Poetry slams have come a long away since 1985, when the Chicago Poetry Ensemble began reading their work at the old Get Me High Lounge in Bucktown. Today there are poetry slams in every city large enough to support a coffeehouse or two. A decade ago, Chicago poetry slam pioneer Marc Smith and some local colleagues went to San Francisco to face off against their Bay Area counterparts in what turned out to be the first National Poetry Slam. When the the event was last held in Chicago, in 1990, poets from eight cities competed. This year 48 teams from all over the U.S. and Canada are taking part; and though Wicker Park and Uptown remain the heart of the local slam scene, the championship final will take place in the Loop, at the sprawling, ornate Chicago Theatre.

The 10th Annual National Poetry Slam runs through August 14. Preliminary and semifinal bouts take place Thursday and Friday evening (three bouts per night) at the following Wicker Park venues: the Guild Complex at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-296-1268, ext. 26; the Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600; the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011; Phyllis’ Musical Inn, 1800 W. Division, 773-486-9862; and Roby’s, 1944 W. Division, 773-252-9250. The championship final takes place at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Admission to preliminary bouts on Thursday is $5 at the door; tickets for Friday’s semifinals are $10 at the door. Tickets for Saturday’s finals are $18, and can be purchased at the Chicago Theatre box office in advance or the night of the show, or by phone from Ticketmaster, 312-559-1212. Four-day, all-event passes are $30 and are available at www.ticketweb.com or by calling 312-726-4849. In addition, Sheila’s Slam Museum, 2850 W. Fullerton, is open daily through August 14 from 11 AM to 5 PM, hosting various performances and displaying memorabilia documenting the history of the Poetry Slam. Additional free daytime and late-night events take place at Mad Bar, 1640 N. Damen, 773-227-2277, and at other venues as shown in the listings below. (These listings are based on updated information made available by slam organizers this week and may be subject to change.) General information on the National Poetry Slam is available at www.poetryslam.com or by calling 708-848-8007.


Performance Poetry Panel

The Oyez Review sponsors a discussion; participants include Marc Smith, Jeff Helgeson, Reggie Gibson, Taylor Mali, Lisa Martinovich, and Guy LeCharles Gonzalez. Roosevelt University, second-floor lounge, 430 S. Michigan, noon to 1 PM.

No Rules Open Mike

Sheila’s Slam Museum, noon.

Limerick Slam

John Biederman hosts a limerick competition. Subterranean, noon to 1:30 PM.

Hiss! The All-Female Open Mike

Jude Baker and Lola Huston host this showcase of women poets. Mad Bar, noon to 2:15 PM.

Edwardo With a Z

Edward Thomas-Herrera performs. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 1 PM.

Latin-American Showcase

This open mike features Latin-American poets. Subterranean, 1:30 to 3 PM.

Paired Readings

This showcase of national talent features Michael Brown, Bill MacMillan, and Deb Marsh. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 1:30 to 3:30 PM.

The Annoying Poetry Show

Tina Howell hosts an open mike. Mad Bar, 2:30 to 3:30 PM.

David Kodeski’s True Life Tales: Another Lousy Day

Monologuist David Kodeski’s one-man show is inspired by journals and scrapbooks recording a local woman’s daily life in the early 1960s. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 2:30 PM.

Fifth Wheel Slam

This event features coaches and alternate members from visiting slam teams; Michael Salinger hosts. Subterranean, 3 to 4:30 PM.

Hip-hop Open Mike

Anacron hosts. Mad Bar, 3:30 to 6 PM.


A short film by Maureen Dunn is screened. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 3:30 PM.

Open Poetry Jam

This event features music by Dave’s Tune Trio. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 4 PM.

Bout 1

The first bouts of Thursday’s preliminaries start at 7 PM at Roby’s, the Chopin, the Subterranean, and Phyllis’. Bouts 2 and 3 start at 8:30 and 10 PM at the Chopin, the Subterranean, Phyllis’, and the Note.

Karaoke Kavalkade

Cass King hosts. Subterranean, midnight.


African-American Showcase

Monica Copeland hosts an open mike featuring African-American poets. Subterranean, noon to 1:30 PM.

Grunt! The All-Male Open Mike

John Biederman and David Rubin host. Mad Bar, noon to 2:30 PM.

Sports Poetry Reading

Bob Chico hosts this outdoor event. Wicker Park softball field, intersection of Damen and Wicker Park Ave., 1 to 2:30 PM.

Prop Slam

Brenda Moosey hosts a competitive slam in which participants may use props. Subterranean, 1:30 to 3 PM.

Paired Readings

Featured artists include Kim Holzer and Jim Nave. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 1:30 to 3:30 PM.

Gay and Lesbian Showcase

Lisa Hemminger and Noam Paco-Gaster host. Mad Bar, 2:30 to 4 PM.

Open Poetry Jam

This event features music by Dave’s Tune Trio. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 2:30 PM.

Cover Slam

Henry Sampson and Alison Durazi host an open mike in which performers read poems written by other people. Subterranean, 3 to 4:30 PM.

The Box o’ Doom

This poetry grab bag is hosted by Maria McCray and Noam Paco-Gaster. The “box o’ doom” is stuffed with “really bad 80s song lyrics and horrible love poems,” a Poetry Slam spokesperson advises. Mad Bar, 4 to 6 PM.

Hunting for Cherubs

Jeff McDaniels performs. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 4 PM.

Bouts 1 and 2

The first two bouts of Friday’s semifinals start at 7 and 8:30 PM at the Chopin, the Subterranean, and the Note. Bout 3 starts at 10 PM at the Note; this event features individual performers rather than teams.


Mario hosts this spoken-word event. Chopin, 10:30 PM.

Seventh Deadly Sin

Reggie Gibson and Krystal Ashe host an erotically oriented spoken-word program. Subterranean, midnight.


Asian-American Showcase

Dennis Kim hosts. Subterranean, noon to 1:30 PM.

No Rules Open Mike

Sheila Donohue hosts. Sheila’s Slam Museum, noon.

Head-to-Head Haiku

Daniel Ferri hosts. Subterranean, 1:30 to 3 PM.

Paired Readings

Featured artists for this program include Patricia Smith, Cin Salach, and Michael Salinger. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 1:30 to 3:30 PM.

Doody! The All-American Scatology Open Mike

No shit. Daphne Gottlieb hosts. Mad Bar, 2:15 to 3:15 PM.

The Sex Show

Evert Eden hosts. Sheila’s Slam Museum, 3 PM.

SlamMaster’s Slam

Taylor Mali hosts. Subterranean, 3 to 4:30 PM.

Jedi Masters Slam

Shappy and Shag host a program of Star Wars-themed poetry. Expect a great disturbance in the Force. Mad Bar, 4 to 6 PM.

Poetry Slam Finals

Competing for $5,000 in prize money, the remaining contenders face off on the stage of the Chicago Theatre. 7 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Henry Sampson.