Nov), Marshall Salon's Premier Encounter (14-15 Nov), and at Fort Hayes State University (18-21 Nov). Sounds like a decent tour!

links we like

Some fresh links relating to poetry and media around the web...

Jayne Fenton Keane just published a paper called Poetry Beyond the Page: a stroll through noticing on Philament. Keep your po-mo critique handy reading this item.

Mingus Tourette has caught our eye once again. He, Mike Gravel and other Canadians are on a poevangelist mission. They've got a 1986 Chevy C-30 One Ton Ambulance, painted it pink, and are touring Canada west to east and back on their Write the Nation tour. The artists have declared that, "Canadian Writing is in a State of Emergency," and needs to be put on the intensive care list. They're on the road to recover it. There was a recent CTV feature on the guys, and we think their trip is pretty neat. Safe travels!

Mozilla's Firefox browser has some useful extensions for web development. Check out the latest release, v0.9. Clicking "Tools" then "Extensions" from its menu allows you to download add on functions.

Did anyone say, "Mexican politics"? A very readable treatment of the subject from the New York Review of Books... Up north, there's the Ottawa Writers' Festival through 6 October... Online, Natalie Bookchins' Intruder plays text-bytes like objects in a video game... Chicago fiction author K.R. Randen's new website offers a lot of visual class and some very fine writing...

For further adventures in northern California slamming, see For mid-Atlantic US readings, check out Cavalcade of Poetry edited by Linda DiFeterici-Stehling... is building an online community for slam poets across the US... and Victor D. Infante edits Word Street Magazine...

Adam Rubenstein's Destructible Heart, with audio poetry... The Lakeivan Performance Group from New York, who combine poetry, live performance, and video... Another poetry video artist, Gerard Wozek, has gone online, too. Check him out at Chicago's High Risk Gallery on 7 October...

As always, we're grateful for your readership and info contributions to the Newswire. Keep the news rolling in!

- Kurt Heintz, founder
e-poets network, Chicago

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