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Poetry in the air, Chicago poetry events Fall 2018
by Kelsey Hoff
2018-09-19

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This fall, "local author" shelves of Chicago's indie bookstores will be flooded with titles that "disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed," as the old adage says art should.

In almost all of these new works, lived experiences are taken apart and examined to complicate notions of gender, sexuality, race, class and immigration, concerned with both identity and politics, often finding them inseparable.

September brings three new collections from Chicago press Haymarket Books, including On My Way To Liberation by H. Melt, Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri and Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez. Kapri and Olivarez will read from their new books at Women & Children First Friday, Oct. 5. Chicago Poet Julian Randall won the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Prize with his collection Refuse, which he will discuss with Tara Betts at Seminary Co-op Friday, Sept. 21. Jacob Saenz will be joined by Fred Sasaki and Krista Franklin at his launch and reading for Throwing the Crown; Franklin also has a forthcoming title, Under the Knife, from Chicago's Candor Arts. Poets Tara Betts, T. Clutch Fleischmann and Kenyatta Rogers will read with Ruben Quesada Thursday, Nov. 15 at his launch of Revelations at Unabridged Bookstore.

Poetry is not limited to the page: events, exhibits and performances bring verse to surprising locations all over the city. Fall's largest poetry event by far, 10,000 Poets for Change, takes over literary spaces nationwide with readings promoting peace, sustainability and justice. A searchable database on the 100TPC blog contains information on local events. Though it's not usually a competitive sport, The Book Cellar will host a Poetry Pentathlon Saturday, Sept. 22 with five events including "The Signature Poem" and "The Rant."

Dancers put poetry in motion in the annual Body Passages Series at Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble. This year, 11 poets and dancers selected for the 10-month Artist-in-Residency program were paired into five groups to collaborate and develop their own artist-led project centered around the theme of "activation." The culminating performances will take place Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13.

A new exhibit opens at The Poetry Foundation Friday, Sept. 28; visual artist and poet Krista Franklin's "… to take root among the stars" maps Afrofuturist and AfroSurrealist thought on handmade paper. Franklin will perform at the opening along with Aricka Foreman, Kara Jackson and Jamila Woods, with music by DJ Rae Chardonnay. The exhibit will be open through Friday, Dec. 21.

At the Lit & Luz Festival Oct. 13-20, poets, writers and visual artists from Chicago and Mexico City collaborate in cultural exchange and conversation with readings, discussions, artist talks and performances. The Poetry Foundation will host an event during the festival Wednesday, Oct. 17, and MAKE Literary Productions will host a bilingual conversation between the two featured Mexican authors Fernanda Melchor and JuliÃín Herbert at The Hideout Friday, Oct. 19. Other events will be posted on the Lit & Luz website.

This November, the American Writers Museum will open a temporary exhibit all about a famous singer/songwriter to whom many American poets trace their lyrical sensibilities. The Bob Dylan exhibit will focus on his enduring influence on American culture, music and writing, as well as his selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. A Fender electric guitar that Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 will be on display, and a series of intimate events featuring current singer/songwriters in genres from hip-hop to folk begins in September.

Some special readings this fall provide rare chances to see visiting poets. The Poetry Foundation is hosting three exciting Poetry Off the Shelf readings during the Chicago Humanities Festival in November, beginning with Kazim Ali at Gallery Guichard Friday, Nov. 2 and Jos Charles at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts Saturday, Nov. 3. United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey reads the next weekend Saturday, Nov. 10 at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Rupi Kaur will perform at The Chicago Theater Monday, Oct. 1.

Book festivals give Chicago readers another opportunity to mingle with their favorite poets and presses. Lit Crawl Chicago always features great poetry readings at Andersonville hot spots; this year's crawl takes place Saturday, Sept. 22. Chicago-area small presses congregate at the Chicago Book Expo at Columbia College Monday, Oct. 1.


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