An incomplete history of Slam

Slam in print, disc, and videoPerhaps due to its feral roots and initial lack of publishing industry connections, perhaps due to an agenda which purposely wanted to put performance first versus the text, slam poetry in Chicago wasn't visible in print until its most prominent artists had already established names for themselves. The effect was that slam, as a movement, appeared to have an aversion to publishing, but this is not so. In recent years, slam poets and their kin have published with some frequency.

The vehicle primarily responsible for this is Tia Chucha Press,directed by Louis Rodriguez and founded as the publishing armof Chicago's Guild Complex. The Guild, a not-for-profit literary arts organization, was itself formed as an extension of Guild Books, once a radical bookstorenear De Paul University which folded in 1992. The first folios from Tia Chuchahave all had very strong influences from the slam community,if indeed the writers haven't themselves been slammers:Rodriguez, Patricia Smith, Marvin Tate, Jean Howard, MichaelWarr, Lisa Buscani, Michael Brown, Mary Hawley, RohanPreston, Dwight Okita, et al. With the convergence betweenthe slam and academy becoming more apparent, publishing hasincreased and become a sign of achievement.

Of the original Chicago slam team, however, only PatriciaSmith has published multiple titles in print. Cin' Salach released her firstbook of poetry, "Looking for a Soft Place to Land" in 1998. While Dean Hacker has shown no immediate plans for a book, Marc Smithreleased his own title, "Crowdpleaser." in 1996. All four collaborated on a CD compilation called "by someone's good grace" ( 1993,Splinter Group ). And all have made videos from their poetry, released independently of the CD, except for Marc Smith who has made no videos at all.

Since the "... good grace" CD, Tia Chucha itself has produced a new compilation CD of its own called "A Snake in the Heart" ( 1994 ) with a coverillustration rendered by, notably enough, Tony Fitzpatrick. This disc features Patricia Smith, Cindy Salach in separate recordings with Sheila Donohue and with The Loofah Method, Michael Warr, Marvin Tate performing with D'Settlement, Rohan Preston, and David Hernandez with his ensemble Street Sounds.

copyright (c) 1999 Kurt Heintz