July 31, 2009—Literary Death Match Chicago, Ep. 3 at the Printer’s Ball in the universe-famous Ludington Building was a night of many firsts! For starters, it was the most stage-populated LDM in history as it brought together a record eight readers (trumping Chicago, Ep. 1’s six), in an blockbuster poetry-off that ended with THE2NDHAND's Spencer Dew belting a stunned Michael Czyzniejewski of ACM (Another Chicago Magazine) in a Chicago Author’s Face Guess-Off that Dew won by a startling 5-1 to become the LDM champion.
The night, sponsored by POETRY, kicked off with the excellent Adam Levin (Ninth Letter), followed by a subdued and fantastic Dew, then up stepped Gabriel Gudding (MAKE) who used his four minutes or less to read a poem that humorously chastised his fellow readers. The round concluded with Febronio Zatarain(contratiempo) whose performance included him choking himself briefly, performing in Spanish, crawling on the floor, and all of it backed by a guitarist. Then the mic was turned over to a trio of brilliant judges: Nami Mun (Miles from Nowhere), artist Jay Ryan, and funnyman Barry Hite (iO, Second City, Annoyance Theaters). While we could try to recap the genius that spilled forth, we’ll hold off until we have video proof, and simply report that Dew was selected the night’s first finalist.
After an 18-second intermission, the night turned to the second round which was a collection of readers not to be forgotten. First came the sensationally red-dressed and sensational Simone Muench (representing POETRY) backed by genius guitarist Tim Rutili from Califone, then came Switchback Books’ Kathleen Rooney who read a series of staggering pieces before Paul Killebrew (Canarium Books) read one, two-and-a-half-minute long, sentence. Finally, the night’s eighth reader (and crowd favorite)— Czyzniejewski—took the stage and belted out a fantastic piece that pleased his rabid fan base. Over to the judges, once again too “raw” to put into words, Czyzniejewski was selected as the night’s second finalist.
Then came a finale that defied common thought, as host Todd Zuniga flashed pictures of Chicago-born authors, with Dew and Czyzniejewski hurrying to shout their names. When either finalist didn’t immediately know the answer, Zuniga turned to the crowd to shout out hints—book titles, names of husbands/wives, era they wrote in, etc. Stumped by most of the faces shown, Czyzniejewski scored Ernest Hemingway, while Dew’s wild guess of “Carl Sandburg” time and again eventually bore fruit, as did his answers for Ray Bradbury, Shel Silverstein, Saul Bellow and finally, Michael Crichton—the last of which snared him the Literary Death Match prize.