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North Beach Poets Censored/Cops Unplug Mike

I originally posted this to SF Indymedia and have reposted it here. The Poets at the North Beach Festival got their mike shut off by the cops, due to alleged obscenities. My friend wrote this to the editor of the SF Chronicle. Please comment and spread the word. Stand up for free speech!
North Beach Poets Censored
by Nicole Henares Monday June 21, 2004 at 03:31 PM
princesspinky (at)

Poets Censored at North Beach Festival Cops Turn Mike Off at 3:30 Sunday Due to Alleged Obscenities/a Fifty Year Tradition Silenced?

I am a friend of the author of the letter below. I was also a featured reader at the North Beach Festival the weekend of June 19th/20th. I was also the first one to perform "unplugged," and needless to say, I am a little hoarse today. Nicole wrote this letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Please tell others about this. Christopher Robin/ tboypoet (at)
Dear Joe
Hello my name is Nicole Henares. I am an English teacher at Lowell High school- you interviewed and quoted me on election night about Matt Gonzalez. I would like to share with you the following experience as it is something that I think you might be interested in researching and writing about:

Yesterday and Saturday I participated in the North Beach Festival's poetry stage. I was a featured reader on Sunday, but spent both days listening to and enjoying the rest of the poets.
The poetry stage this year was organized and hosted by Brenda Knight, editor of Conari Press and editor/writer of the acclaimed anthology "Women of the Beat Generation." Also hosting and hosting was Deborah Hartung, Brenda Knight's assistant over at Conari.
Featured poets included respected figures in the San Francisco literary scene: Jack Hirschman, Michelle Tea, Tim'm West, Wendy-o Matik, Jeffrey Grossman, Agneta Falk, Jessica Loos..etc.
The Festival complained after Saturday's reading about "negativity and obscenities." They told Brenda that the poets must "keep down obscenities" or otherwise they would pull the plug to the microphone.. The poets were respectful of this request, if they had anything "questionable" they read without a microphone. However,two poets after my 3pm reading, the Festival came down and turned off the mic.
(I add I found the Festival's request for "no obscenities" highly ironic as we were competing soundwise both days with not exactly "G" rated music from the Grant and Green..and then you consider the numerous strip clubs dotting North Beach handing out tokens to passerbys, as well as the beer garden, sangria booths etc...??)
As I said, I was there both days, I did not feel that there wasn't really any obscenities either day (at least anything that over the top, or more obscene than the music blaring out of the grant and green!)....however there was certainly a fair amount of politics. I am happy to share with you my set so you can see EXACTLY what I was reading about- my boyfriend a blues musician (and sorry, nothing racey in those poems heh!), and a political poem about Queen Liliokalani. After me, Ching-In Chen was the next-- she read poems about her Great-Grandmother and The Chinese Exclusion Act, and a poem about Arthur Goldman and his silliness. They pulled the plug after Ching-In.

Joe it was a horrible thing that happened yesterday. I have never experienced anything like this, and if I wasn't there to see it I almost would not believe that something like this could happen in San Francisco! At the North Beach Festival poetry could not blare, but beer, strip clubs, and gangsta rap could? It is such a slap in the face to our art, and especially a slap in the face to Brenda Knight and Deborah Hartung who put so much time and energy into organizing this event!
Brenda Knight's contact information is Conaripub (at) Hoping you can shed light on this injustice for San Francisco to hear about, so it will not happen again!

Much Regard,

Nicole Henares

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North Beach Poets Censored
by Christopher Robin Monday June 21, 2004 at 03:46 PM
tboypoet (at)

The poets were respectful of this request, if they had anything "questionable" they read without a microphone. I must clarify this from what I saw first hand. Wendy O-Matik, who went on at 12:15 was the only person who chose to perform without a mike before it was turned off, but clearly her words were not censored one bit, as her poems blasted conformity, society, and the current criminal regime. I did not notice any other poets do this voluntarily, (not sure if the Poor Poets, Leroy, Fay and Tiny , who followed her, were voluntarily not using the mike);I never intended to censor myself when I got up to the mike. People who really wanted to support the unmiked poets (of which I was the first one), moved up to the front of the stage and cheered them on. The poetry reading did not end when the cops came, the energy picked up and people payed attention. There was plenty of cursing, humor, sarcasm, and the exact same poems we'd been intending to read all along. In a beautiful impromptu performance, Rudy Waltz Jr, sprang onto the stage and got on one knee to sing "my country tis of thee.." Beautiful! That's true poetry!
Also, Ching-In Chen was not the last poet to read with a mike, it was Mary Norbert Korte.

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