"Night Bound" by Marc Smith, performed at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in Chicago in 1993.
Marc Smith (So What!) is best known for bringing to the worldwide poetry community a new style of poetic presentation that has spawned one the most important social/literary arts movements of our time. As stated in the PBS television series, The United States of Poetry, a “strand of new poetry began at Chicago’s Green Mill Tavern in 1987 when Marc Smith found a home for the Poetry Slam.” Since then, performance poetry has spread throughout the country and across the globe to hundreds of cities, universities, high schools, festivals, and cultural centers. Each year, teams from American and European cities compete in National Poetry Slams, extravagant homespun festivals blending thousands of poetic voices. The Slam has taken root and is flourishing in Australia, Germany, UK, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Madagascar, Singapore, and even at the South Pole.
Born on the southeast side of Chicago, Smith’s innate sense of rhythm and unflinching realism has made him one of the country’s most compelling performers. Full of grit, his performances break poetic boundaries, giving audiences an acute vision of what poetry is and what it can be. Smith has performed at The Smithsonian Institute, The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Museum of Contemporary, the Asheville Poetry Festival (North Carolina), 1st Night Annapolis (Maryland), The Innovator’s Festival (Washington, DC), the Kennedy Center, Galway’s Cruit Festival, Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, Ausburg’s ABC Brecht Festival, and the Queensland Poetry Fest in Australia. He has been featured on CNN, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio’s Whadda Ya Know, ARTbeat Chicago, Ophra, Wild Chicago, WGN Chicago’s Very Own, Chicago Slices and has been a many time member of NewCity’s Lit 50, a listing of the top fifty movers and shakers in Chicago literature.
Smith’s book, Crowdpleaser, celebrates the Green Mill, particularly its audiences who remain at the core of the Slam’s success. Illustrated by Michael Acerra, Crowdpleaser, is a remarkable document, sensitively chronicled by original poems and anecdotes. As with the Slam, the book defies labels and explores new forms. It has been credited by the Chicago Book Review, The Chicago Sun Times, The Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, New City and The Reader.
Smith’s poetry has been featured in Hammer’s Magazine, Chicago Magazine, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Poetry Slam, an anthology, Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which won the 1994 American Book Award, and The United States of Poetry, a publication that accompanied the PBS television series. His work has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun Times. Selection of his work can also be heard on CDs: By Someone’s Good Grace, a recording of the first National Slam Team Champions (1990), Grand Slam: The 1995 National Slam, It’s About Time (1999), and Quarters in the Juke Box (2007).
In recent years Marc collaborated with editor Mark Eleveld to create Sourcebooks’s Spoken Word Revolution and Spoken Word Revolution Redux, poetry anthologies covering the performance poetry scene at the top of the best-selling list. The CDs included in both these books (and narrated by Marc) are found in the collections of young poets and educators around the world. Marc’s Bible of Slam The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry released by Alpha/Penguin to national and international audiences is used as a blueprint for creating slams and learning the ins and outs of performance poetry.
Chalking up more than 1000 performances at the Green Mill, Smith continues to host and perform at the Uptown Poetry Slam, now in its 21st year, to standing room only houses. He has staged a multitude of special slam productions including The Neutral Turf Poetry Festival at Navy Pier—Chicago, Slam Dunk Poetry Day at Chicago’s Field Museum, which had people hanging over the balconies to see the action, and The Summer Solstice Poetry Show at the MCA, which crowded people cross-legged into the aisles.
Moving his talents forward into an even more dramatic realms, he has written and produced two stage plays: Flea Market, a night of monologues, and A House Party For Henry, an interactive play, and co-wrote, produced, and performed in the Zeitgeist Theater’s The Psychic Café. He is on the Artistic Board of several Chicago based performing arts companies and has just recently debut his highly acclaimed Sandburg to Smith, a musical adaptation of Carl Sandburg’s poems and stories performed in concert with the Rootabaga Band.