The Oracle Theatre Presents A Night Of Poets Theater 12/5

Kenning Editions, Oracle Productions, and The Poetry Foundation are proud to announce a special collaboration that will give six local poets 48 hours to devise a program of POETS THEATER, accompanied by a panel discussion with Chicago-based poets, playwrights, and critics, plus a talkback and a book launch for The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985, edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil. The six poets will first meet, devise and rehearse on Saturday, December 4, and present their work on Sunday, December 5, at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway in Chicago. Sunday's panel discussion begins at 6:00 PM and the performance follows at 7:30. Talkback and book party follow immediately. Admission is free and open to the public in Oracle's Public Access Theatre. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made at

Although poetry and drama have been kin from Sophocles to Shakespeare, Milton, Stein and Baraka, Poets Theater has remained an opportunely loose form, often liberating poets or playwrights from proprietary impulses. Poets Theater has migrated between the mainstage and parlor affairs. It has built a secret history for itself, from the alternate Noh tradition of the Cambridge Poets Theatre of the 1950s to Leslie Scalapino's appropriation of thematic and formal registers of the Elizabethan theater; the Living Theatre's productions of Greek tragedy to the adjudications of identity and community values after the counter-culture: El Teatro Campesino, Black Arts theater, and the conceptualist performance of Adrian Piper or Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, for example. Interest in poets theater can be glimpsed in recent festivals, journals, one-off productions, and anthologies.

One of the latter, The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985 presents the occasion for a Chicago-centric Poets Theater experiment. On Saturday, December 4, six local poets begin work together at Oracle, each with a copy of the anthology, some technical support, and about 48 hours, in which time they will conceive, rehearse, and perform a program of Poets Theater. A unique experiment in how the theater space and fundamental conventions of drama serve as studio to poets of various aesthetics, imposing as little premeditation as possible, who knows if a new play will be written, old ones compiled or mashed up? On Sunday, December 5, Kenning Editions, Oracle Productions, and The Poetry Foundations host a roundtable event and talkback to complement the performance, featuring participants from the performance, poetry, and theater communities of Chicago. The roundtable will serve as an introduction to and a conversation on Poets Theater as a genre. The post-show talkback will facilitate a response to the evening's performance specifically, allowing the poets/performers to answer audience questions and comment on their experience as an ensemble. The evening concludes with a launch for the anthology with food, drink, and informalities of all kinds.

Schedule of Events: Sunday, December 5
6:00 PM - Roundtable Discussion featuring John Beer, Ruth Margraff, Don Share. Moderated by Patrick Durgin, publisher of Kenning Editions, and Valerie Johnson, Managing Editor of Poetry Magazine

7:30 PM - Performance and Talkback featuring Daniel Bozutsky, Duriel Harris, John, Keene, Jacob Saenz, Leila Wilson, Tim Yu.

All events hosted at Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613. Admission is free. ADA accessible. Phone: 252-220-0269 or visit

Participant Bios:
John Beer is the author of The Waste Land and Other Poems (Canarium, 2010). He has curated a poet's theater showcase at Links Hall in Chicago, directed Robert Duncan's Medea at Kolchis, and is editing a special section on poet's theater for Jacket. He is a staff theater writer at Time Out Chicago.

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007); and Arbitrary Tales (Triple Press, 2005). He is the translator of Raul Zurita's Song for his Disappeared Love (Action Books, 2010) and Jaime Luis Huenún's Port Trakl (Action Books, 2008).

Duriel E. Harris is a co-founder of Black Took Collective and a member of Douglas Ewart & Inventions free jazz ensemble. Extending the multivocal experiments of Drag (Elixir Press, 2003), she is currently at work on the AMNESIAC media art project. Her collection Amnesiac: Poems is being released by Sheep Meadow Press this fall.

Jennifer Karmin's multidisciplinary projects have been presented at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets across the U.S., Japan, and Kenya. She curates the Red Rover Series and is co-founder of the public art group Anti Gravity Surprise. Her text-sound epic, Aaaaaaaaaaalice, was published by Flim Forum Press in 2010.

John Keene is the author of Annotations (New Directions) and, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, of Seismosis (1913 Press). He teaches at Northwestern University.

Ruth Margraff is a playwright, librettist, lyricist, and performer. Her writing has been developed and produced internationally, notably in such venues as The Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Academy Of Music in New York, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The recipient of four Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts commissions, among other honors and awards, she is currently Associate Professor of Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jacob Saenz is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. His work has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Inkstains, OCHO, Poetry and other journals. He works at a library and is an associate editor for RHINO.

Don Share is Senior Editor of Poetry magazine. His books include Squandermania (Salt Publishing), Union (Zoo Press), and the forthcoming titles Wishbone (Black Sparrow); a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (Faber and Faber); and Bunting's Persia (Flood Editions). He has been Poetry Editor of Harvard Review and Partisan Review, Editor of Literary Imagination, and curator of poetry at Harvard University.

Leila Wilson's The Hundred Grasses is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2011. Her poems have appeared in A Public Space, Denver Quarterly, Poetry, The Canary, and elsewhere. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute.

Timothy Yu is the author of a chapbook, Journey to the West (Barrow Street), winner of the Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Prize from Kundiman, and the critical book Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford University Press). He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A celebration of poets theatre is a perfect complement to Oracle's Public Access Theatre, which keeps admission free to the public through sponsorships and fundraising efforts. Retrofitting the model of public broadcasting and churches, Oracle is a public arts organization that provides cultural services to the community free of charge. The current mainstage season of plays explores classic poetic works, including Lorca's BLOOD WEDDING (through November 20), Buchner's WOYZECK (opening March 19, 2011), and Euripides' BACCHAE (opening June 4).

Among the poets featured in Kenning Editions' The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985 are John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Gregory Corso, Helen Adam, Anne Waldman, Hannah Weiner, Sonia Sanchez, Carla Harryman, Charles Bernstein, and Leslie Scalapino. Also included are previously unpublished plays by Jack Spicer, V.R. "Bunny" Lang, and Diane di Prima. Rounding out the book are contemporary classics, such as LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Kathy Acker's The Birth of the Poet. It is the first major anthology of poets theater.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. Upon receipt of a major gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the Poetry Foundation was established in 2003, evolving from the Modern Poetry Association, which was founded in 1941. The Poetry Foundation is one of the largest literary foundations in the world.

For more information, visit,, or

Related Articles View More Chicago Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You