Inception and implosion, Chicago’s grit and grandiosity all come together in the finite poetic power of the original Slam igniter, renowned poet Marc Kelly Smith and his retrospect denotation, Ground Zero.
A cultural, community, and adversarial figure, Smith has challenged the status quo and raised new questions about an environment in a state of continuous calamity. Smith’s power and influence have inspired celebrated figures who cut their teeth on both the stage and the page under his watchful eye—always speaking in the traditions of Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks. Ground Zero challenges but pays homage to the thousand underbellies of Chicago with Smith’s wicked, cigarette-in-the-beer language: “I ain’t diggin’ no concrete coffin, / No backyard mausoleum / To keep me a pickle sweet aplenty / Plied with sardines and pork sausage wieners / Livin’ out the chance that some bubble-flesh victim / Will come puckered up and scabby lipped / To kiss me in the name of a new mankind.”
Ground Zero leaves no doubt. The Slampapi / instigator / visionary / you-may-love-me-or-hate-me-but-my-history-will-always-be-chiseled-in-everything-the-poetry-world-does-next collects a survey of his land and his experience, no matter how beautiful or flawed. This book lets the landmines of imagery and Chicago’s slow and uneasy drawl showcase one of our most original voices.
“Listen up: Marc Smith’s poems are performances, fast paced and quick talking, beep beepin' and zoom zoomin,’ urban and hard-charging, jazzy and impudent, utterly authentic, full Chicago. They are filled with life.” —Edward Hirsch, author of Gabriel
“What Marc Smith invented when he created the poetry slam was so deeply, intuitively perfect . . .” —Ira Glass, host of This American Life
"Harriet Monroe birthed the Chicago poetry scene at the start of the 20th century. Then Marc Smith came along at the end and gave it new life: straddling its fading body, pressing the heels of both hands down, hard, on its chest and hissing, 'BREATHE, damn you!' His words squeal and crackle, squish and gasp, always reflecting the city of his birth, a city forever in decline, yet forever struggling to rise again. Read them with joy and sorrow." —Neil Steinberg, co-author Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery