Welcome to the Festival of Poets Theater

Held annually in Chicago, the Festival of Poets Theater was founded and is still curated by Devin King and Patrick Durgin. This site was created to broadcast information about the festival and to gather material that may contribute to the broad and ongoing definition of the artform.

Poets theater is a genre of porous borders, one that emerges about the same time, and involving many of the same artists, as performance art, performance poetry (“spoken word”), conceptual and “intermedia” art. But poets have long been playwrights, either primarily (Sophocles, Shakespeare) or as a platform for postmodern literary experimentation (the operas and page plays of Gertrude Stein, for example). If poetry can most specifically be called, in the words of David Antin, “the language art,” the collusion of linguistic media and dance, performance, music, and the visual/plastic arts might also fall under the purview of poetics as a theater of experiment that may or may not have to do with the genre “drama” as it is traditionally and persistently defined (think of Simone Forti’s collaborations with Charlemagne Palestine or Jackson Mac Low, or Adam Pendleton’s “Black Dada” performances generated in tandem to his privately circulating anthology and publicly exhibited paintings of the same name). Although recognized by two anthologies—Sarah Bay-Cheng and Barbara Cole’s Poets at Play and Kevin Killian and David Brazil’s Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater—it wasn’t since Michael Benedikt’s Theatre Experiment in 1967 that the wider scope of pertinent work to fall under this rubric was fully acknowledged. If poets theater is a form of sociability, page play, agitprop, or post-dramatic theatre, fully distinct disciplinary boundaries have internally divided it as a field, and dispersed our knowledge and the influence of its practitioners.

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