Slam poetry began right here, in Chicago’s gritty speakeasy scene at the Green Mill lounge, created by Marc Kelly Smith in 1986.

The poetry slam was a catalyst of modern performance poetry – a major force in stirring the minds of students, scholars and everyday folks. This interactive art form has since spread around the world. It has even been called the most important literary movement of the last 100 years. Now that’s a feather we’re happy to put in our caps.

Due to the growth and enthusiastic response slam poetry has received worldwide, the Chicago Slam Works was born. Chicago Slam Works is a non-profit organization. Those of us within it seek to advance performance poetry, both in Chicago and around the world. How? Through live performances, education and outreach. And we have the clout to do just that.

The Chicago Slam Works’ staff and founding members are pillars of the international poetry slam movement and the organizational force behind dozens of major poetry events all over the world. We love the spotlight, but don’t be surprised if you see us toasting others offstage as well.

What We Do:


Produce Dynamic Live Performance

In addition to our flagship show — the world famous Uptown Poetry Slam — Chicago Slam Works delivers quality, poetry-rich acts on stages all over Chicago. The LitMash, Chicago Slam Works’ newest monthly show, is a dynamic, brand new slam format that gathers writers from all facets of the city’s live lit scene .
After two seasons of staging original theater shows, Chicago Slam Works is set to launch the all-new House Ensemble, which promises to produce original shows the likes of which the Windy City has never seen. We promise; you’ve never seen anything like this before. And we’re super proud of it.

Create Education With Impact

Chicago Slam Works inspires schools and communities to embrace the passion and power of poetry in ways never dreamed possible. Poets With Class, the Chicago Slam Works’ educational initiative, engages students by combining the crafts of writing and performance to build their confidence, literacy and appreciation for the fine arts.

Transform Community Through Partnership

By sharing organizational and programming expertise, Chicago Slam Works assists young organizations and poet entrepreneurs in developing new events and services that serve the community, expand audiences and nurture the artistic careers of performance poets.


J.W. Basilo
Executive Director
847.556.8679 x2