Dean Hacker is one of the original four poets who embarked from Chicago's Green Mill to San Francisco for the first-ever national slam, with Patricia Smith, Cin Salach, and slam poetry founder Marc Smith. He remains a well-respected poet among Chicago's performance cogniscenti.
Hacker's work often negotiates mortality in lay terms while posing fundamental questions about existence and human nature. He embraces the romance of the gothic aesthetic with strong references to, and dialogue with, religion and religious figures. He often carries a tongue-in-cheek regard, but is always close enough to his themes to deliver a serious punch when he wishes.
Hacker's styles of writing and delivery are also cannonical to early slam poetry from Chicago, and by extension to slam poetry itself. Slam poetry has remained faithful for decades to the kind of narrative and dialogue heard in Hacker's work, in spite of the uncounted political and aesthetic tides within the movement. Further reading about Dean Hacker and early slam poetry is in The Incomplete History of Slam.
Hacker and his poem "Night Train Wine" are also the subject of an early poetry video shot and directed by Kurt Heintz in 1991.
The following clips were recorded in summer 2001 during a featured set at the Green Mill, Chicago, and are presented here by permission of the artist:
- September 2005