Hall of Fame

The Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam Hall of Fame

These are the people that have been a big part of the Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam.  Without these people there would not be a Poetry Jam as we know it if at all.

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith

Jeff Robinson asked Patricia for advice when he had the idea in 1995 of having music accompany poets at a weekly venue.  Patricia was then the host of the Boston Poetry Slam held at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge MA.  The Jeff Robinson Trio performed with Patricia at Scullers and other local jazz venues before she left for NYC and the trio also recorded with Patricia on Rounder Records

Called “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” Patricia Smith is a renaissance artist of unmistakable signature, recognized as a force in the fields of poetry, playwriting, fiction, performance and creative collaboration.

She is the author of six critically-acknowledged volumes of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2014 Rebekah Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy American Poets and the Phillis Wheatley Award in Poetry; Blood Dazzler (a National Book Award finalist), and Teahouse of the Almighty (a National Poetry Series winner), all from Coffee House Press; Close to Death and Big Towns, Big Talk, both from Zoland Books, and Life According to Motown from Tia Chucha Press. She also edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir.

Her other books include Africans in America (Harcourt Brace), a companion volume to the groundbreaking four-part PBS history series, and the children’s book, Janna and the Kings, a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner.

Patricia’s work has appeared in Poetry (including the journal’s 100th anniversary edition), The Paris Review, Granta, Tin House, TriQuarterly, poemmemoirstory, Ecotone, Able Muse and many other journals, and in dozens of groundbreaking anthologies–including Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Villanelles, Killer Verse–Poems of Mayhem and Murder, American Tensions–Literary Identity and the Search for Justice, and 100 Best African American Poems. Her contribution to Staten Island Noir, the story “When They Are Done With Us” won the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America (for best debut story in the genre) and is upcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, for her poems “The Way Pilots Walk” and “Laugh Your Troubles Away!” In the summer of 2012, she was awarded fellowships to both Yaddo and the McDowell Colony, where she worked in a studio once occupied by James Baldwin.

Recognized as one of the world’s most formidable performers, Patricia has read her work at venues round the world, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Urban Voices in South Africa, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. In the U.S., she’s performed at the National Book Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Dodge Poetry Festival, Bumbershoot, the Folger Shakespeare Library and St. Mark’s Poetry Project, sharing the stage with noted writers such as Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Allen Ginsberg, Walter Mosley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, Galway Kinnell and “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Morgensen. She has collaborated with Boston stalwart Philip Pemberton (currently lead vocalist of Roomful of Blues) and the blues band Bop Thunderous, and as an occasional vocalist with the stellar improvisational jazz groups Paradigm Shift and Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble. Patricia is a four-time national individual champion of the notorious and wildly popular Poetry Slam, the most successful competitor in slam history. She was featured in the nationally-released film “Slamnation,” and appeared on the award-winning HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.”

Recordings of Patricia’s work can be found on the CD “Always in the Head” as well as in the compilations “Grand Slam,” “A Snake in the Heart” “By Someone’s Good Graces” and “Lip.” A short film of her performing the poem “Undertaker,” produced by Tied to the Tracks Films, won awards at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals and earned a prestigious Cable Ace Award as part of the Lifetime Network’s first annual Women’s Film Festival. As a budding voiceover artist, she was the radio voice of the Oil of Olay Total Effects product line.

The book Blood Dazzler was the basis for a dance/theater production which sold out a week-long series of performances at New York’s Harlem Stage. The Play Company in New York City produced “Professional Suicide,” a one-woman show that got its start while Smith was writer-in-residence at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and a selection of Patricia’s poetry was also produced as a one-woman play by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott and performed at both Boston University Playwrights Theater and the historic Trinidad Theater Workshop. Another play, based on Life According to Motown, was staged by Company One Theater in Hartford, Ct., and reviewed favorably in The New York Times.

An accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith appears often at creative conferences and residencies, customizes workshops for all age groups and is available for intensive individual instruction. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, a professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island and a faculty member of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.

Iyeoka Okoawo

Iyeoka Okoawo

Iyeoka Okoawo

Iyeoka is one of the original Lizard Lounge Poetry Slam Team members.  The only poet to have 10 consecutive years on the team.  She has grown into an international recording and touring artist.

Nigerian-American poet, recording artist and TED Fellow, Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo has completed recording her second album, Gold, for US-based label Underground Sun. The new 13-song collection of work is to be released worldwide on July 1, 2016.

The album was recorded in Venice, California over the last year. Key songs include the inspirational Thunder, Hurricane and Akomen of Udomi; a song dedicated to the captured girls in Nigeria. Similar to the last full length effort by the writing & producing team Iyeoka and producer/ songwriter David Franz, the album captures an eclectic mix of afrobeat, pop, jazz, dance and rock. Sinnerman is an ode and nod to the great Nina Simone who also covers the song.  Sweet Song features an award winning poem.

Although a resident of Boston MA, Iyeoka spends many months in Hawaii where the core of her band Rock By Funk Tribe call their home base. It was in Hawaii where the hypnotic and melodic songs Who Would Follow and Gold were created and came to life. The album also includes the single  Every Second Every Hour which was released in May 2015.

A few of Iyeokas many accolades include recipient of 2010 TED Global Fellow and winner of 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion. 2016 brings her back to TED to host a conference in June. Her family started and runs the Amenawon Foundation to help less fortunate people in her home country of Nigeria. This is a repeating theme in many of her poems and songs.

Iyeoka means I want to be respected in her native Esan language and the artist is the true embodiment of her name. Daughter of Nigerian-born parents who both hold Doctorate degrees from Boston University, Iyeoka was a practicing pharmacist before launching her career as a poet, singer, activist and educator. By channeling her culture and ancestral influences, she delivers an authentic and inspiring message of healing through her expression in the arts.

Iyeoka has toured in support of artists such as Femi Kuti, Zap Mama and Soul Live, as well as played several musical festivals throughout 2014 and 2015 including Cully Jazz Festival, Colours Festival, Afro Pfingsten, and Helsinki Festival to name a few. The buzz surrounding her poetry has also garnered her national attention through performances at the TBS Trumpet Awards, the Sullivan Honors Awards at the Kennedy Center and Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on HBO.

Dwight Hart

Dwight Hart

Dwight Hart

Dwight is the original drummer of the Jeff Robinson Trio and also Jeff’s cousin. One of the best drummers you’ll get to hear in your life if you’re lucky enough to hear him.

Music is in Mr. Hart’s blood and has recorded with or opened for artists including Beyonce, Wyclef, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, Heather Nova and Collie Buddz. His grandfather, drummer Elliston Butterfield, played for silent movies in Bermuda in the 1920s and his uncle Charles Butterfield was a drummer with Hubert Smith.

His “musical father” and mentor, however, has always been Clarence “Tootsie” Bean.

“At seven, I stalked Tootsie,” said Mr. Hart. “My aunt and uncle lived next door to him and I would visit them on Fridays. I would just go over to his house, let myself in and start playing his drums. He never refused me.”

Mr. Bean gave him drum lessons and organized his first performance at age nine, with Ghandi Burgess in what was then a hot nightclub, the Jungle Room.

“He was the one who really encouraged me to study music at Berklee College in Boston at age 16,” Mr. Hart said. “The most important lesson he taught me was to stay humble.”

Jerome Deupree

Jerome Deupree

Jerome Deupree

Jerome has had the longest stay of any of the drummers for the Jeff Robinson Trio.  Jerome is a legend drummer having made his name as the original drummer for rock giants Morphine.  Here’s what he has to say about himself

“My story… Born in November of 1956 in Cincinnati, OH. Started drumming at age 6, started gigging in my early teens and have been going ever since. I totally love the drums and will surely do it as long as I’m able.

History… I had two older brothers who helped get me started. Jack, the oldest, originally played drums and later switched to bass. Jesse, the next youngest to me (there are two sisters too) played guitar. They both helped me a whole lot and are probably the reason that I started at all.

Jack had a set of Ludwigs in Black Diamond Pearl (still love that finish). There was also a set of bongos about and I started hitting those one summer (’62?)

I remember listening to the movie soundtrack to “West Side Story” and all of the drama and emotion in the music. There were bongos in there as well and I guess something clicked.

Shortly after that, I got a snare drum for my birthday, and then the Beatles were on the TV. Soon, a set followed and I just played whenever I could. Once a year I would take my drums to school and play for my classmates. In the summer I would play with my brothers and their friends. In the early 70’s Jesse formed a band and we played at the Forefathers Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. This lasted a couple of years and then I was slowly starting to play other gigs when the chance arose. I loved sitting in whenever I could and enjoyed the challenge of playing on the spot as it were.

After high school, I moved to Bloomington, Indiana and got to record in a studio for the first time. I was also freelancing, playing whenever possible. After a few years, I got the urge to move on and so I went to Santa Cruz, CA. Here, I played with The Human, and did some touring as well. Summer of ’81 I came to Boston and have been here ever since.

Joyce Cunha

Joyce Cunha

Joyce Cunha

Joyce Cunha aka SlamMama has been the Lizard Lounge Co-SlamMaster since 2000. She has attended every National Poetry Slam since 1999, when she was the First Alternate for the Cantab Team. When she’s not hanging out at the Lizard Lounge, she’s a Coordinator of Special Education and Student Services for the Boston Public School system at the Ellis and the Higginson Schools in Roxbury. Joyce grew up in Somerville and has been living in Dorchester for most of her adult life. Her passion for poetry and artistic expression, teaching, and children enriches her life. Her large extended family, which includes her friends, is her lifeline.

Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons is the coach and strategist for the Lizard Lounge Poetry Slam Team!  He’s a very important and beloved member of the Lizard Lounge Poetry Family!  No one can replace Tom Parsons in our hearts and lives.  Tom is THE MAIN MAN!