Performance Poetry in Milwaukee has always had a relatively small following. Performance poetry ANYWHERE has always had a relatively small following. Every now and then, though, there’s a certain style that rises to prominence and gets noticed by people outside the usual milieu of performance poets. In the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s it was the Beats. In the late ‘60’s and early 70’s, it was the Hippies. In the ‘80’s it was Slam and Hip Hop . . . and every time a certain style comes to define the medium, it becomes a parody of itself. All the new people wash away and it ends up falling out of style. Before long, poets end up performing exclusively for each other again . . . that and the occasional curious onlooker.
The next dominant fad in performance poetry hasn’t come along yet. Slam poetry, which has roots that go back to 1984, reached its peak somewhere around the end of the ‘80’s . . . as far as I can tell. It’s been waning in popularity ever since . . . as near as I can make out. There’s no research here . . . no comprehensive census was taken to arrive at this conclusion. It’s just a hunch. When I first moved to Milwaukee in the mdid-‘90’s, there were open mic poetry venues all over Milwaukee. At the peak of its popularity in Milwaukee in the late ‘90’s, you could go to a different open mic 4 or 5 times per week. Now there are only a couple of regular venues . . . very few that operate on a weekly basis. It may be the case that I just don’t know about all of the venues out there . . . I have more or less stopped attending. Following an old cliché amongst local poets, I met someone at one of the open mics, started dating her, eventually married her and now neither her nor I attend much of anything poetry-related anymore.
I still perform, though. Tonight, I have what might be my 14th annual featured poetry read at Poet’s Monday—the East Side’s longest-running open mic. Once again, after a year of watching other people perform onstage, I have the opportunity to do a half hour of my own material.
Poet’s Monday is hosted by Tim Kloss-hands-down one of the most talented local performance poets in Milwaukee. He's got one of the most powerful voices and one of the most fascinating intellects to have gracd a stage in Milwaukee, but it can be exceedingly difficult to follow his thoughts from time to time. A fascinating gentleman. (He officiated my wedding, so I’m probably a little biased.) The open mic begins at 8:00pm. The standard length of time given to each person on the open mic is five minutes. I go on after everyone else is finished. A weekly open mic with featured poet, Poet’s Monday’s current home is Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.