December will mark six months of my stay in the Windy City. To this day, I remember the excitement I had prior to leaving South Africa when I learned that I would be based in Chicago. As a performance poet, the first thought that came to mind was the fact that the founder of the Slam Poetry movement worldwide, Marc Kelly Smith, resides in Chi Town. The Green Mill is in Chi Town! It dawned on me that the Maker works in ways I could just not fathom at that point as an individual. Suddenly, I ran out of fingers and toes to count my blessings.
When I arrived, having needed to settle in, I gave myself a month before going to check uptown out. I had sent Marc Smith a Facebook friend request, which he accepted; an inbox telling him who I am and that I’d like to one day participate in the open mic at The Mill or the slam, which, to my surprise, he responded to, saying that when I do make my way to The Mill, I should remind him of the inbox and we’ll take it from there.
So there I was, a poet from South Africa hoping to find a home in the Chicago poetry scene. Nerves on my sleeves, I entered The Green Mill one July Sunday evening, rehearsing in my head what I’d say when I do finally meet Marc Smith, didn’t find a seat, became even more nervous, saw Marc Smith on stage, and it hit me, this was real. I was in America, in Illinois, in Chicago, the city where the craft that has moulded me as the artist I am today, the art of expression that I am so fond of, the one that has seen me through forests of depression and clouds of joy, I am at the very place where it was founded, where it all began. CNN was there that night to record the show as everyone was celebrating 27 successful years of Slam Poetry – worldwide. My revolution was being televised.
A few months later and I still have moments that take my breath away at The Green Mill most Sundays I am there. The entire atmosphere is warm; the poets are always on point; the jazz ensemble is flawless; and the Slam, at the end of each open mic and feature, still finds a way to leave me biting my nails in anticipation and wonder as to who will win that night.
27 years after Slam Poetry was founded, Marc Kelly Smith, together with J.W. Basilo, Emily Thornton Calvo, Adrienne Nadeau, RJ El and an entire team of movers and shakers, an organization known as Chicago Slam Works was founded to help steer the poetry movement in Chicago to becoming more progressive and rewarding to all of its participants, especially the youth. Recently, I had the pleasure of being assigned as a volunteer for Chicago Slam Works after having a very productive meeting with Adrienne Nadeau, the Volunteer Coordinator for the organisation. I am now officially a volunteer for Chicago Slam Works and will be doing a lot of blogging (twice a month) about it and will be updating about it on social networks as well. I will also be writing about the poets based in Chicago as well as the poets based in my hometown, Durban, South Africa. I have already seen the parallels and will be sharing my reflections to that regard soon.
For now, here’s to dreams coming true. Here’s to being part of a moving movement. Here’s to poetry.