"ThoughtCrime" Unleashed: Poetry Ain't No "Sidekick"

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Stephen Gros
Teresa Juarez commits "ThoughtCrime"
Back in March, something dangerously sexy called "ThoughtCrime" popped up at Khon's bar on Milam. The once-monthly poetry showcase (every third Thursday) is steadily gathering a following. What's sexy about that? What about poetry isn't? It's gone from a "what-if?" experiment to what might be the biggest recurring (non-academic) poetry event in Houston.

Art Attack caught up with "ThoughtCrime" creator and organizer Stephen Gros, himself a poet and artist, to see what, if anything, it's all about.

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Nicole Bouchier
A poet and his pigeons: Stephen Gros
Gros waxes critical:

"'ThoughtCrime' is a direct response to the current trend in Houston of marginalizing spoken-word poetry into side-kicking for other forms of entertainment. Our poetry scene is diverse and robust; there's a different reading going on nearly every night of the week, yet when I looked around, I realized there wasn't a single reading that wasn't a one-off event. Worse than that, most everything else is either an open-mic, where poets share time with comedians or musicians, or [poets are] given such strict limitations that there isn't a chance for them to really converse with an audience. So I thought I'd create a forum for poets to really cut loose in an intimate and comfortable setting, and give the audience a chance to give feedback, too, in the tradition of the classic poetry salon, but with hand-picked master representatives of the Houston/Gulf Coast scene."

Finding a venue:

"Khon's bar fell into place as the natural place for it to happen. I knew what I was doing would straddle a line between comfortable, coffee-shop table discussion and well-rehearsed stage performance. Khon's is right in between Midtown and Montrose and really embodies that middle ground sweet spot between accessible and professional. It needed to be a quiet spot that would be attentive, that sold beer and wine at least, since I was aiming at a more mature crowd. I meet Khon, and I'm thinking, man, this guy's great! He's in the armpit of midtown, in a small strip-center bar, yet he's completely uncorrupted. And far from jaded--he's absolutely jazzed about everything!"

Gros goes gangsta:

"If you're looking for a rowdy reading with people throwing things, and poets doing experimental work, then check out the Notsuoh open-mic on Wednesdays. If you crave more academic work or classic-form, maybe Inprint is where you need to be. But if you want to come and see the best of the best, then you need to be at 'ThoughtCrime.'"

Gros' poets gotta produce!

"If I decide to repeat a poet, they'd damn well better have new material!"

Stephen Gros will be appearing on the Nuestra Palabra radio show on 90.1 KPFT next Tuesday at 7:30 pm talking about "ThoughtCrime."

This month's "ThoughtCrime" showcase is August 19, and features 2008 Texas Poet Laureate Larry D. Thomas, Vincent A. Cellucci, Lisa Ragsdale, Chris Wise, and Gerald Cedillo.

The show starts promptly at 9 p.m. and continues until 11 p.m., Khon's, 2808 Milam.

Stephen, along with Teresa Juarez, also runs wordaroundtown.org , a blog that tracks Houston poetry.


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