Funding is provided by the US Embassy Budapest (Government of the United States), the International Visegrad Fund and Trafó House of Contemporary Arts. 

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

‘Bridging Barriers’ workshop is an American-European collaboration, consisting of a three day intensive workshop worked out by seven Eastern and Central European slam poets (from Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary) and Chicago’s Speak Easy Ensemble 2018, led by Marc Kelly Smith assisted by two founding members of Ligue Slam de France. The workshop displays how different languages and cultures may be creatively brought together, with purpose and harmony, to produce fruitful and intriguing works of art, with dynamic interaction and audience engagement. The result is a unique multilingual showcase presented at Trafo on November 29.

Funding is provided by the US Embassy Budapest (Government of the United States), the International Visegrad Fund and Trafó House of Contemporary Arts.

Bridging Barriers Workshop & Performance:

Chicago’s Speak Easy Ensemble: Marc Kelly Smith, Nate Smith, Bailey Castle, Joel Chmara, Eli Bensusan

Marc Kelly Smith

Marc Smith is creator/founder of the Uptown Poetry Cabaret. As stated in the PBS television series, The United States of Poetry, a “strand of new poetry began at Chicago’s Green Mill Tavern in 1987 when Marc Smith found a home for the Poetry Slam.” Since then, performance poetry has spread throughout the world exported to over 1000 cities large and small.

Chalking up more than a 2000 performances in nightclubs, concert halls, libraries, universities, and on top of the occasional hot dog stand, Smith continues to host and perform every Sunday night at the Green Mill to standing room only crowds. He has staged a multitude of poetry related productions including Chicago’s 1991, 1999, & 2002 National Poetry Slams, Slam Dunk Poetry Day at Chicago’s Field Museum, Summer Solstice Poetry Shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Poetry Hot Dog Cart for Chicago’s 2005 “Stirring Things Up Festival”, Looptopia 2007, and scores of high school and college events.

He currently guides and directs Chicago’s  Speak’Easy Ensemble an innovative performance poetry troupe that specializes in performance interpretation, a new style of poetic translation that presents two languages simultaneously in dynamic performance. He collaborated with Mark Eleveld to create Spoken Word Revolution volume one and Spoken Word Redux, two of the most important and best-selling book/CD anthologies of spoken word artists and performance poets. His collection of poems Crowdpleaser and his CDs It’s About Time, Quarters in the Juke Box, and Love & Politics are will soon be available at our website store.



Joel Chmara has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, bringing his brand of joel foolery to poetry and comedy shows alike.

He’s featured on HBO’s Def Poetry, been in the National Poetry Slam finals, co-wrote and co-starred in a Big 10 Basketball commercial, and was once paid not to perform for Michelle Obama (totally true). Joel wrote and performed on ESPN radio Chicago doing comedy work, before launching into performance poetry. He became a member of Poetry Slam creator Marc Smith’s “Speak’Easy” ensemble, which featured at festivals in Chicago, Germany, Switzerland, and France. He is a Communication Professor at The College of Lake County, has a wife and lil’ scamp of a son, and has accepted being a suburban dad who writes in the third person.





Bailey Castle (USA)

Bailey is a stage/film actor and poet based in Chicago, Illinois. She holds a BFA from California State University, Fullerton, is an ensemble member at Theatre Above the Law, and recently costume designed a play for the first time. She and Nate recently worked on a film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as the sole storytellers. Though new to the poetry slam scene, she has loved working alongside Marc Kelly Smith to learn more about this wonderful form of performing. For more information on Bailey, please visit:







Nate Smith (USA)

Nate is originally from the Bay Area of San Francisco. He is an actor, writer, musician, traveller, and Buddhist. At university he studied acting and majored in rhetoric. He is a graduate of Berkeley. His last acting roles were Biff in Death of a Salesman and Macbeth in a film he is creating with Bailey.

Nate lives in Chicago where he met and works with  Marc Smith. He performs poetry at the Green Mill. He is honored to be working with all the other poets in (name of project) and stoked to be back in Budapest.






Eli Bensusan (USA)

Eli Bensusan is an interdisciplinary creative combining poetry with media such as design and animation. He was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. After completing his Bachelors degree in Industrial Design from Istanbul Technical university, he moved to the United States for the Masters in Designed Objects program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He created “Neferka”, a jewelry brand that combines poetry with design. He started developing interest for performance poetry at the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill. He took classes on writing and performing poetry from Chicago Slam Works in 2016. After performing regularly at the Green Mill, home of poetry slam, he was chosen as a part of the New Speakeasy Ensemble and he performed at the bilingual “French Connection 2017” show, directed by Marc Smith. Other cities he performed his pieces include Paris, Berlin and Istanbul.





Goran Zivkovic (Serbia)

By profession: a receptionist, travel guide and economist. In free time: a barman, night guard and a radio presenter. He’s been occupying himself with photography for a long time as a member of the FON photo club from Nis. His poetry has been published in numerous literary journals throughout Serbia. He’s been writing, travelling and performing since 2007. His poetry supports the concept of performance without reading from a paper, accompanied by musical instruments, a projector and a movie screen that serves as a backdrop and the visual support. He participated in numerous poetry meetings , literary colonies and slam festivals throughout Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Estonia, Cyprus… Together with Miljan Milanovic as a co-author, in 2010, he edited a poetry collection “Tortu kroz prozor’’(‘’Cake Through the Window’’) ,” a traveling circus for spreading poetry. In 2012, a library, “Tragači” (The Searchers)  and Cultural Centre of Niš published his book “SPALIPAČITAJ”(‘’Burn-then-Read’’) which won Branko’s Award, for the best first collection of poetry in Serbia. In 2014, at the International Festival „VOJISLAV DESPOTOV“, he won the first prize in the category – poets aged up to 30 years. The same year, he also won the third place for poetry, at the International literary competition „ULAZNICA“.  In addition to this, he won the Audience Award -for the best slam poet in Serbia- in 2011, 2013 and 2015. at the International Novi Sad Literature Festival. His second poetry book ‘’PSIHOSLAJDOVI’’ (‘’The Psychoslides’’) was awarded and published by “Treći trg” Beograd, within Belgrade book&poetry festival   “Trgni se! Poezija!” 2017.

Currently lives in Niš, Serbia, is married, and has a son.


Elena Prendjova (Macedonia)

Elena Prendjova (b. 1985) holds an M.A. in Philology Science and a B.A. in English Language and Literature. She has published seven poetry collections and a book of essays on poetry. She has edited and co-edited two poetry anthologies, too. She performs slam poetry and organises slam competitions. Also, she teaches creative writing courses. She translates poetry from English to Macedonian and vice versa. Currently, she works as a lecturer in Contemporary English Language at a private university in her hometown.






Tomáš Straka (Slovakia)

Is a Slovak poet, novelist, slamer and organizer from Košice . He published two poetry books  Paper back and Hrdina robotníckej triedy ( working class hero). And a short novel Len sa nepozri do očí ( Don’t look into the eyes). He is also one of the main organizers of Slovak slam poetry scene. He participates as a performer and writer on poetic plays in Divadlo na půdě ( Theater on the loft) theater in Prague.






Vaclav Sindelar aka Anatol Svahilec (Czech Republic)

Theatre deserter and traitor who found meaning of his current life on the slam stage. Born in Mladá Boleslav, raised in Pilsen, currently living in Prague. Numerous times in Budapest, now most excited performing here for the first time. Winner of Czech National Slam Championship in 2014, so no one really cares now. Most of his time spending wandering around the Czech Republic performing and showing how slam genre could look like. Or could’t. Probably could’t.



Pavlo Korobchuk (Ukraine) – writer, musician, journalist.

I was born in 1984 in Lutsk. Winner of 20 poetry slams (most wins among Ukrainians). Author of 6 poetry books, 2 novels and 1 book of short stories. Also there are 3 books of my poetry translated into Polish and Slovak. My works were translated into English, German, Italian, Slovak, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Russian languages.

Also I were as a participant on Literaturwerkstatt Berlin ( and MAC ( and many other festivals in Russia, Poland, Bielorussia, Czech Republic etc. Also I hold lectures about future of poetry.




Marton Simon (Hungary)

poet, slam poetry organizer, translator, creative producer.








Mr. Zurg & Yopo (France)

Mr Zurg & Yopo (poets, co-founders of the French national association, the Ligue Slam de France, and organizers of the national championship.











Showcase by local and American slammers

Hungarians: Mészáros Péter, Munding Márton, Maier Péter, Galló Bence, Bárány Bence


USA Showcase

Mwende Katwiwa

Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa is a 26 year old Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer Womyn writer and speaker. The 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, a 2017 TEDWomen speaker and ranked 3rd at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam, FreeQuency is a highly sought after performer, host, social justice teaching artist and workshop leader. Having spent her life at the intersection of arts, education and activism, she/they and/or her/their work in Reproductive Justice, #BlackLivesMatter organizing & activism, LGBTQ+ advocacy and poetry have been featured on Upworthy, OkayAfrica, TEDx, the New York Times, For Harriet, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, & other outlets. FreeQuency is a founding cochair of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, a founding committee member of the New Orleans Youth Open Mic (NOYOM), festival coordinator for the New Orleans Youth Poetry Festival a blogger with the AfroFashion and Culture Blog Noirlinians and a member of Wildseeds: The New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective. She currently works as a community organizer at the Reproductive Justice group Women With A Vision where she runs the Young Women With A Vision program.

You can view her work at

Bob Holman

Bob Holman’s poetry has traversed genres, styles and media since the 1970’s, when he began directing Poets Theater productions by Mayakovsky, Artaud, O’Hara and others at St. Marks Church. It was also at St. Mark’s where Holman began his career as an arts administrator, serving at the Poetry Project as Coordinator, host, and workshop leader for six years, 1978-84. The first of Holman’s sixteen poetry collections, Tear To Open, was published by Power Mad Press in 1979. In 1985, Holman served as the host of “Lines,” a radio series for the Detroit Institute for the Arts. While serving as co-director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe from 1988-96, Holman continued to explore the intersection of poetry and performance, originating and hosting the Cafe’s historic Poetry Slam series. Through Holman’s involvement at the Nuyorican, he became an instrumental figure in the popularization of performance poetry movements around the world. He won a Bessie (Off-Broadway) Award for Performance Excellence in 1992 for his work at the Nuyorican, and in 1993, the Cafe presented Holman with its Legends Award.
In 1993, Holman became a professor of writing at The New School For Social Research, where he taught “Exploding Text: Poetry Performance” for three years. That year, and again in 2001, Holman was a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellow.

Holman co-edited Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, an anthology of Nuyorican poetry which received the 1994 Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award. In his June, 1995 New Yorker profile, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. described Holman as “The postmodern promoter who has done more to bring poetry to cafes and bars than anyone since Ferlinghetti.”
At the forefront of the intersection of poetry and film, Holman’s work in television began in 1987 when he became producer and host of WNYC-TV’s short film series “Poetry Spots.” Over six seasons, Holman produced fifty-five “Poetry Spots,” and won Emmy Awards for Local Arts Programming and Editing in 1988 and 1992. From 1990-92, Holman produced and performed in “Words in Your Face” for PBS, and appeared in MTV’s “Spoken Word Unplugged” and “Smokin Word.”
In 1995 Holman pushed poetry further beyond the page when he founded the world’s first spoken word poetry record label, Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records, where he served as Vice President of Artistic Development until 1999. To ensure a permanent home for the arts in Lower Manhattan, in 1995 Holman founded Bowery Arts and Science, the non-profit arts organization where he served as Executive Director until 2005, and currently serves as Artistic Director.

As creator and producer of the award winning, five-part PBS television series “The United States of Poetry,” Holman released his first long-form intersectional work in 1996. Featured at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals, “USOP” won the 1996 International Public Television Award (INPUT). Holman’s poetry films have won awards at Berlin’s Zebra International Poetry Film Festival in 2002, 2004, and 2010. His experience melding poetry and media informed his professorship at Bard College, where from 1998 to 2002, he served as Visiting Professor of Writing and Integrated Arts. From 2007 to 2010, Holman was Visiting Professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and he is currently on leave from the Columbia University School of the Arts.
In 2001, Holman founded the Bowery Poetry Club, which continues to play host to much of the programming from Bowery Arts and Science. For his decades of work in service to the arts community in New York and beyond, Holman has received numerous community awards, including the Poets & Writers Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award in 2003, NYU’s Community Citizen of the Year award in 2005, the Elizabeth Kray Poetry award from Poets House in 2006, Zebra Film Festival’s “Founder of Poetry Video” award in 2010, the 2011 Hearing Our Voices Award from Voices Unbroken Incarcerated Youth Program, the 2011 Villager Award from Greenwich Village Historical Preservation Society, and the 2012 Urban Word Champion Award.
Holman began his current work with the poetry of endangered languages while tracing the lineage of performance poetry to its root in orality and the world’s oral traditions—particularly those of West African griots—a quest captured in the 2010 LinkTV documentary film, “On the Road with Bob Holman.” While traveling from West Africa to Israel and the West Bank for “On the Road,” Holman became dedicated to protecting and preserving the world’s endangered languages. In 2010, he co-founded the Endangered Language Alliance, where he currently serves as co-director.

West African oral traditions play an influential role in Holman’s recent poetic work. Holman explored the griot tradition of praise poetry in his artistic collaboration with photographer Chuck Close in their 2006 publication, A Couple Ways of Doing Something, where Holman’s praise poems serve as concrete analogues to Close’s daguerreotype portraits. Sing This One Back To Me, Holman’s 2013 collection from Coffee House Press, builds on Holman’s transcription of poems sung to him by his friend, mentor, and collaborator, Gambian griot Papa Susso. Holman’s forthcoming collection, Unspoken, to be published in 2018 by The Operating System, also contains a section of praise poems in the oral tradition.
While the New York arts community, to which much of Holman’s career has been devoted, remains a primary focus of his, Holman has now shifted his lens to the global community of language. Language Matters with Bob Holman, a documentary exploring the endangered language crisis, aired nationally on PBS in January, 2015. Filmed around the world, “Language Matters” takes viewers to a remote island off the Australian coast, where four hundred Aboriginal people speak ten distinct indigenous languages, all at risk; to Wales, where Welsh, once endangered, has recovered; and to Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue.
In 2016, he was a selector for Poet’s Corner at St John the Divine and for 2017, Bob is the creative consultant to Alonzo King’s LINES ballet company, with a production inspired by endangered languages. He will also be teaching Exploding Text: Poetry Performance at Princeton University fall 17.