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

jump to: e-lit' and new media poetry | local Chicago events

in the greater sphere of literature...

in a state of blue:
poets react to Bush/Cheney victory

The President George W. Bush's victory over Senator John Kerry in the US elections this month was not greeted well by many poets. Given the general liberal orientation of so many writers -- a quality that seems to come with the territory of original authorship -- this came as little surprise. What did impress this writer was the quality and temper of writers' reactions to Bush's win. Poems by Sharon Olds, bell hooks, Vaclav Havel, and Denise Levertov were passed among some poets for hope and consolation after the election. And the commonly sharp cynicism in advance of the election moved quickly to language of moral and principled determination.

Close on the eve of the election, several circulars were in play on the Internet from what appeared to be, superficially at least, liberal sources. But one thread of posts, titled "Why I won't vote", drew a particularly salient batch of public reactions from writers openly CC'd to it. Reaction to the thread was neither patriotic nor acquiescent, and while poets were sometimes dismayed at the choices of offered them at the polls, they were not generally ready to give up on the democratic process.

Some poets took the opportunity to put their grievances with the present political situation in the States into considered language, often reflecting on history. For example, Mike McGee wrote, pondering the new, inverted political postures between the US and world:

It's disheartening to watch all the work and revolt our parents and grandparents did 40 years ago, just to realize that the result is the present. I come from that?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." George W. Bush says that we basically have to fear the world.

Could it be because people don't like us?

Why is it different now? Weren't FDR's times just as dangerous, if not more? ...

Khiry Malik added his comments as well:

I'm getting from this [thread] that the 'system' is not working for us. That is a convenient scapegoat, brilliant if it were true. But let's just think about this:

The only way to defeat the system is to be part of it. How did the government take down Malcolm X, The Black Panthers, Marcus Garvey? Became part of their system... infiltration.

The vote don't work, huh? How did [Barack] Obama get elected then? How did Maxine Waters keep her office? ...

Other items filtered into this desk by e-mail, from sources inside and outside the US. One cartoon suggested new borders for North America, with the Kerry-committed and generally more secular states such as New York, California and Illinois annexed to Canada. The cartoon was pointed, true enough, but also indicative of something else generally unspoken during the campaign and now visible thanks to the polls: a cultural border is emerging between America's secular and religiously-centered communities.

Those states won by Kerry were generally home to polycultural American society, in other words those states where the American melting pot is. Voting breakdowns by counties and precincts indicated that the Kerry vote came from urban America where people of varying cultures and religions interacted frequently. Polycultural America is typically reckoned as the US's East and West coasts, places with ports of entry. But Illinois's inclusion in the Kerry "blue" states was the exception that proved a rule.

Chicago's function as a world gateway city was enough to pull Illinois into the more liberal side of the vote, sympathetic with perceptions outside the US, and in dissent with Bush's agenda for the US. Adjacent Indiana was solidly "red" on the voting maps, indicating conservative; but its proximity to Illinois not withstanding, Indiana is not a gateway community. As if to underscore its cultural distinction in the Midwest, Illinois also sent Barack Obama, a Democrat, to the Senate. When sworn in, Obama will be only the fifth African-American since the Civil War to hold a Senate seat.

the view from here:
The e-poets network is governed by ecumenical principles. These principles extend across culture, politics, geographic origin, class, race, gender, sexual preference, and religion. Our Network did not endorse any candidate. As a matter of policy, we do not cast such endorsements even though many people in the Network have obvious preferences. We wish to remain open to people who have something meaningful to say. In so doing, we offer a point of cultural communion through poetry and new media, wherein people may gain insight into each others' lives, and possibly learn something.

That means, however, that visitors to our website (you!) and participants in our presentations must be willing to engage and possibly embrace people of different minds. That is a skill learned, at least in part, in polycultural communities. So the demographic breakdown of the US election is a concern for us, given the geographic polarities that the polling data suggest. has always strived to cross geographic and cultural frontiers. However, we now face a cultural schism in the United States begetting a new frontier based on ideology. At a superficial level, America will function the same as it has; the people will shop, work, study, care for each other, and play as usual. But at a political level, the divides are deep, and people on opposite sides are not all that interested in compromise or change. Conservatives are proud of their long-awaited, hard-earned ratification through the democratic process, while defeated liberals cling with determination to their ideals.

We hope the conservative fiat in the US elections is not a signal that the American mind is closing to the varied and broad experiences that the rest of the world offers. We suggest that a true test of today's American conservatism will be in how it engages, interacts with, evolves with, and respects cultures that it may not change. Given America's rich cultural milieu, that which may be respected at home may also be respected abroad.

In the "Why I won't vote" thread, poet and publisher Jeffrey Duarté cited Rev. Jesse Jackson, saying, "If you don't vote, you are irrelevant to the process. If you do not have integrity, you are a coward. Only by engaging, engaging, engaging, and engaging can you make things happen." We second that thought, as we extend such engagement to engaging cultures, and not just voters.

the plight of the working poet:
Ben Barton in the UK

"Ben Barton is a working poet." OK... But what does that really mean?

When someone is called a "working poet," many assume that the person may actually make their living as a writer. But it's more likely that the reality is quite different. The person is working, and the person is a writer, but their work is not their creative writing. Neither so casual to regard themselves as a poetry hobbyist, nor so successful that they can live comfortably from writing commissions alone, the working poet faces a dilemma: The writing they must commit for survival of their art competes for attention with the work they must do for their own survival.

Ben Barton was the recent subject in such an examination of that dilemma on the BBC, and his story seems quite typical of poets in the UK and US. By day, he writes for a British travel magazine. By night, if he's not exhausted first, he writes as much poetry as he can. Readers can watch the BBC close-up on Barton. There is also backstory on Barton from Writers' News and review of Barton's work. Barton's statement comes through both direct communiqué and in his work: The limited rewards of publication are not sufficient to ensure that

Barton's response to the lack of support for the published poets has been to create performance and video. Barton says, "I am currently working on my poetry collection don't do anything i wouldn't do, which is coming out early 2005." He sees video as a means of promotion and as a vehicle for his creative work. "When the book is published," says Barton, "I will be creating more videos to accompany the text, making it available online. I'm very interested in combining text with performance and audio/visual elements. I am initially an actor, so these things are very important to me."

Barton nevertheless remains cautious about discarding text altogether in favor of performance and new media, saying, "Spoken-poetry is often seen as a less viable (or 'prestiged') form of publication, even though it reaches the masses more quickly. We live in the television age, and if poetry is to survive it must change with the times. I'm not saying printed poetry will become extinct -- far from it. Nothing will ever replace the feeling of reading a poem from a crisply printed, high-quality book. But variety is the key. Poetry can handle many formats, it's flexible."

Barton's situation also relates to the literary ecologies and economies between print, performance, and mass media. The "poevangelism" of the last decade created the boom population of aspiring writers today. But that popularity of poetry has not necessarily translated into more or better publishing opportunities for all those new writers. To find audiences, many writers resort to performance. Yet performance removes the "prestiged" status, as Barton puts it, from such poetry. And therein is a Catch-22. To enjoy a critical dialogue on one's poetry, and so refine one's text to meet a potential publisher's criteria, one must often resort to the very channels that may taint it against publishing.

Further, with so many people listening to poetry, who reads it? (See e-poets' earlier analysis of the decline of literary reading, as reported by the NEA.) And if the attention economy of poetry is consumed with performance, how can that economy positively support publication for those writers to wish to go into print? There are multiple pathways to Barton's point, that the present readership and the quality of that readership is probably not sufficient to support a good, emerging writer.

the view from here
By embarking upon video and the mass media, Barton is taking a less-traveled path toward the public recognition and discourse he needs so his writing can take its own next step forward. We wish him well. As online keepers of poetry video longer than any other poetry website in our region, knows a thing or two about the potential of new media to extend poetry to new audiences, and we see much promise there.

But also like Barton, we see value in literature's traditions, too. As anyone who's been to an open mic can say, the credo, "It's all good," obviously isn't. Editors serve many purposes, one of them being to keep good writers from making fools of themselves. As poets self-publish and distribute their work in channels outside traditional print, we still see merit in the editor's prerogative, a more clinical way to keep it real.

London slam rules, OK!
... Farrago Poetry turns 10

Please join the e-poets network family in wishing MC John Paul O'Neill and Farrago Poetry of London hearty congratulations on their tenth year of operation! Farrago is Europe's longest continuously run poetry slam establishment, and has done much to promote performance poetry dialogue between Britain and America. They have also enjoyed some keen attention from the BBC lately, particularly from the from the BBC/Somerset bureau.


in e-lit' and new media poetry...

Electronic Book Review updates

Featuring new essays by Rob Swigart, Ralph Berry, and Lucy Corin, the Electronic Book Review (EBR) continues to post the latest and freshest critical thought on all forms of electronic literature and new writing. The most recent update to EBR includes additions to threads on critical ecologies, the "Internet nation", and the desire to do battle with/for words.

EBR is entirely online, and free to access. Simply click to

poetry video on the big screen:
An Evening of Visible Verse

Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque presents "See the Voice: an evening of visible verse on 11 November. Rich in emotion and creative expression, video and poetry come together in a special presentation of Visible Verse. Author and media poet Heather Haley curates and hosts this new event combining film and video poetry with live performances by artists from Canada and the US.

Visible Verse regards poetry video as spoken-word poetry integrated with media-art visuals produced by a camera or a computer in a hybrid artform. The voice is the catalyst for all that is screened. The evening will also feature on-stage performances by Alexandra Oliver and Brendan McLeod.

Sixteen videopoems will be screened, and the audience is encouraged to participate by voting for their favorite piece in the program. Five British Columbia artists feature in this presentation, illustrating the vitality of this artform in a community with a strong tradition of both poetry and film and video production. There are also two artists representing Chicago and, therein, some of the heritage from poetry video's US origins.

The program includes the following videos:

  • Away From You (Jill Battson/Canada 2004. DVD, 1 min.)
  • Almost Forgot My Bones (Tanya Evanson, Katrin Bowen/Vancouver 2004. VHS, 5 mins.)
  • Car Wash (Leanne Averbach/Vancouver 2003. VHS, 3 mins.)
  • Butch (Nico Stagias/Canada 2003. VHS, 7 mins.)
  • Poem For Peace (Penn Kemp/Canada 2004. VHS, 3 mins.)
  • Love Me/Wash Me (Mary Blinn/USA 2004. DVD, 9 mins.)
  • Welcome To WillieWorld (Maggie Dubris/USA 2001. VHS, 14 mins.)
  • Salut (Marco Dube, Helene Matte/Canada 2004. VHS, 3 mins.)
  • Between Within (Heather Hermant/Canada 2004. DVD, 5 mins.)
  • Spinsters Hanging In Trees (Sheri-D Wilson/Canada 2003. VHS, 4 mins.)
  • Fecund (Gwynedd Tremblay/USA 2004. DVD, 6 mins.)
  • Untitled (Julie Parrell/Canada 2004. DVD, 3 mins.)
  • This Bleeding Place (Susan Cormier/Burnaby, BC 2004. VHS, 6 mins.)
  • Belle L'etre (Adeena Karasick/USA, 2003. VHS 3 mins.)
  • Yellow Leather (Naufus Ramires-Figueroa/Vancouver 2004. VHS, 2 mins.)
  • The Vertical Edge (Renee Poisson/Merville, BC. DVD, 3 mins.)

11 November, 2004 at the Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street, downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. Admission: $8.50-CDN. The program starts at 7:30 PM. Be there promptly! For further details, consult the Pacific Cinematheque online program guide. Advance tickets are available online.

Blithe House Quarterly:
call for 2005 submits

Blithe House Quarterly will continue to accept unpublished LGBT/Q short fiction by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered authors through 1 December, 2004, for publication in 2005. For complete details, consult their website.

Stories must be previously unpublished, fictional (as opposed to memoir), and are usually 1500-7500 words in length. Consider reading stories in recent issues as a guide for style and format. Open submissions for 2005 will be read by Cheryl E. Klein and Chip Livingston. Blithe House is an award-winning publisher of original queer fiction, with recognition from OUT Magazine, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and other publishers/reviewers in the queer and mainstream press.


in Chicago's lit/arts community...

Adeena Karasick & Marvin Tate
at Myopic

One of North America's most fascinating performers working in language poetry and one of performance poetry's anthemic voices convene on the same stage at Myopic Books:

Adeena Karasick is a poet, media-artist and the award-winning author of six books of poetry and poetic theory, The House That Hijack Built (Talonbooks, Summer, 2004).The Arugula Fugues (Zasterle Press, 2001), Dyssemia Sleaze (Talonbooks, Spring 2000), Genrecide (Talonbooks, 1996), Mêmewars (Talonbooks, 1994), and The Empress Has No Closure (Talonbooks, 1992). Marked with an urban, Jewish, feminist aesthetic that continually challenges normative modes of meaning production, Karasick has lectured and performed worldwide and regularly publishes articles, reviews and dialogues on contemporary poetry, poetics and cultural/semiotic theory. Since Sept. 2000, she has been Assistant Professor of Poetry and Poetic Theory at St. John's University.

Marvin Tate is a pioneer in the genre of melding poetry, performance, spoken-word and music here in Chicago and nationally. His work has been aired on NPR's "This American Life", WBEZ's "8:48", Wild Chicago, Art Beat, Chic A-GO-GO, The Knitting Factory, the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe and most recently on Russell Simmon's Def-Jam Poetry. Tonight he'll be reading/performing new and old works from his book "A School Yard of Broken Dreams" and his soon-to-be finished book of poems tiltled, "The Family Swim".

The reading convenes on Sunday, November 21 at 5:00 PM at Myopic Books, 1564 N Milwaukee Avenue (Wicker Park, near the Damen el station), Chicago. For more details on this and other programs in the reading series, see the Myopic Books website. Note: There will be no reading on November 28.

Of Milk and Ocelots, 14 Nov:
Vitkauskas and Awl reading

Dave Awl joins Lina Ramona Vitkauskas for a reading at Myopic Books, hosted by Chuck Stebelton. Vitkauskas edits Milk Magazine, one of Chicago's stronger literary foci on the web. Awl publishes his own diverse site at Both are writers with enough history and wordcraft to each fill another website and then some. (Recommended: Click through their links and start reading!)

Sunday, 14 November at 7:00 PM, at Myopic Books, 1564 N Milwaukee Avenue (Wicker Park, near the Damen el station), Chicago. For more details on this and other programs in the reading series, see the Myopic Books website.

Chicago Public Library, Bridgeport:
Nina Corwin and conversations

Nina Corwin, recently back from a Pacific coast poetry tour will be appearing at the Bridgeport branch library, 3400 S Halsted Street, Chicago, on Monday, 15 November 2004 at 7:00 PM. She is the author of "Conversations With Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints" and a contributor to e-poets' own Book of Voices. The event is free and open to the public. More info about Corwin and her book is available through her publisher, Puddin' Head Press.

Danny's Series on 11 November:
Powell, Paul & McSweeney

The Danny’s Reading Series event for November features three accomplished writers this month:

D A Powell's most recent collection of poems is Cocktails (Graywolf, 2004). His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and he has received awards from the James Michener Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Society of America. Powell has taught at University of Iowa, Columbia University, San Francisco State University and Sonoma State University. He currently teaches at University of San Francisco. Together with Katherine Swiggart, he edits Electronic Poetry Review.

Bradley Paul is a poet and filmmaker living in Baltimore, Maryland. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Fence, Iowa Review, and numerous other magazines. His first book of poetry, The Obvious, was just published by New Issues Press.

Joyelle McSweeney's second book, The Commandrine and Other Poems, features material first premiered at the Danny's Reading Series and is new this month from Fence. Her first book, The Red Bird, was brought out by Fence in 2002. She is a member of the Creative Writing Faculty at the University of Alabama and a staff critic for The Constant Critic. She recently co-founded a small poetry press with her husband, Johannes Goransson; Action Press will bring out its first two titles in Fall 2005.

Danny’s Tavern is located at 1951 W. Dickens in Chicago (in Bucktown; 1 block north of the Damen/Armitage intersection). Phone 773-489-6457. Reading begins at 7:30 PM on Thursday, 11 November. The Tavern is a 21 and over venue; please bring an ID with proof of age. Next month's features include: Ed Roberson and Srikanth A. Reddy, on Wednesday 8 December.

Wordslingers for Nov 2004:
Bardales and Danai

Tune in on Sunday, 7 November as Wordslingers features the works of two potent forces of nature. Katherinne Bardales is a Peruvian-Chicagoan whose creative interdisciplinary output spans performance in Afro-Peruvian dance through video and spoken word. She has featured at the Guild Complex, Hothouse, Women Outloud, and Insight Art's Women's Performance Jam. Teri Danai is a muralist, performer, and author of three books of poems and stories, Concrete Clouds/Cement Kisses, Denial: not just a river in egypt, and Blowing Sunshine Up Your *ss.

Wordslingers airs on the 1st and 3rd Sunday nights of the month, at 9:00 PM on 88.7-FM, WLUW. Loyola University. Tune in over the air, if you're in range, or click to the streaming webcast online at; when you get there, click "listen live".

Rhino Theatre Fest for 2004

The Rhino Fest continues through early November. Check out a capsule Rhino Fest program or go directly to Curious Theatre Branch for the full details.

Homolatté on hiatus

The Homolatté music/spoken word series is on hiatus pending its move to a new venue. will publish the series' new schedule and venue information when it becomes available. In the mean time, you can track Homolatté at MC Scott Free's website, Early word has the series resuming in January 2005 on a new stage.

transience seen about Chicago...

There is a change of regime at the local Monday night slam venue in Wicker Park. Mental Graffiti, piloted for the past year by Dan Sullivan, now will be led by a co-operative including Lucy Anderton. The co-op promises to sustain the positive atmosphere and legacy of Sullivan and the venue's previous host, Krystal Ashe. Sullivan cited strong demands on his time for college and creative output in leaving Mental Graffiti to the new team.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has been presenting some very interesting readings lately, and for the last couple years, too. Seen at St. Gregory the Great in the Andersonville neighborhood on the evening of 7 November: audiopoetry publisher Elise Paschen (editor of Poetry Speaks) and former US Poet Laureate Mark Strand. St. Greg's is positively the most civilized and ornate poetry venue in the city. And with a reading in a church, the language is fairly civilized, too. Facilitating the event on-site was Richard Fammeree. The next poetry program at St. Greg's will be in January 2005. A new spoken word CD, reVerse, featuring Strand, Cin Salach, Kent Foreman, Li-Young Lee, and other poets was available at the reading. considers the disc to be essential listening.

Kelly Tsai hits NYC

One-time Chicago poet and Mango Tribe member, Kelly Tsai, recently moved to New York from Chicago, and landed some impressive gigs and credits in her short transition. In addition to a recent appearance on HBO's Def Poetry, she's also putting in appearances at these venues:

  • Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Sun. Nov. 14, 8:00 PM, $7
  • Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Fri. & Sat. Nov. 12 & 13, 8:00 PM, $10
  • Joyce Soho, Thurs.-Sun. Nov. 18-21, 8:00 PM, $12-$15

Artists sharing the bill with Tsai include Ainsley Burrows and Erik Maldonado, while her own work is expanding to include movement and dance in addition to performance poetry. Great going, Kelly!

links we like

More links relating to poetry and media around the web...

A new, Flash-enabled site for Simone Muench, with some keen poetry and links... Katherinne Bardales' sudamericano dance and cultural group, Peru Profundo... and Poetic Diversity, an online literary zine from LA...

Poetix, southern California's poetry gateway, celebrating its third year online..., the New York analogue to Poetix published by Jackie Sheeler, has recently been updated with much info, too... And a link to Mercury Press, which leads to Word, Toronto's local calendar/review/events zine... and, while we're on Canada, consider, an open site for dialogue on theory and practice..., a non-profit group who empower young women through writing, literacy, and community outreach... WNUR-FM's "The Lit Show", from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois...

File this under "aural literacy: history", an interview with Nelson Mandela..., a contemporary arts and literary newsletter..., a base for Asian-American poets with a hard, street-oriented style... and from e-poets' longstanding Iceland associate, Birgitta Jonsdottir's Womb of Creation...

As always, we thank you for your readership and news tips. Keep the info coming in!

- Kurt Heintz, founder
e-poets network, Chicago

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