Next SpokenWord 11th January theme "Junk"

at the Cabaret Populaire/Culture Rapide
103 rue Julien Lacroix
Metro Belleville/Pyrénées

Changes Poem-Report by Alberto for 7th Dec 09

Qui a décapsulé la coca-cola apocalyptique?
Qui a décapsulé la coca-cola apocalyptique?
Claudine Tauziede for Michele.
Same psychedelicatessen:
Qui a décapsulé la coca-cola apocalyptique?
Qui a décapsulé la coca-cola apocalyptique?
Who the fuck has decapsulaized the apocalyptic coke?
This song will be an hit single in Canada.
This or Locomotion by The Sofia Lorenians.
Who Knows? Times are changing.
The Albatross of Baudelaire is changed.
Three months in Paris and you are changed.
Being in love with a boy of the east coast.
Being in love with a boy of the west coast.
Changing Willy.
Changing Will.
Will. Change the title of that poem as your mother likes.
The dealer who stabbed him has changed his mind after listening to his poem.
He’s reading slowly, now, because he’s bleeding a lot.
The dealer who wanted him dead, changes his mind, and takes him to the hospital.
This body of mine will darken, whiten, grow cold and dry.
I’m gonna be a father.
My son will be a king.
My daughter will be a queen.
Paradoxical theory of change:
Change occurs not
when you try to be what you are not
but when you become what you are.
Further changes are waiting for us
in the next Future.

The Sea Report, 30th Nov 09

What strange driftwood washed up tonight?
Escher got it right,
bottled and buried at sea
while sailors talk of that Stone Age book
- that absurd old book! -
and Abraham sways onto the stage
where the waves are much less taller

as the moon fishes for some old song that fell from a sailor’s pipe
and a dwarf clings to a 60 year old mermaid
and they go at it like Baudelaire

. and from Senegal
. small boats break off for Europe
. seekers whose dreaming eyes are closed by the ocean

A deep sea diver descends to walk the Paris streets
Poe’s strange city lies alone
Its time eaten towers
the haunted destination of the albatross

Split now between English and French selves,
a woman waits,
wanting to see the ocean

Ukulhelen va seule sur la plage
harvesting Spain

Dogger. German Bight. Tyree.Fastnet. Lundy. Irish Sea. Rockall. Malinhead. North Adsera…

All things Italian... 23rd Nov 09

Charlie has been hanging and rhyming around Trieste, Genova, Naples, Verona, Milan, Bologna and Rome. The new accappella trio “Le Gallinelle” affected the world with a requiem for a dead cock: “Le coq est mort” and the experimental ukulelist Ukulelena followed the line with a bewithching song about the banana bird. The theme was not “Birds” actually, but “Anything Italian”, and so Pauline revealed Charles Cros has Italy inside. Michele, made in Italy and made in heaven, raping our childhood with the virtual toys of his poetry, and a wounded, stoic, unstoppable one-legged David walked on stage reporting a dialogue between Kubla Khan and Marco Polo, by Italo Calvino. Michael Levitin from SF, but Berlin based, read from his novel “Disposable Man”. Beth performed “Orchestra” and some other old school hits, completely new for us people of Paris. Alberto issued the “Divine Comedy in 5 minutes” or “Dante’s for Dummies”, Betty rocked the house pushing the folks through a coral clap hands performance and Bruce run away with sudden stage fright. Raoul Mussay (photo, below) tuned us on the french touch of the “grand reveur”. Said was possessed by Shakespeare talking in italian “the winter of nostro scontento” (photo, above) from Richard III, before an an untangled, unavailable, unpluggable, unshakable and uncensored Charlie II. David and Sabrina, aka Kubla Khan and Marco Polo, closed the night assuming that maybe “the audience exists and the poets do not.” “The Sea” is coming to drown us all, in 2012, or next monday.

"Plastic" 16th November 2009

Charlie was so drastic as to completely dressed in plastic. In Pia(aaa)'s TV series, JJ Rouseau learns American slang fast. Alberto wants plastic surgery - a new pair of naieve eyes still eager to see. Michele is running away from Detroit, dreaming the fig on the pillow. Adam cherished his TV. Pauline read Alexander Dickow, menaced by the horizon; eat crunchy, kiss me big. Theo Edmonds (whose show is at The American Chrutch, sorry, Church) swings in with a Zip!Bop!Bam! What grooves you? Gonna roast you a cool nickel, Jack. Is anything like it seems in your dreams? Plastic John (Kirby Abrahams) shot his Missus into space. Rufo scares the horses into Tupperware weddings. Beth's silence lingers. Flo est toujours sur la route, with le talisman (le Thalys ment.) Giusy en la luce perfecte. Adam's special message to the customer: Order your 52cent coffee, and leave me alone! Chris' father scratched his ivory balls, guards plastic bags filled with light. Tom pines for the moon. Liza tarred her lungs.
But most fun of all this week was filming Bruce's video for his song, he got 20 people up on stage dancing and waving their arms about to the music.

Alberto's Report from "Insects," 9th Nov 09

SpokenWord is every Monday now and we started with a Genò-cide of mosquitos, in French, “J’aboie à la lune”, then David’s tribute to Derek Mahon with “A disused shed in county Wexford” with worms, spiders and cockroaches. Michele keeps on spinning his “psychedelic washing machine”, that’s sure, and Money D. brought his essay called… mmm…something ending in –fagia, that means eating bugs. Colin translated and remixed Boris Vian, then our guest star Marie Claire Calmus performed an excerpt of her show: Corps et Mots. Poèmes, Chroniques, Chansons. M-m-m, “Minced Meat Marty” plunged us into a throbbing swamp and Sam, for the last time, into Secretionopolis. Alberto said goodbye to Sam, reading a poem “Memories are skidding bulls” they wrote together once, while doing the laundry. It was the last time for Stefanos too, and he left Paris tuning a sad song with an happy melody, written in prison and played with accordion. Mischa read a poem about the “Fèe verte” who inspired generations of Parisian artists, the greatest Swiss invention after the cuckoo clock, I’m talking about the absinthe. Charlie closed the first round: “That’s not about insects, but war bugs me, so…” And he switched to Iraq a poem originally written for Vietnam.

After the break, Onur opened singing a very frantic Turkish song, and Jan improvised a dynamic body performance, killing a cockroach on stage. It was Beth’s birthday: “My name’s not hidden in the sea, nor in the rain”. Bruce’s love letter: “ You don’t know me. I don’t know you, but I’ve been loving you, since before I knew the word”. Laureen Moore revealed another secret: worms were sucking her blood when she was nine. Piirko, aka Kokodiva, aka 5ieme ex-femme du president de la republique francaise, during a shocking act, gave birth to a puppy dinosaur on our stage, Luc, songwriter, played a chanson douce “17 years old, our parents still together, back then, life was so simple”. Johannus remembered it was the Berlin Wall anniversary with “No Man’s Land”, Polina explained why being a New Yorker from Manhattan, she’s a breakfast goer, Will offered a “bullshit he wrote when he was fuckin high”, Michele, when was 18, “sucked the pussy of a rocking horse” and the crowd was nearly crying. Een picked up from his I-phone the in-famous “La cigale et la fourmi” (greatest hit: recited by memory by the whole French audience), and then opened our second seasonal bottle of autumnal Baudelaire: “Une Charonne”. Hubert said he was experiencing stage fright, a thing that never happened to him when is on stage as a musician, hidden behind his keyboards, but “men invented word to hide their brain”. Charlie was experiencing hangover and that tall, once long-haired guy, called Sam closed the night with his last poem, leaving the spoken word to come back to Australia. See you soon. Next Monday.

Report from "Secrets"

Michele's poetry is chock full of secrets. Why does the plastic belly dancer suffer when she dies? I am confident that I will never know. Theo Edmonds' pockets were stuffed, not with secrets, but silly damn questions from the Appalachian mountains. Géno's tramp's rêve, ce n'était pas Las Vegas, c'était retourner dans son coin pourri. Kate Fussner from Philadelphia was the featured reader, with her loosely-linked true stories of her own and her family's secrets. The people in these stories don't know that these exist! Or that she was reading them to a crowded bar full of strangers in Paris. She certainly proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can't go into a good piece of theatre and come out the same.
She also secretly fell off a boat.
Antonia dances without her shoes. Sees her own eye peering through the keyhole... Lost, on the wrong side of the mirror. John Abrahams wanders there no more. His song his only wealth.
Beth, aka Miss Peacock, saw dead birds on the motorway; burst the blisters; sifts the trees. Check out more of her stuff on youtube
Marty's charisma is his secret. Violated umbrellas swallow him whole, like South American jungle serpents. Alexa, on the other hand, has a free range heart (like the eggs?) but the kissing is missing.
Stefanos saw an accident the other day. Yara almost ran over an angel, so maybe that was it. Then again, Bruce saw what happened in Room 444 - site of the suicide, or alleged accident, of Sticky Bottoms the clarinet player.
Lauren Moore had a song about a boy who's not her boyfriend. Shhhhhhh! Our lips are sealed.
Pauline opened a seasonal bottle of autumnal Baudelaire. Je n'ai plus de chagrin. L'absurde conquête de l'amour!
Sophie scattered ashes. Mr Dave pitted the haiku form against politics. Adam Will walked with no direction into the fog. To know is to forget.
Paulina thinks about death a lot. Helena masticates. Teacher's despair numbs the dumb.
gNina, pour lui, je m'en vol. Ben's is the garden that's well hid. Michele ate crystal cornflakes. And finally Bruce launched into another story: It was 1969 and the colonel wore a dress... Nice opening line!

More secrets will be hinted at next time no doubt.


Alberto reporting from space...

Photos: Julien, Helen, the Public.

SpokenWord crowded night and the theme was “Space”.
Sarah stole a kiss in a crowded disco, Gèno in francais: “Je vous ecris d’un autre planete”, Marty started with: I'd heard about this thing: Smoke chuffing away like liberty. Blocks none of the blank panes. Claudia was amazing, they told me, but I was outside adding other poets on the list, Michele read a poem about the first time he had sex in the vineyard, I don’t remember if alone or not, David for the first time was free to enjoy the night as a full time poet and came up with two cosmopoems and an outcast star. The featured poet of the night was Antonia Klimenko, slam champion from San Francisco, and you can watch down here an excerpt about her stunning performance. John, who created a very interactive piece with the audience playing with the word space, followed by Bruce, just arrived from the World Cup of Petanque, with a poem-song that has a refrain like: “Your helmet, gentleman, your helmet”, Nancy said that all her poems are about space, and this one was about time and space: Heart is the clock of creation./ Time is clock, time is money, this has to stop cause it’s not funny!” Alberto read “Dwell on the moles on your girlfriend’s body, observe them by night like constellations”, and Jonathan closed our first half in a standing ovation. (And I don’t think that was because of the break). Sally opened the second round reciting: “I still love the lover I didn’t meet.” And Yara sang she still love Johnny. Daen read three poems, inspired by Wendy Cope and Martin Newett, listing “101 ways why he is David Bowie and you’re not”, and a multivoiced Charlie “in space anything is possible”, Antonia Klimenko was on our stage for the second part of her reading, and we have a second video, Betty rocked the house with a song-heartbeat-poem in which all the public participated. With Rufo “Will Coyote will fall forever”, Will “The night seems like a stranger”, Helen O’Keefe with the pseudonym of “Ukulhelen” played with her Ukulele a Russian tune in honour of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in outer space, overheating our secret Russian audience, Bruce came back to affirm “I’ve got a dirty brain and a dirty mouth, assholes!”, and Kelly with a sweet poem for her scracth-pad, Michele invited everybody to follow him in his psichedelic trips, Nancy II, David to close and invite everybody back on Novembre 2 for the next episode, but, hold on, the real end was Julien, Culture Rapide’s bartender who left his station and came up to read his stuff, reminding everybody that he’s a poet, too.

Report from 5th October "Machines"

Charlie was on a blind journey. Rufo had a day at the zoo watching the machines-for-existing. The myth of smoothness dropped horribly into a pail. Gèno was crazy-obsessed with a machine à sous (one armed bandit? fruit machine?). Il a mit tout sa confiance en elle. I'd completely overlooked that in French machine is feminine, a missed opportunity for a poem there.
Susannah was a bad cat mother, shouldn't be who she is. Ooog went fisting for your love. Yes, I do mean fisting. Rod Tame brought Saturday night from Deansgate, Manchester. The hangover endures on Unreality TV. Dominic Berry spoke of la machine humaine et la puissance des haricots. The stablisers taken from his bicycle, he feasted on speed. Thérèse brought une petite machine pour faire la cuisine. Jonathan's library books were scratched with other people's clichés. He found that there's pleasure in thinking what's been thought before. In retrospect, he admitted the poetry was a mistake. Memory is a machine that lies. When the vodka failed, he scalped her cat. Jason wondered whether, maybe, all we need is to watch TV together. Bruce brought Earth, Wind & Amplifier. A story shorter than the rope around his neck. Dorry Funaki read Edna St Vincent Millay's Renaissance. Nina told of the New York Machine. Pia had that soap-induced feeling of being clean, and a permanent cigarette. Daen had too many hairdressers. And the Devil's own nightsoil. (Any chance of a copy, Daen?) I was at 17 Poisoner's Row. For Peter, feeling is a human error. Kezia was tied to the moon; friable. Francesca remembers the day you ripped up her poems. Alberto slipped memories into the mouths of fish. Quite one of Alberto's most beautiful lines yet, I think. Charlie read The Tortured Artist's Rant/This Guy Needs Therapy. Bruce had a chainsaw in his throat; tatooed letters.

Thanks to all who came.

Next SpokenWord Monday October 19th
Theme: Space/l'espace

Report from ''School/l'école'' 21.9.09

Welcome to the Cabaret Populaire/Culture Rapide.
Have a drink and a pancake cooked up by Vanessa at the bar.
Flo kicked off in French, with what he read in his horoscope. Charlie (photo) stuck his nose into other people's business. 'Don't ever get personal with a chicken,' he advised.

The theme was school. John McNulty was sent to the back of the class. Sally described a break up in 6th grade. Sam admired the act; the small, persuasive scene; birds' blood.
Michele brought ''spaghetti beat,'' his kind of Italian psychedelic beatnik poetry. He'll be running an Italian spoken word night at the Cabaret Populaire on Monday 28th September.
Nancy knows that love knows no buts or ifs; for what is it you haunt? ''Let Jesus come as a woman this time,'' she said, (photo below).

David Barnes (me!) asked ''What's the craic?'' Pointed to his box of stolen bibles. Dana was Unforgiven. Alberto was, and is, still trying to escape school. Who knows why humans kiss? Sally went commando. Erica got out her banjo, for a song about learning from mistakes (photo below.)

Sam got a lemur wrapped round his shoulders. Julie slammed to Betty's beat on the box (clip posted below.) Bruce (last photo, below) gave us the story of an elevator repair man who saved a suicide jumper, among other things.

Jason told the story of Jim, who nicked things. Michele ended the night dreaming the fog on the pillow...
Thanks also to Yara, Fred and others who read!
Next SpokenWord 5th October. The theme is Machines.

Julie's words, Betty on the box

Recorded 21st October 09

Report from Breaking Things, 7th Sept 09

12 poets, singers, performers. Improvised poetry! And a full bar. SpokenWord is back!
I kicked off with an account of how I broke my arm the day we found the electric vagina in the cellar. Pieton, Utopianist, revait d'un pays qui s'appelle Noland, where there are no hangovers. Maxime, suffering from Mercury Retrograde, read from Lebanese (and Paris resident) poet Etel Adnan The sun revolves in cyclones... Christopher sang (no metaphor) that this poem is my stance - an imbecilic man falling off a ladder. Brought his broken banjo, missing teeth. He says my wife's ghost lies with him. Sam gave a remote interview, looked over the piece of toast's shoulder, charged the zinc. Armen Kassabian did his freestyle and improvised rap thing - you can find the pills we eat on his blog Alberto said something incoherent and unprintable about me and how he claims I really broke my arm, then launched into his jazz tribute to Archie Shepp, French-kissing a golden swan. Betty listened to Stevie Nicks' loneliness, like a heartbeat. John Kirby Abraham brought the guy who tried to break the metro. Sally extracted from her novel a short piece: The Break-Up (God told me to.)
In the second half, Christopher was in a Sentimental Mood. Sophie smashed porcelain at German weddings. Betty broke through the wall between her voice and the world. Alberto apologised. I told about houses, used as homes. Bad dreams carried in the metal of the cars on the roads. Sam read Ted Berrigan which turned out to be stronger than alcahol. Lia spoke of New Year's Day, breaking with the past, disappearing fast. Oog (yes, that is what he calls himself) advised everyone to Remain calm! Stay in your homes! Be happy! (Or you'll be shot!) a text by Jello Biafra used on Ice T's Copkiller album. And at the end, as the numbers dwindled to a happy few, Sandy brought out an ode about loneliness. feeling kind of funny, gotta find your number.

Next SpokenWord is 21st September. Theme - School.

September dates fixed

SpokenWord returns Monday 7th September, 20h30 at the Cabaret Pop/Culture Rapide, as ever.
It will then be every fortnight until at least 14th December.

As I have just broken my arm, with the help of a certain cello player, the theme for the 7th will be Breaking things.


Alberto's notes from Sins 13th July 09

The night was good! (unexpectly)
When I arrived the culture rapide was completely empty and dead.
And so it was even at 9.15 except Michele.
I was kind of letting Michele doing a one man show when everybody arrived
together in almost 10 minutes and I had like 26 poets on stage.
some old glories, (John, Colin, Susan, Maxim, Helen and the surprising comeback of Leemore)
and some totally new and some from abroad.

Report from Surprises, 29.6.09

Still sat on the eurostar. In fact I’ve been on here since 6.43 and it’s now 11.16 – the train broke down and we had to return to gare du nord to get another one. Arghhhhh! On to the report from ‘Surprises.’

Giéno attendait la prochain surprise. Aly told of Rag Picker Red and sang about a Resurrectionist Puppeteer. Rufo showed us his brittle disc of honesty and cut down Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself into... Shelf. Pauline Pablo Neruda'd us with Ode to the tomato. (In summer, the tomato cuts loose!) Xander abandoned us on a burning bus, just as the attendants began dragging it into a gas station. It was all a story of stolen mangoes.
Alexa thanked the ugliest nun she ever saw. Maxx read poetry by Freddie Mercury (The show must go on!) Colin? You drank my desire, sprang from she & tree with undisguised delight.
John Abrahams wants to be a sinner – but where to begin? For Tucker, humans seem to be an egotistical catastrophe. Suzanne showed us love like lobsters; merge your lines; may the best things take you by surprise.
I had a story about a cheap psychoanalyst from Yugoslavia selling character analysis for whiskey.
Emma Klara made love in the park under the Paris stars.
Alberto spoke about an improvisational poet-chess player. In his class, 2 twin brothers pretended to be Siamese.
And Chris limericked Ahmadinejad and printed cash.

nExt 2 SpOkENwOrdS WILl bE hOstED bY AlbErtO

Report from Water & Air, 15.6.09

Seeing as I’m stuck on a eurostar, time to catch up on SpokenWord reports. I will try to reconstruct the night of 15.6.09 from these scattered notes.
Water & Air, 15.6.09
Alberto got lost in the zodiac, bitching about girls. Maxx looked for Ophelia. Xander went where all hikers must sign in. David (me!) was a queer fish, half evolved. Rufo was Featured Reader of the evening. Some fragments of Rufo's poetics, then –
There were all these birds living in the mess of ivy; a sea so large we cannot see it. The past caves in like a blowhole. Line breaks of the mind. We are more than just meat, but 3 tiny flecks on the turning world; walked for 40 or 50 years – what of it?
Rufo, clearly a man born into a life not his own, makes peace with the lie. His book, Make Nothing Happen, is available from Oystercatcher Press. Or from him.
Then - Leemore’s clouds arrange themselves into a mural; days don’t care how they go by & are never traced on maps. John Abrahams says Stand on a chair; don’t care! Elena read from her grandma’s column for widows, Life After. This was no meek and mild granny, 'Roadhog, eat my dust!' Don’t mess with widow Wheeler!
Thérèse tried to include the sky in her life. Pauline révait de quitter la Loire pour une vie atypique, à Paris, paysage de mulitple visages. Dana & Erica would hold you like the sweetest thing, as our lives caved in. So you think you’ve got it bad? when the world around you is shrinking.
Or commun brought un message sur le dos d’un papillon, l’humanisme dans les ondes.
But the city belongs to the drag queens in the corner bar. Suzanne recalled winds, the Santa Annas that fan the fires. Dandelions are her rented lawn. Breathing underwater is easier now that I admit to drowning. There was a blowfish story. The sleeping pill of denial. Motor homes whirrr out of town. There cannot be enough water not anywhere in the world to console this caravan.
Kahina saw un éléphant philosophe j’avais pris pour un oiseau. L’éternité mon cul! Xander by this point was dank & irrational. Lost the rest of my notes on Xander's stuff, all I can find is a note saying that I wrote them on the backpage of a book somehwere...
Leemore studied waves and sang T.Waits’ Sight for Sore Eyes (?) Alberto will be upgraded next week. Something flows on his cheek like a tear, hot teardrop, soft caress by an angel’s wing. He pulls on the wrong string and extracts a bloody tampon, a psychopathic chihuahua.
Stephanie replied ‘your teeth trace my throat and, Fuck! I’ve missed my stop again..!’ And Michael went back to then, aimed for the sky, crammed his life in a U-haul, to find his part of it all.
Top night.

Report from Earth, & Fire, 1.6.09

No one signed up for numbers One and Two so we began with Michele, surreal as ever at number Three. This sounds like this week's pop charts. Michele's vision was a kaleidoscope of plastic jasmine, vodka rabbits, the girl of the waxworks and deep frozen musicians. Actually, looking at this first photo you can see how intensely everyone was listening.
Colin read Turkish poet and long time political prisoner Nazim Kimet, who punched the teeth of his typewriter, and Maria Pagez, who was poised, still. Waiting for that sharp rise that will inspire her sudden pink blur of flight. Xander reported waking, itinerent and gone astray. In your dark room, you panic, having changed rooms and beds so often. Therese a parlé des hommes qui ont craqué la première allumette. Erica summoned up Parisian Clouds - this probably explains the rain we've had. No fluffy clouds here though - these were clouds with teeth, claws & thick hair. We had a break for Denise's infomercial - How to Break-Up. Pauline sang In the back of my mind (clip below). And Leemore walked into a bar, knows why Mona Lisa smiled:

Christophe plunged us back 3,000 years in mankind's lost memory. We are car people turning into panthers. Alberto reminded everyone of the theme by launching into Earth Wind & Fire's Boogie Wonderland. Reported from Burning Man: gifts left for those loved and gone. 'If I was dead I'd write on a piece of paper 'I've been happy more than once.' In silence burns the temple of the dead.
John McNulty claimed this is your face, framed by metal. Leemore scattered marshmallow snow over the fledgling ocean, the crackling field. Read a poem on The Great Hunger: the touch of rock on bitter root. Erica asked if the earth would start shaking. Pauline had a burning, burning, burning ring of fire. Xander prayed in a cathedral like a low pine after a fire. Troy asked Why do cats pur? and gave us a bicycle poem (see clip below). Kevin was dedicated to us. Jaco had botox dans les levres. And finally Aline sang from Hedwig & the Angry Inch: ...transmission on midnight radio, spinning like a 45...

But it wasn't quite over! Those who hung around went back with Troy to the church where he got a fire going in huge metal bowl on wheels and people sang and drank red wine and watched the flames...

Naomi editing Meat Magazine, calling for poems & stories by 28th June

Naomi, who came to SpokenWord and the Other Writers' Group a lot when she lived here, sent me this:

The two time Guardian Media Award winning MEAT MAGAZINE is bringing out its next issue and looking for new contributors.
MEAT MAGAZINE is a project dedicated to publishing the work of artists and writers, excited by new talent, genuine expression, and anything that smacks of sincerity. Distributed in the the likes of the ICA, Tate Modern, and Borders nationally, MEAT MAGAZINE has a loyal and growing following.
Editors James Pallister and Nick Hayes are giving over the reigns of the next issue to guest editors Tori Flower and Naomi Wood. They are looking for the best writers, artists, illustrators, photographers and all-round creatives to fill up the pages of the next issue, which will be hitting the newsstands this summer.
The theme that all submissions must work to is BIRDS AND BEASTS, to be interpreted as imaginatively as possible.
Deadline for submissions is SUNDAY 28th JUNE. Poems: max. 40 lines; short stories circa 2,500 words (but flexible).
Feel free to forward this information to anyone who may be interested.
Contact Details:
TORI: 07870 649 006
NAOMI: 07590 453 534

Way to go Naomi!

Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft? NYT article

Published: June 2, 2009
CHICAGO — Slam poetry was invited into the White House last month and it is also the focus of the recent HBO documentary series “Brave New Voices.” So you might think that the originator of the poetry slam, a raucous live competition that is more likely to take place in a bar than in a bookstore, would be feeling rather pleased these days.

But from his base here at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Marc Kelly Smith expresses mixed feelings about the growing popularity and respectability of the art form that he created almost 25 years ago. From the start, he envisioned slam poetry as a subversive, thumb-your-nose-at-authority movement, and he wants to ensure it stays true to those origins.
“At the beginning, this was really a grass-roots thing about people who were writing poetry for years and years and years and had no audience,” Mr. Smith said recently, just before his weekly Sunday night slam at the Green Mill. “Now there’s an audience, and people just want to write what the last guy wrote so they can get their face on TV. Well, O.K., but that’s not what people in this country, from Marc’s point of view, need. We’ve got too much of that. This show wasn’t started to crank out that kind of thing.”
Like it or not, Mr. Smith’s concept has become a global phenomenon, especially among young people, who, helped by exposure to hip-hop, seem more comfortable with the idea that poetry belongs both “on the stage and on the page.” Slam poetry has been incorporated into school curriculums across the country; more than 80 cities now compete in the annual national championship; and similar contests are springing up in the most unlikely places, most recently on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean.
“I think that perhaps Marc sees this as snowballing out of control,” said Susan B. A. Somers-Willett, author of “The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry” and a slam poet herself. “This is something that started in Chicago as a group of oddballs who wanted to do some pretty avant-garde things, but over the years, as it entered the commercial sphere, it has gotten more and more homogenous and started catering to a demographic mainstream.”
The poetry event that President Obama and his wife, Michelle, hosted at the White House on May 12 was a “jam” rather than a slam, perhaps to distance it from the sometimes boisterous atmosphere that Mr. Smith promotes. The evening included performances by two college-age slammers who have appeared on “Brave New Voices” and by Mayda del Valle, a slam poet from Chicago who won the national slam competition in 2001.
The Chicago connection is not coincidental. As Ms. Somers-Willett put it, “Chicago is America’s poetry city, with a rich, rich tradition of orality and performance-oriented poetry that goes way back,” at the very least to Carl Sandburg and Kenneth Rexroth in the first decades of the 20th century.
The Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry magazine, also has its headquarters here, and in April set up a Chicago Poetry Tour that includes 22 sites around the city. (An online version of the tour can be downloaded at One of the stops is the Green Mill, Mr. Smith’s artistic home since 1986.
“What Marc Smith has achieved here and around the world is remarkable,” said Stephen Young, program director of the Poetry Foundation. “The slam movement summons a lot of energy and has taught some traditional poets a thing or two about how to read their poems in public.”
Yet Mr. Smith and his disciples still raise the hackles of what he refers to as “the academic poets,” on both sides of the cultural wars. Amiri Baraka, a Marxist who is known for his politically provocative poetry, has said, “I don’t have much use for them because they make the poetry a carnival” and “elevate it to commercial showiness, emphasizing the most backward elements.”
On the other side of the divide, Jonathan Galassi, now the honorary chairman of the Academy of American Poets, once described slam poetry as a “kind of karaoke of the written word,” while the critic Harold Bloom has called it “the death of art” and complained of “various young men and women in various late-night spots” who “are declaiming rant and nonsense at each other.” George Bowering, a former poet laureate of Canada, condemns slams as “abominations” that are “crude and extremely revolting.”
Mr. Smith seems to relish such attacks. The initial impulse for slam poetry, he acknowledged, came from his disdain for the conventional poetry readings he attended when he first began to study the craft.
“I went to them, and they were stupid and horrible, with nobody in the audience, and somebody up there onstage throwing all these allusions around, acting as if it’s a crowded room and he’s communicating,” he said. “So I started looking at these poetry readings like, ‘These people don’t know what they are doing.’ And they didn’t, which gave me the confidence to say, ‘Well, I can do that.’ ”
A college dropout, Mr. Smith, born in 1949, worked for more than a decade as a surveyor and construction worker. At the same time he was also writing and reading poetry, verse from Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost, all of whom he admires, to Ezra Pound, “who I hated, because, what is he saying, you know?” But when asked about influences on the slam style, he mentions the singer-songwriter Tom Waits first. On hearing songs by Mr. Waits, like “Putnam County,” he said, “it was like: ‘What was that? Wow.’ ”
To spread his version of the slam poetry gospel, Mr. Smith has recently released two books, “Take the Mic” and “Stage a Poetry Slam,” which he wrote with Joe Kraynak. In addition, the Sunday sessions he leads at the Green Mill are broadcast nationally on Sirius XM satellite radio.
He also continues to refine the show here, which consists of an initial open-microphone set, followed by a performance by an invited artist and finally the competition. But since “the competition from my point of view is meant not to be serious, but a mockery,” the first prize is $10, which is an improvement over the Twinkie he used to offer.
“The gimmick here has always been to entertain you and then pow, put it right in you,” he said. “Slam is a serious art form that seems like it’s just a big, goofy thing. But it’s deadly serious. Why do it? Why do any art if you’re not going to bring out of yourself the thing that is most vulnerable and most precious, that has to be said? Why do something unless you’re really trying to get at what it’s really about? And that’s what this show is.”

Report from Yes/No 18th May

Troy's The Butcher of Belleville:
Troy's art was on show at Eglise Reformé de Belleville. Most of it on the theme of the Persecution of the Menonites. Troy, the church's janitor, a position he was headhunted for, says he is now sick of making art. Another painting of his in the post below, but I liked this sketch, The Butcher of Belleville.
Aude's debut at SpokenWord:

Ichi: for those who missed his extremely funny and strange concert, check out the track Hinatabito for a taste of it It's difficult to describe the concert itself - he arrived on stilts, hit things, made things go pop, had balloons playing kazoos, hit his homemade weirdly humming organ just about everywhere.


Alberto, lookin' tough:

Pauline read Jay Frankston's Poet! Words tied in knots! Loud, raw, naked! Shouting me! Tim blew in from New York, then slumped like the Mets. Everything exists for a reason. And for no reason. Rufo had sticky fists and silver eyes, green-veined with moisture. Spoke of Vienna - of course, it was a lie, though beautiful. Pui lives near the harbour in NYC, under the expressway. Where neighbours smile dim as a waning street lamp and we can retract nothing. She said she liked SpokenWord, and set fire to her hat to prove it.
Alberto was all eau naturel. Who knows why humans kiss? he asked. I did 2 poems by Will Staples and Hello/Goodbye by The Beatles - all in the clip below. Xander told Mikey's tale; the advice he got from Dad; how he shakes off the crying coming up heavy - the one promise kept. Leemore sang a song by Ed Harcourt - Til Tomorrow Then. Michele knows a clown has power; sucked the pussy of a rocking horse. Ellen Adams at her final SpokenWord dreamt last night of getting drunk with van Gogh. One of the highlights of the night for me was her powerful piece, Reading the miranda. Then, as certain as the girl with the beer glass shards in her hand, she said Yes to France. Come back soon, Ellen!
Erica & Romain, in the very source of cold, will make a space for warmth. Erica is not who she was a day ago. The Hand sang my Marusha, dear, Get your oilskins on, cast out your net for the golden fish... Ichi played some strange Japanese thing. Erika pondered how it is that to be a 'Yes man' is an insult, while Yes We Can is hope and determination.
Eithne told of schoolage love: he had given her that first scratch'n'sniff sticker when he asked her to be his girlfriend. He had asked, and she said yes! Deleter said beaucoup de mes ouis, ils pensent non. Peter remembered postmodernism, before the fall. Aude made her debut at SpokenWord with Gamines de Paris. Therese asked We? Or non. Dedicated La nuit to Pauline. Ellen said farewell. Distance makes the heart pound louder. Leemore sang Jersey Girl for her and Rufo wrapped up the night. His slightest movement set the iron bed shaking. I know less than I used to.

Cheers, all.
See you tomorrow?

More photos from 18.5.09

The Hand & Ichi:


Troy & his painting:

Ellen Adams, come back soon:

Audience photo:

Clip - me, David Barnes! reading poems by Will Staple and a mysterious other poet

Will Staple's poems Fate and Much More Trouble from his book The One That Got Away

Clip - The Hand 18.5.09

More here:

Photos + poem from Fear, 04.05.09

Xander as Masked Featured Reader... his story, Another Thing Coming, is currently being considered by a magazine so isn't yet available. But other pieces of his are accessible through his blog

Fear of Bird Flu
by Trudie Shannon

I used to be a twitcher.
Spent hours and days, weeks and years
Of my life
Watching ..... listening,
Observing, marvelling
At flight patterns, building techniques,
Parenting, community,
Apparent fragility, sheer power,
Utter beauty.
Attentive to morning symphonies,
Evening cacophoney,
Arias to the sun's majesty
Ballads to the rising moon
And love songs that made my heart burn.
I was dedicated, love struck,
In a constant state of awe,
In the garden, at the roadside,
Beside the sea, within the woods,
Aloft the mountain tops.
But now we have bird flu
So, with body protection
Mask, gloves, boots and overalls
And a pellet gun
I am become a forensic bird stalker
An incipient killer
And my penchant
Wrens and skylarks which
I kill to save the world.
In the near vicinity of my home
The woods are silent,
On the foreshore no curlews call
And my garden is littered with redundant feeders
But, I rest easy in my bed
And listen to recordings of the dawn chorus.
Trudie (c) 2005

Cartoon by Inès

The Guardian newspaper describes Culture Rapide & mentions us!

Culture Rapide
Poetry slamming, where poets compete against each other by reading original works for judgement, originated in Chicago, but is now taking Paris by storm. Culture Rapide offers slam poetry nights in French every Tuesday, and English every other Monday, with artists from the French-speaking world including Quebec, Senegal, Congo, Lebanon, and Morocco. Belleville has retained much of its working-class identity with concert halls, theatres and bars. Add immigrants from Africa, Vietnam and China, along with young French bohemian types, and it's a funky vibe.

Complete Guardian article about literary events & places in Paris, and the upcoming Paris literary festival, here - The Write Bank:

Télérama review of Culture Rapide

Click on the photo to make the text larger.
Les lettres sont trop petits? Cliquez sur le photo.

Télérama review of SpokenWord

Click on the photo to make the text larger.
Les lettres sont trop petits? Cliquez sur le photo.

Clip - Rufo - Invisible Hand Job

from Touch 20.4.09

Report from Touch 20.4.09

A most strange night. Lorris and Anastasia (don't they look pleased with themselves?) demonstrated their Instant Translation Device. One of its translations came out as 'Lorris likes sex with hamsters.' John McNulty asked 'Who'll drink?' I was wounded by tenderness. Rufo (see video clip) was a clot of thought who spanked the wicked. Erotic Moonbeams Always forced Xander to read an erotic French text through a kid's police hailer device, to Dana and Erica's music. 'She's already made a date with a man she'll hate,' sang McNulty. Dana - who has since defeated 3 bands in single combat at the Bellevilloise - launched into her French Kickboxing Song. John Kirby Abraham, the voice of Radio France International, read his own Cypres poem from the 60s. Xander offered the idea that he might not disintegrate. Gave Cadeaux
Peter obsessed about gorgeous Fanny. Erica found Our most fragile things. A few poems later a Norwegian Bible Study group arrived. No, really. Stranger things, Horatio. Susanna read a Finnish poem and asked if you've stared at someone so close you can see your own reflection. Meghen was a beautiful paradox. Shane's going-blind eyes lit-up the night. Mariko took a bet that she would see the sunrise. Hopes she's the main actor in the movie about her life. Gabrielle, did you forget my face already? And there was a lot of praising and precious little profanity.
Dana came back with her Stupid Song. Kevin's cookies jumped up and down. All in all, a weird night. Moments of greatness, and strangeness, and praising of the Lord. Finally Troy showed up late, improvising on the theme. Hold yourself ready, he advised. You never know when a moment'll arise that you'll be called on to jump onto the undercarriage of a low-flying helicopter...

Report from Money

Michele lands in Barbes. Kills his loneliness with a box of matches. Takes the temperature of the orgasm, to the tattoo of the Sun. Listens to 70s radio... says let's go and play our songs in the tiny bars of the moon.
I exchanged a currency of vision and desire, without loss. See Ink is Blood on the site under Poems.
Colin took you for an angel, found out you're just a bird. Blue note, blue boy, blue I (see clip below).
Merve was Other. Paris turned its blank and ignorant face.
Lauren was looking for a pair of boots. Ran into a creepy guy shopping for single women.
Peter B chastised Bono, tax dodger, made him sing Pink Floyd's Money.
Kevin sold a violin to the smart teacher's cheap date.
Ellen's baby's got bedbugs. Like a cat closed inside a phonebooth.
Camille told of the Asiatic Frontman. Mommy's angry. And other stories.
Leemore went digging for change in the depths of coats and found Jitterbug Boy. Dropped a coin soundless on the linoleum floor.
Melik's thoughts were blurry, no transition. He killed his sister's gerbil and stepped up to the stage.
Jaco went chi chi chouchou over the importation de caramel frandise. There's a clip of him doing Poème du dimanche below.
Pauline sang elle n'est pas d'ici. A Paris song.

Report from Smells (by me!) - Smells are like soul to all things.

This was the first time since I started two and a half years ago that I've done SpokenWord (formerly called Kerouac and hosted in the cellar of the Lizard Lounge) entirely sober. The stress! The anxiety! All those nerves that 2 pints usually deadens. Not about doing my poems, that's rare now. But anxiety about whether enough people'll come, about whether they have a good time, about whether they're getting bored because I let someone go on too long or whether they're pissed off with me because I cut somebody off at the time limit. Not to mention whether we're gonna get drunk or high arseholes come in, or there'll be a fight. (We've nearly had fights 2 or 3 times.)
On the other hand, being sober makes everything more real, more intense. The world and whatever's happening has more presence. I don't feel very tempted to drink, because this sobriety gives the same kind of benefits as meditation.

On to the report.

Thomas opened singing Smelly Cat and a long half sung, half spoken rendition of a song from Sweeny Todd. (A way to get around the 4 minute rule?) John McNulty brought remembered rain & radiosongs. Erika, backed by Betty on box, said Smell transports us across a 1,000 miles. Helen Kelleher said. Scratch'n'sniff cinema. David Fishel's feet still stink. A secret language of dry wit, and bull-shit. I had a case of halitosis of the soul. Maybe I've been watching House too much. Erik smelled chocolate crepes and a paniiiiiiiiini... and - cough, cough - a nasty cigarette. Denise threw fresh oranges to the crowd. Noses awake! She had a story of Love at first smell. Kelly said Karen made her move on the Greyhound bus. Lifted one idle finger to her wet mouth. Loss transmutes to beauty. Ellen sang for Garcia Lorca, poet and revolutionary murdered in the Spanish Civil War. Also, Will we last the Fall? Jaco dreamt of being a shoemaker. Vivement qu'ils inventent les pouls qui auront des dents. Elena said France smells. And she likes it. There's something fishy about Sarah - she has fins for hands, fingers fused together. Peter brought the truth - Everything you thought about poets but were afraid to ask. Leemore sang of doves, with thick earthen breath. Michele produced a poem written on his way to do military service in Italy and something about sex in the Bottleshop. Camille slammed. She met a man once, who shit out of his side. Masha was, to be terrible frank, a 68 year old Russian man, her alter ego. Great monologue! Peter Two was drawn in like a wasp; his lover's scent moves with her like a haze. (Oddly very few people talked about the way the people they love to smell.) David Fishel came back to the stage with an ode to cheese - I've posted a clip of this on the blog. Amber says You smell! and spoke of daffodils' teeth. Christophe had a murder mystery in mind. Smells are like soul to all things. My name is Chris. Chris McCrump, private detective in Belleville. Frank Sinatra crooned 'Shadow of your smell' and someone was out to get me. I'll leave you with Ally, who woke up with a second chance.

Thanks to all who came, apologies to those who I didn't manage to jot down what they did for this report. See you Monday 6th April! David

From Monster Munster:
Lactose intollerant?
Tollerant does not even come close to where I am now...

Clip of David Fishel performing his ode to cheese