"Poetry is absolutely an afterthought at SXSW," says Cleve, a 27-year-old former oil and gas lobbyist from Pflugerville. Although the performers were selected by Mike Henry, who also books the Electric Lounge acts, Cleve says she is the "cruise director" for SXSW poetry, which draws entrants from all over the nation. "It keeps getting bigger every year," she says. "And SXSW has been good enough to let poetry take its place organically."
Still, when it was all over, no one had walked away with a fat contract for a multi-album deal with Virgin, which signed Jeff Liles (cottonmouth, texas) last year. There were just a few vague propositions for publishing in literary magazines (mostly for free) and a lot of anticipation about the National Slam Championships, to be held in Austin come August. But at one point, the audience was asked to stand up and hug the person next to them. Cleve asked: "I bet you don't get that kinda thing at a big, fancy rock show, do you?"