dateline: Chicago, March 2005
This month, the lit' landscape takes a youthful turn with Louder Than a Bomb, fresh poetry video from Berlin's new masters of the form, and special offerings from PAC/Edge 2005.
SpokenWordBerlin defines poetry video on their own terms
e-poets.net first addressed this story in depth in 2002. (See the Plain Text report by Ulrike Jung.) Back then, controversy developed between the Zebra Poetry Film Festival, presented in Berlin, and SpokenWordBerlin when the latter party's videos were rejected from consideration in Zebra's presentations. While not the first such screening in Europe -- the Zebra festival was anticipated by other curated poetry film/video screenings in Latvia, England, and Italy -- few aspects of the Zebra Fest were produced in half measures. The festival ran for many days and showcased around 400 original film, video, and new media works that incorporated poetry. With such encyclopaedic inclusiveness, it seemed very odd that Zebra would not tap into a closeby and creatively vigorous group of artists as are represented by SpokenWordBerlin.
To wit, the poets of SpokenWordBerlin are getting the last words on the matter by releasing a new DVD collection of original poetry videos. This writer has seen previews of selected videos, and feels the anthology is time well-spent by all parties: by the poets and artists, who brought fresh and pointed experiences together in words and images; and by the viewers, who'll be enticed to reconsider the broader possibilities that language, performance, and creative imagery can create.
Any viewer of this collection will need a solid understanding of the German language to glean the most from the disc. It is an unabashedly European collection, and it does not apologize to Anglophone viewers by including much English language material. That said, the disc has a few transcendant moments that don't need much translation. A war room conference on "Bonn" is an arch appropriation of Cold War period movies, in a piece by Sebastian Kraemer. Bas Boettcher performs outside an office tower, whose lights have been wired into a dot-matrix display, spilling 3-letter acronyms as a backdrop to his technophilic rap. Urban themes abound in the collection. Sex, drugs, violence... it's all there, and so are a few others like travel, love, and fantasy.
The individual productions are simple, but that doesn't hinder their effectiveness. It is very easy to overburden the text of a poetry video with images and sounds that try to explain the poem. Instead, a director should allow the poem to make its message in tandem with the imagery. A successful poetry video can use all the elements at its disposal to amplify a poem, and still show clearly what influences come from where... the text should stand on its own, as should the imagery and sound. As both a performance poet and director of many of these videos, Wolfgang Hogekamp has learned to give the poetry respect and focus in the production, and not let the images take over.
That said, the one possible directoral shortcoming in this collection would be in how so many of the videos play directly from poet to camera, from eye to eye. A broader tactic might allow the camera to scavenge the environment and form counterpoints to the text through the imagery; this happens in some pieces, but could happen more. Among the videos this writer saw, most are of poets are performing to/with camera throughout. Sets, locations, and poets change. Visualizations change. And yet the camera seems locked quite squarely on the given poet at almost every turn. Pieces such as in den staedten by Jan Off, with its surveillance camera gaze, do break this eye-lock on the poet now and then.
Naturally, the spark between a good, charismatic poet and a live camera is hard to resist. It satisfies the poet and the filmmaker who feel a bond of attention through the lens. However, if the camera is to realize its fullest potential as a complementer to the language, it must have the freedom to roam away from the performing poet. It takes a certain confidence and selflessness between the director and the poet to do this, to have the faith that the camera will tell its own counter-poem to the spoken text, and still be faithful to it. When one is a performance poet and director, such trust is already in one's hands. Hogekamp may want to exercise that trust more fully in future productions.
This criticism is a faint echo of what the Zebra curators voiced when Hogekamp et al were excluded from Zebra's program. Zebra's critique seems unreasonably harsh after viewing these clips. And this critique is certainly not intended to label SpokenWordBerlin's achievement as second class. To the contrary, it's one of the best anthologies of its kind. It is rare for a community of writer/performers to assemble such a body of work in cinema, and they deserve much praise for not only rising to the practical but the aesthetic challenges of the task.
Berlin, with her ambitious poets, is absolutely a place to reckon today in poetry video, as Chicago and San Francisco once were, as Vancouver remains. A salute to SpokenWordBerlin, for creating a marvelous feast for the mind!
See full info on the video and forthcoming release party in Berlin in 8 March, at SpokenWordBerlin.
Mango Tribe goes national
Mango Tribe is an Asian/Pacific Islander American (APIA) women's interdisciplinary performance group founded on the belief that collective creation can be the most powerful form of art. The mission of Mango Tribe is to use experimental
New York performance:
Papertiger: open call for submits in
|poetry in print...|
Poetry Magazine is proud to announce the First Annual Printers' Ball in celebration of Chicago print to be held on Thursday, March 3, 2005. The event will occur from 6:00 p.m 9:00 p.m. at the HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo Ave, Chicago, IL.
Co-sponsored by ACM, After Hours Press, The Bird Machine, Bridge, Chicago Reader, Chicago Review, Firebelly Design, FOUND Magazine, The Guild Complex, Hourglass Press, In These Times, Independent Press Association of Chicago, Lumpen, Newcity, Other Voices, Pindeldyboz, Pistil, The Poetry Center of Chicago, Punk Planet, Quimby¹s, Stop Smiling, StoryQuarterly, TENbyTEN, THE2NDHAND, TriQuarterly, and Venus, the event will showcase a diverse selection of Chicago-based print publications including magazines, journals, and weeklies.
Conceived of as an opportunity to celebrate and explore Chicago's vibrant print scene, the event offers readers and writers a unique chance to sample publications and meet with editors and designers. "The Printers' Ball is a celebration of Chicago print and the readers who keep it alive," says Poetry¹s assistant editor Fred Sasaki. "And how often are the editors of Punk Planet and Poetry in the same room?"
The Printers' Ball is open to the public and admission is free. For more information, please call 312.799.8005.
|in Chicago's lit/arts community...|
PAC/Edge is presenting spoken word events this year. Usually concentrating on fringe theater and performance art, PAC/Edge is broadening its critical perspective by including spoken word. Several programs showcase the talents of local spoken word artists, and we list them below. For the full PAC/Edge schedule, which includes video art and interdisciplinary works as well, see the PAC/Edge website.
Masters of the Movement is an evening of spoken word by the poets who make it possible. Hosted by HBO Def Poet Nikki Patin, this program features Chicago spoken word artists who have transformed a once-underground art form into a visible and prolific movement. The bill includes Peter Kahn, Denise Ruiz, Kurt Heintz, Tara Betts, Khari B., Marvin Tate, and C.C. Carter.
March 11 at 9:30 PM, Studio 1 at the Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport (Lakeview); tickets $10
Young Chicago Authors presents an encore evening with The Best of Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB). Join the winning team and some of the standout performers from this year's Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam competition. This performance is for adults and youth alike. If you missed the main LTAB events (see below), this is your chance to catch the very best.
March 26 at 4:30 PM, Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport, $5
Spoken Word: Politics is an evening of political spoken word that explores the roots of the art form, born from political action and underground frustration. Hosted by singer/songwriter/activist Nikki Patin, this program features poets whose performances illustrate the unbreakable chain between the personal and the political. This event is also part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, in conjunction with Rape Victim Advocates. This bill includes Kristiana Colon, Michael Watson, Lucy Anderton, Kay Barrett, Kevin Coval, Rose Tully, Tara Bryant-Edwards, Wesley David, and E. Nina Jay.
April 1 at 10:00 PM, Studio 1 at the Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport (Lakeview); tickets $10
The 5th Annual Chicago Teen Poetry Slam is the largest teen team poetry event in the world. Given the growing popularity of performance and slam poetry in American schools, that is saying something. This event collects 40 high school teams from Chicago and its suburbs, and over 350 young poets. It is an intense whirlwind of language by young writer/performers, all vying for top recognition in their word-crafting and -spitting abilities. While it is steeped strongly in urban/street/hiphop cultures, the poetry takes inspiration from all aspects of contemporary American performance.
The official source on the event says, "Hosted by Young Chicago Authors, Louder Than a Bomb enhances literary and cultural literacy among the youth and creates exchanges between communities of students who may otherwise remain disparate. It exists to have resonance and relevance beyond the poetry festival by bridging and expanding the networks of youth workers and writers and continuing to build relationships with the festival's participants and the communities they come from."
Uninitiated witnesses will be astonished by the strength and maturity the kids have in pitching spoken word. At issue under all this is more than a young writer's thrill of performing and being recognized for their work, though that is a significant part. In bringing so many young artists together, there are collateral messages of community, common welfare, understanding, and crossing cultural frontiers. These give the participants an outstanding experience of political empowerment as well. Wondering who the next leaders of Chicago may be? You may not have to look further than Louder Than a Bomb. You certainly don't need to have a kid in the competition to enjoy this!
Admission to preliminary bouts: $5 adults / $3 for students.
Full information an online ticket ordering are available at youngchicagoauthors.org.
This is classic Robert Karimi as storyteller with (yes!) turntables. How does an honest Iranian-Guatemalan boy cope with America -- and try to grow up in America -- after the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Guatemala’s Civil War, the birth of 80s conservatism, and Bay Area suburban teenage angst? With the help of an old Chicano Hipster, his family, and the music of the time, Karimi learns that getting down with his Muslim-Catholic self is its own reward in an America that still fears multiculturalism and mixed-race couples. Self (the remix) is based on Karimi’s repertoire as National Poetry Slam champion and HBO Def Poetry Jam artist, and his concept of sampled consciousness, energetically performed as solo voice (Karimi) with the company of two top turntablists, DJ D Double and DJ Franco de Leon.
At the Hothouse, 31 E Balbo, Chicago (South Loop). Showtimes are Thursday, 10 March at 7:00 PM (14 years and older), Saturday, 12 March at 7:00 PM (21 and older -- must have valid ID), and Sunday 13 March at 3:00 PM (also 14 years and older). Tickets are from $5 to $15. For full info and ticket purchases, click to Kaoticgood.com, the artist's website. e-poets.net readers can sample more this great artist's work in his Book of Voices profile.
Cole Swensen’s ninth collection of poetry, Goest, was published in spring of 2004 by Alice James Books. Earlier works have been awarded a National Poetry Series selection, Sun & Moon’s New American Writing Award, the Iowa Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Her next collection, The Book of a Hundred Hands, will be published by University of Iowa Press in 2005. She also translates contemporary French fiction, art criticism, and poetry; recent books include Olivier Cadiot’s Future, Former, Fugitive, Pierre Alferi’s OXO, and Jean Frémon’s The Island of the Dead, which won the 2004 PEN USA Literary Award for Translation. She has received grants from the Association Beaumarchais and the French Bureau du Livre.
Eleni Sikelianos is the author of, most recently, The California Poem (Coffee House Press) and The Book of Jon (Nonfiction / Memoir, City Lights). Eleni’s previous books are The Monster Lives of Boys & Girls, Earliest Worlds, The Book of Tendons, The Lover's Numbers, and To Speak While Dreaming. She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the National Poetry Series (for The Monster Lives), residencies at Princeton University as a Seeger Fellow and at Yaddo and the Maison des écrivains étrangers in Brittany, a Fulbright Writer's Fellowship in Greece, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Nonfiction Literature, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing, a New York Council for the Arts Translation Award, and the James D. Phelan Award for Blue Guide. Her work has appeared in many magazines and journals, including Grand Street, Sulfur, Chicago Review, and Fence. She currently lives in Colorado, where she teaches at the University of Denver.
Wednesday, March 9th, 7:30PM (21 and over/please bring ID). Poetry by Cole Swensen and Eleni Sikelianos at Danny’s Tavern, located at 1951 W. Dickens, near the intersection of Armitage and Damen. Phone 773.489.6457 or click to Danny's website for more info.
Open Mindz is a family affair! This art and cultural exchange series exposes youth and their families to Chicago's established and emerging emcees, spoken wordists, turntabilists, and Bgirls/Bboys. Each first Friday of the month, the evening opens with an arts workshop/discussion facilitated by featured artists. The event continues with an open mic and featured performances. The night closes out with tunes rocked by a special guest turntabilist. Serious fun!
What's on the bill for this Friday March 4th: Soundz by Intel ONE; spoken word by KL West, slam poets who will set it off from "da Westside"; POR, Chi-town mc reppin' synergy crew (Wait and see the females takin over, rockin' the mic at a speaker near you!); Broken Words, a Native Lynx collaboration between the American Indian Center and Kuumba Lynx, who come to share stories; and finally the BrickHedz B-boy Crew.
Full info is available online by e-mailing through the KuumbaLynx website, or by calling 773-550-3849. All events take place at Clarendon Park, 4501 N Clarendon Ave, Chicago (Uptown neighborhood). KuumbaLynx Open Mindz is every first Friday of the month, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. A free, 30-minute writing and arts workshop begins every evening at 7:00 PM. Open mic available.
Chuck Stebelton regularly gathers audiences and artists at Myopic Books for glimpses into the living lit' history of Chicago. Sometimes pop, sometimes deep fringe, but always literate, the Myopic series is a considered spot on Chicago's circuit of poetry mics, offering some of the best writing from Chicago and beyond. This month, the schedule includes:
6 March: Thax Douglas and Special Guest
13 March: Adam Levin
20 March: Laura Sims and Corey Mead
27 March: Kent Johnson and Daniel Borzutzky
Sundays at 7:00 PM at Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee Avenue (Wicker Park), Chicago, in the second floor reading area. For full schedule and info, click to the Myopic series website.
The Homolatté music/spoken word series continues its weekly presentations of queer words and music at the Big Star Café in Rogers Park. With the exception of the Outmusic nights, Homolatté offers no open mic. Here is who's on deck for January 2005:
Mar 2nd: special Bloom Magazine show with Peggy Shinner, David Trinidad and Gregg Shapiro - hosted by Carol Anshaw
Mar 9th: Natalia Zukerman, with music by Brian Bouldrey
Mar 16th: Julie Loyd, with music by Kathy Bergquist and special guest Emily White
Mar 23rd: Aimee Cousino, with music by Ana Jae
Mar 30th: Outmusic Outloud open-mic, hosted by Lars Von Keitz
Homolatté - Queer Words and Music, Wednesdays at 8:00 PM, at the Big Star Café, 1439 W. Jarvis (Rogers Park) Chicago. Phone 773-764-0413. Hosted by Scott Free. A full listing of featured artists is available at homolatte.com.
Odd bits of news too small to categorize but worth mentioning for this month... Dave Awl is now available for download. Or rather, his short story for This American Life is. iTunes has picked up the track and now offers it for $0.99. Spoken word for the choosey collector on a budget... Ooh, such a deal!
Christopher Piatt was recently picked up as a writer for TimeOut Chicago. The magazine, which debuts the first week of March, has been dubbed a cheeky catalog of current affairs. In New York and, TimeOut's hometown, London, the magazine often proves to be an essential guide to the better arts and cultural affairs of the day. Piatt takes the theater editor's desk at TimeOut Chicago, and we look forward to his columns.
Milk Magazine volume 6 went online a little while ago and, as usual, it bears an abundance of interesting reading. Awl (above) is in it. So is John Cage protegé Richard Kostelanitz, and multi-artist Krista Franklin with a sample of her digital imaging. Charlie Newman and Chuck Stebelton are also featured.
On 14 February, Mental Graffiti negotiated a kind of homecoming and love-in at the same time with the series' return to their previous venue, the Funky Buddha Lounge. The crowd was warm, welcoming, and into lively words from veterans and newcomers alike. The vibe, while never lost, certainly did thrive so much stronger on the old stage.
Mental Graffiti, every Monday night at the Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W Grand (River West) Chicago. Come by for the open mic and stay for rock and downtempo sounds after the show. Doors open at 7:30 PM, show starts at 8:00 PM. Admission is $5 (cheap). Open mic sign-up is at the door. This is a 21+ venue; please bring legal ID. Hosted by the Mental Graffiti Collective. Want the inside scoop on all things Mental Graffiti? Then get on their mailing list.
The Molly Malone's Open Mic, with your hosts Nina Corwin and Al DeGenova, invite you to be part of one of the most highly respected open mics in the Chicago area. On Monday, March 14, join them for a very special poetry performance with Lauren Matthews.
At Molly Malone's Irish Pub, 7652 Madison Street, Forest Park, IL (near west Chicago suburbs). Phone 708-366-8073 for info. Donations support the featured artist and are cited as, "$5 if you can, $3 if you can't." Poetry/fiction at Molly's is the second Monday of every month. Evening schedule is: 7:00 PM - open mic sign-up begins; 7:30 - open mic; 8:30 - featured reader; 9:15 - open mic continues if necessary. Future programs: April 11 - Richard Newman, editor of River Styx magazine, from St. Louis; May 9 - Erika Mikkalo; and on June 13 - Mike Puican.
FirstLook, the new cable show that features up and coming film/stage producers, is looking for filmmakers and screenplay writers who have completed film/stage projects with a special focus on local production. Would you like to appear on TV to promote your production? This show is taped in the Chicagoland area. Recent guests have included Scott Smith, Project Greenlight Director's third runner up; writer/producer Kim Baer; and director/producer Diana Romero. Be part of tomorrow's moviemakers and shakers.
To participate in FirstLook, send an e-mail to Luvvenia Hawkins, the program's executive producer.
Will the web liberate mainland China? It's an open issue, but a Google search on He Qinglian may give you some insights. It is possible that by merely mentioning her name, e-poets.net could be blocked from access within mainland China. Perry Link's essay in the 24 February issue of The New York Review of Books puts this into focus. Link's review of He's book, How the Chinese Government Controls the Media, won't necessarily land him many politically-advantaged friends in Beijing, either. But the web is growing spectacularly in China. Its inchoate libertarian tendencies pit it quite naturally against the very authorities who need the web to advance a 21st century economy, and that is proving to be a significant challenge. Which will win? The government or the net?
Cutting quickly around the scene... Smokin' Word is rev'ing up with more performance news... The Temple Bookstore in beautiful downtown Walla Walla, Washington, hosts an active, progressive literary community... the net.art site Grafik Dynamo juxtaposes random samplings of text and images, gleaned from the web, into a comic strip format...
Ascent magazine is a poetry and fiction journal, edited by David Fraser... Netzwissenschaft, a messy-looking but supremely rich link-farm of net.art (mostly in English) edited Dr. Reinhold Grether... Absolute Arts addresses visual and fine arts, but also seeks writings, "... which foreground not the technologies but rather issues to do with participation, perceptions, and the processes they raise." ... PennSound, a project to put more spoken word on the web through the academy... and finally, also from Pennsylvania, an interview of boice Terrel-Allen, publisher of Rattlecat, on self-publishing and print-on-demand.
As always, we thank our friends for their continued readership and news tips. Keep the good news coming. Click the "contact us" link below if you have news tips of your own.
- Kurt Heintz, founder
e-poets network, Chicago
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