Robbie Q. Telfer
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Robbie Q. Telfer

Band Spoken Word Comedy


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"Junkyard Ghost Revival at WWU"

video review here: - Western Washington University

"Off Book: Robbie Q. Telfer"

Editor’s note: With so much of the publishing industry focused on the coasts, Chicago writers often make a name for themselves at readings in dive bars, small theaters and the like. This week, we profile a writer who finds an audience on the stage.

Robbie Q. Telfer’s “Another Chicago Poem” begins with a little call and response with our fair city. “When will you realize that the graffiti is a gift?” he asks, and then answers, “Perhaps when we realize that the hyper segregation you gave us is a gift too— / a shitty one.”

You won’t find another poet haunting the bars and coffee shops with as much humor in his verse as Telfer. A regular at the city’s slam staples like Mental Graffiti and The Green Mill’s Uptown Poetry Slam, Telfer has a seasoned comedian’s presence on stage, at once unassuming and unpredictable. When we saw him read from “Another Chicago Poem,” he volleyed a rhythmic barrage of adjectives at the city, and followed with “I miss you when I’m gone but ne’er do I pine / because no one pines anymore.”

“Slam is often hip-hop–focused, but I don’t come from that tradition,” says Telfer, on the phone from his job as performances manager for Young Chicago Authors. “The tradition I come from is stand-up comedy, which has its own rhythm.”

Telfer, 27, must have stand-up in his blood. His brother, Dan, is a successful comic in town—he performs in the standout show Impress These Apes and placed third in TOC’s Funniest Person in Chicago contest. And Telfer is unabashed in his desire to mix poetry and comedy.“Definitely, with some of my funnier poems I pull directly from my favorite comedians,” he says. “In one poem in particular I can trace where I was thinking about the Simpsons, South Park, Patton Oswalt and David Cross as I was writing it.”

Not your standard list of poetic influences, which recalls an ongoing argument in the poetry community, a community that loves arguments. Can something like what Telfer does—funny, performance-based poetry—actually be considered poetry?

“My definition of poetry is an open one,” he says. “The poet Kenneth Koch talks about poetry as its own language, that you have to learn the rules of, in order to communicate in it. So performance poetry is the language of performance attached to the language of poetry. It’s up to the individual performer to use whatever parts of those languages fit their needs.”

Catch Telfer’s brand of comic poetry any Sunday at the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill.
- Timeout Chicago


My first chapbook is called _Television Children_ and my first CD is _Girls Like Feelings and Ponies_.

My first full self-published book can be found on and is entitled _My Huge Heart Still Has No Room for You_.

I've also produced a chapbook and CD with famous spoken word poet Mike McGee called _No Showers Till Toronto/No Showers Since Chicago_ and _Robbie Q & Mike McGee: Live at the Bowery Poetry Club_, respectively.

My first collection of published poetry, _Spiking the Sucker Punch_, is due out in the fall from Write Bloody Publishing (

My work can be heard on the IndieFeed podcast online as well as YouTube.



I'm a touring performance poet, having been a featured performer/reader/lecturer in dozens of universities, festivals, open mics, high schools, retirement homes, bars, and living rooms across North America and Germany. Previous work of mine is published in the American Book Review, Octopus Magazine, and a forthcoming cream city review, as well as several spoken word poetry anthologies and DVDs. I live in Chicago where I perform in Marc Smith's Speak'Easy Poetry Ensemble and am the Performances Manager for Young Chicago Authors, a not-for-profit that gives creative writing opportunities and mentorship to Chicago teens. In August 2007, I placed 8th individually at the National Poetry Slam in Austin, TX.

As a performance poet, I recognize and give equal attention to my performing persona and the thought that informs my words. I am therefore equally inspired by Steve Martin and Charles Bukowski - my favorite performers leave the audience still talking about them after the show has ended, my favorite poets write performative poetry that construct invisible mics and stages between their lines.