Board Members

Joseph StewartJoseph Stewart Chicago Slam Works’ President of the Board fell in love with slam poetry by hanging out at the Green Mill on Sundays. Marc Smith turned out to be an old friend of his sister’s, and the two became buddies. Joe was recruited into Chicago Slam Works in 1987, and has since worked with the organization. He also helped organize the 25th Anniversary Extravaganza show in 2011. Born and raised in Chicago’s South Side Beverly neighborhood, Joe works as a lawyer and spends much of his time recouping lost money for crime victims. When not in court, he frequents live music and literary events around town.

Marc Kelly Smith is the creator and founder of the international Poetry Slam movement. A “strand of new poetry began at Chicago’s Green Mill Tavern in 1986 when Marc Smith found a home for the Poetry Slam,” proclaims the PBS television series “The United States of Poetry.” Among other groundbreaking achievements, Marc teamed with Mark Eleveld to create Spoken Word Revolution (first volume) and Spoken Word Redux, two of the most important and best-selling book/CD anthologies of spoken-word artists and performance poets. Marc was born and raised near the steel mills of Chicago’s South Side. He currently guides and directs Chicago’s Speak’Easy Ensemble, an innovative performance poetry troupe and travels regularly to Europe to perform in front of packed audiences. Marc is a performance poet and showman at heart, but for fun he bowls and gets mixed up in relationships. Get the full scoop on Marc Smith on his website at

Jim Swinerton moved to Chicago in 2003 and caught the poetry slam bug when brother-in-law Scott Hirtenstein introduced him to the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill. One day as Jim was walking down Milwaukee Avenue he noticed several empty commercial buildings and envisioned an arts-focused facility with performance space. He told Scott about his idea and asked to be introduced to Marc Smith. That’s how Jim became co-founder of Chicago Slam Works. Born and raised in California, Jim spent his long professional career in commercial and industrial construction and was also an executive in charge of strategic planning for a firm doing $1 billion of construction a year. He has helped fund poetry publications, primarily for Copper Canyon Press’ books by David Lee and was active in the arts through support for the Word for Word theater group and Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater in San Francisco. In Chicago, he follows Court Theater and several other local theater companies.

Richard Prince has been a college English professor for nearly forty years and recently retired from Lewis University in 2007. He is a graduate of Calvin College the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan. He has loved and respected performance poetry since its very beginning in the 1980’s and probably attended the Uptown Poetry Slam longer than anyone else besides Marc Smith. He was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and has lived in Hyde Park for the past 25 years—and now also enjoys winters in Florida.

Jacqueline “Jaxx” Allen serves as Board Secretary and Staff Director. Initially coming to CSW as a fan of the Uptown Poetry Slam, Jaxx has grown into an indispensable part of the team. She works tirelessly for the organization, heading up the volunteer program and serving as Stage Manager for the House Ensemble. Nearly every night of the week she can be found all over Chicago, supporting performance poetry in every corner of the city. In her non-poetry life, Jaxx manages a retail store downtown.

Emily Calvo, is a poet, visual artist, author and creative director. She has been active in Chicago’s poetry community since 1994. She is a co-founder of Chicago Slam Works and served on the core planning committee for the National Poetry Slam Championships in 1999 and 2003. In 2014, she released her first collection of poems and original art, Lending Color to the Otherwise Absurd, with support from a grant provided by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Her poems have been published in Roosevelt University’s Oyez Review, Coleré, After Hours and other publications—both online and in print. She has also featured at numerous libraries, radio programs, galleries and festivals including Art Chicago, Loyola University, Women & Children First, the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill as well as the Fontenay le Comte Civic Center in France.


J.W. Basilo, Executive Director: Prior to being appointed to his current position, Basilo was hired and served for a year as Chicago Slam Works’s Artistic Director in 2011 after established himself as one of Chicago’s premier performance poets and among the most active teaching artists in the field. After becoming a fixture at the Uptown Poetry Slam in 2005, Basilo has called performance poetry a full time living since 2007.  He has coached teams for “Louder Than a Bomb” since 2009, toured the country extensively as a performer, and represented Chicago at the National Poetry Slam multiple times. Outside of CSW, Basilo continues to direct theater and is active in Chicago’s comedy, music, and storytelling communities.

S. Mojdeh Stoakley, Outreach Coordinator: As a Teaching Artist and the Outreach Coordinator for Chicago Slam Works, Mojdeh is excited to bring CSW’s unique pedagogy and talented artists into classrooms, community spaces, and onto stages nationwide to share Chicago’s legacy of slam!  She is also dedicated to developing custom and canned programs that enrich educational spaces of all kinds from K through College!  Mojdeh has represented Chicago multiple times at the National Poetry Slam, Individual World Poetry Slam, Southern Fried Slam, & Rustbelt, in addition to coaching youth competing in Louder Than A Bomb. She’s also been an executive producer for festivals like Lethal Poetry’s Nights of Sight & Sound, the world’s largest mobile art show Art On Track, and one of Chicago’s PSi certified slams, Words That Kill. Mojdeh received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, sits on the board for Surviving The Mic, and is the founder Lethal Poetry Inc and LUCID Art Lab, arts organizations that activate artists as social servants.

Marty McConnell, Grant Writer & Development Consultant: