An incomplete history of Slam

Of course, at the end of every story, one wonders where the characters have gone, and what they've donewith their lives. Since this is "An Incomplete History of Slam," thatstory necessarily will never end. People move away, fall into obscurity, and their stories are lost.

New lives have since emerged in the slam poetry saga, with stories that had no threads at all in the years through 1992. Many of these episodes come from Europe. Since 1996, Germany has particularly experienced a similar awakening of performance poetry as we had in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Slam poetry continues in England, Sweden, Israel, and Denmark, too. In time, these episodes will be woven into the broader picture here.

What follows are the anecdotal bits of the main players' lives since the advent of slam to about 1999. It's not an even treatment for all the players; owing to the diaspora, their stories are scattered and anecdotes are not so easy to come by. But it's hoped that these final lines willtell you something about the evolving fates of the people who made slam poetry come alive.

Elaine Equi and Jerome Salla
Moved to New York City some years ago where they write, publish, and teach.

Rob Van Tuyle
Receded from the poetry scene but remained in touch with it over time; in 1998, he produced a reunion of the original Chicago Poetry Ensemble at the Guild Complex, Chicago, with as many of the principal members as could be found, including the most senior member, John Sheehan; teaches secondary school in Chicago; remains married to Anna Brown.

Kurt Heintz (this website's author)
Quit the day job in 1994 and foundered for two years without work; discovered manna from heaven in freelance web design; continued writing; now produces poetic videoconference events linking Chicago to regional and international venues; occasionally teaches at a Chicago college; went to Europe in 1996 and '98, relating Chicago's slam aesthetic with Europe's; is stunned at how this website has been cited since 1994.

Tony Fitzpatrick
Opened his World Tattoo gallery in the early 1990s and enjoyed some years of success as both an art dealer and naïve artist; continues painting and illustrating primitive artworks on his own after closing World Tattoo circa 1996; continues to write; is collected and well-respected in the art world; occasionally returns to his old slam scene's haunts, but has other artistic and professional diversions, such as being an FM radio on-air personality.

Cin Salach
Married Mark Messing, musician and a principal member of the Loofah Method, and continued to produce poetry for performance; in 1995 they dissolved the Loofah Method and, after about two years, formed a new group with other old friends in the ensemble Ten Tongues, which relies more on accoustic performance and shuns nearly all the technology used in their former group; today, Salach works freelance as an advertising copy writer while pursuing her literary career; Messing started and operates his own commercial music studio; they have only one child, a daughter by Messing's previous marriage.

Lisa Buscani
Moved to New York from Chicago with her boyfriend in 1996; attempted to find work as an actor but met with considerable frustration; did, however, travel to Boston with the highly popular show "Late Nite Catechism", which she originally performed in Chicago with show's creators.

Sheila Donohue
Continued to perform with Salach in their duo Betty's Mouth through 1998; nurtured her small desktop publishing company, once used for poetry chapbooks, into a professional design studio in downtown Chicago; remains active in performance poetry, though less so since her business consumes much of her attention; invested considerable amounts of money to develop a space in her private residence for performance, used in the 1999 National Slams as the "Slam Museum".

Dean Hacker
Also went into desktop publishing, but generally retreated from the slam and poetry scene; makes his living as a graphic designer; does appear on rare occasions at the Green Mill, sometimes as a substitute host for Marc Smith; moved further into Chicago's suburbs and remains in contact with the scene, but reticent about re-assuming any kind of role in it; has been seen at major flea markets in northern Illinois, collecting religious kitsch.

David Kodeski
Remained a performing artist with the NeoFuturists until 1997 when he retired from the "Too Much Light..." revue; remains a member of the theater's board, and produces his own very successful one-man shows with the company; in late 1997, left his job at Unabridged Bookstore to work for Siskel and Ebert's "At the Movies" program; remains a steadfast partner with his lover, Edward Thomas-Herrera, who also produces successful one-man shows of his own.

Bob Holman
Went on after producing the landmark PBS series, United States of Poetry, to become more involved with popularizing poetry through mass media; drew unfortunate attention to himself through such work, however, when the board of the Nuyorican Poets' Café ousted him in an effort to reassert focus on Latino culture and their artistic direction over their venue; nevertheless became involved with several poetry-centered enterprises, particularly Mouth Almighty Records and the online search portal, The Mining Company; sparked controversy in the slam community when a "designer team" sponsored by Mouth Almighty took the national slam championship under his direction; remains a well-traveled and -recognized figure in performance poetry, despite emerging rifts within the slam community.

Garry Glazner
Quit his job at a San Francisco Bay area garden shop in 1997 and decided to travel the world; has since circumnavigated it, stopping at various big cities to sample the poetic scenes and spread gospel of slamming; was rumored to be working with or for Holman on production of a show akin to "United States of Poetry" based on poetry found worldwide.

Marc Smith
Has remained firmly in the center of slam poetry's spotlight in Chicago, and has moved to consolidate his influence within the slam movement since 1996; resisted initial urgings to incorporate slam as a non-profit entity, but has since done so in order to protect the national slam events from being co-opted by commerical interests; finally went to European slams at Heintz's encouragement in late 1998, to tour Germany in his first overseas trip ever; is chief custodian and MC of all things slam in Chicago, and has generally come to be known at the "Slampapi", thanks to various ad-hoc newsletters and online missives shared, largely, through New Mexican poet Juliette Torres; has his own website, managed by his son and close friends.

Michael Brown
Taught literature locally in Boston colleges and edited the SLAM newsletter, publishing it quarterly; moved SLAM News online shortly thereafter to keep an international presence; toured Europe in the late 1990s, making frequent stops at poetry venues from Jerusalem to London, with particular emphasis on northern European venues; bristled with Marc Smith over breadth of the slam incorporation's coverage, and consequent topic coverage of his newsletter (mentioned in SLAM News itself); eventually struck a deal as a leader of the International Society of Performing Poets, thus removing a perceived challenge to Marc Smith's authority.

Patricia Smith
Kept writing and producing new books, touring nationally and internationally; was a contributing writer for a PBS series and book on Africans in America, produced in Boston; was nominated for a Pulitzer prize in 1998, and gained even more attention through her charismatic poetry; was a contributor to the Boston Globe until an internal auditor charged that she had fabricated facts for her regular column; admitted the charge was correct and left the newspaper; despite that, (And perhaps because she wrote the truth we know and not the truth we're taught. - KH) the press continued to make her an object of scorn at a national level; as the brunt of media pundits, she received the most virulent criticism from the conservative majority of the press; broke up with her husband, Michael Brown, in the middle of the Globe/Pulitzer episode, as she discovered he had a liason at that time; wrote about the break-up and has since publicly presented it in her poetry; considered suicide (also recorded in her publicly presented poetry, N.B. in a double recital with Adrienne Rich presented in fall 1998 at the Chicago Cultural Center); remains in Boston and still travels to perform; is much loved by the slam movement and audiences throughout English-speaking North America; is a proud grandmother.

Butchie, former owner of the Get Me High Lounge
Last suspected to be in the American south (possibly Florida?), keeping a low profile.

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copyright (c) 2000 Kurt Heintz