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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[Chicago Pizza History] Marc Kelly Smith's "Deep Dish Chicago"

Marc Kelly Smith invented the poetry slam in Chicago in the 1980s.

In 2005, he married his craft to another one of Chicago's gifts to the world when he debuted his poem, "Deep Dish Pizza" at a press conference for Stirring Things Up in Chicago, a citywide culinary and arts festival.

Here it is:

Chicago: the deep dish city of deep dish people
Everybody’s juices bubblin’ & sizzlin’ & spittin’ inside.

And a crust that can be thick, when it needs to be thick
When it gets poked and fingered and belittled
And cast off as just another second-city helping,
a flatlander’s windy cheese.

But we know better, we who live this city and love its people,
know that it’s SECOND TO NONE when it comes to a slice
Of authenticity, genuine no BS … “Skip the pretense, pal.”
“Hey, you ain’t puttin’ that pomposity into my pizza pie, amigo!”

Second to none when it comes
To feeding a vision of “yes” to no small dreams
Of can do. Go for it. Make it happen.

And then, stand back and watch the worlds beyond our crust
Try to lay claim to the juices we cooked up,
That we brought to life, that we passed on as a gift of nutrition,
For those who hungered for a spirit like ours.

So here’s duh scoop: This deep dish of “do it” comes from us,
From our city and our people …
“Hey Lou, tell the poet, ‘Enough talk, let’s eat!’”
When I emailed Smith to ask for a copy of the poem he told me a couple of great stories:
The Speak’Easy Ensemble provided back-up vocals to my front performance as they emerged from the back of the audience accenting and echoing sections of the poem, and causing a little stir amongst the dignitaries, politicians, and reporters not use to slam anarchy and in-audience poetic presentations. On the last lines, however, some of those same stone-faced politicians were teary eyed with civic pride and sentimentality … and when a Lou Malnati’s pizza was delivered at the cue line “Let’s eat!” a little roar of pleasure went up and we devoured the deep dish reality.

Following the ceremony and throughout the summer copies of the poem were delivered to about one hundred thousand people inside Lou Malnati pizza boxes. Not one person ever told me that they noticed the poem included with their pizza delivery, not even my son, Carl, who ordered pizzas from Malnati’s on a regular basis. Positive proof that pizza ranks higher than poems when Chicago’s appetites are considered.

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