Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2000

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Morris, Adalaide

First Committee Member

Bass, Margaret

Second Committee Member

Kuenzli, Rudolf

Third Committee Member

Dawson, Ashley

Fourth Committee Member

Marra, Kim


This dissertation refuses the assumption that poetry is a dying art form. In this study, I focus on poets Marc Smith, David Hernández, Patricia Smith, and Bob Holman. I place the work of these four poets within the context of the contemporary performance poetry movement and argue that from their position on stage, in the recording studio, or in front of the camera, they use the performance to forge bonds across racial, ethnic, class, and gender divides. Throughout this study, I trace the evolution of the contemporary performance poetry movement from the local to the national, the embodied to the virtual. I combine original research on public poetries such as the poetry slam, the poetry-music ensemble, and video-poetry and synthesize a variety of critical approaches, including cultural studies, postcolonial theory, and ethnomusicology. I analyze specific elements of the performance--the voice, music, the body on stage, and the dialogic relationship betwee performer and audience--and discuss how these poets use the poetry event to articulate a poetry-community-in-the-making. Throughout this study, I argue that these poetry events demand our active engagement with the performance and use emergent technologies to document and analyze this poetry community. As such, "Performance" ultimately demands that we not only rethink the relationship between these poets and their communities, but that we rethink the place of poetry in contemporary American culture.


ix, 150 pages


Originally submitted as XML files, available as supplement. Reconfigured into PDF April 2014.


Copyright 2000 Julie Marie Schmid

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