By competing for and winning a spot on Chicago's very first national slam team, Dean Hacker assured himself a place in poetry's chronicle. What is relatively unsung is Hacker's enduring appeal and evolution, partly as an outcome of that competition and the attention it brought, and partly as he charted his own creative destiny in the aftermath of the first national slams.
Hacker's persona in the earliest slam poetry days was modeled after a cowboy-like figure. He wore the persona naturally as he made it part of his own identity. He spoke in everyday English. He sometimes embraced Christian mysticism and saintly figures from the place of a sinner and, if averting from Christianity, he could easily substitute other charismatic figures from real life. Audiences relished his dark humor and irony.
Hacker also experimented with music in his poetry sets, and so introduced some of the early slam greats to the same concept in their own work. His poem Night Train Wine is rendered two ways, one for a simple live performance, and another for a musical performance. The poem's early incarnation is seen here as a documentation video. Its later version is performed with steel slide guitar, and rendered as a finished poetry video. So while some contemporary poets busied themselves with divining the difference between page and stage, Hacker was already realizing the different nuances between various presentations of the same text.
Like a number of other artists featured in the e-poets Videotheque, Hacker expresses his art in more than one genre. Outside of poetry altogether, he works as a commercial graphic artist. He was and is also a fine artist, making 2D and 3D pieces that relate to "commix" and other kinds of extreme or goth cariacatures. Some of these pieces are absolutely earnest, but illuminate the subject in a way that may set the viewer ajar. More often, the pieces are parodies. Hacker ran Nerve Gallery in Oak Park through the first decade of the 2000s, and exhibited his paintings there with those of others. He often curated themed events that combined performance poetry with painting.
Dean Hacker has additional recordings online, in the e-poets Book of Voices.
- Kurt Heintz, 2012