National Poetry Month just came to an end when April turned to May, but some Chicago poets say the city celebrates poetry all year round.
Chicago boasts a Poetry Foundation, a Poetry Center and poetry reading events on almost any night of the week.
Chicago even has an official Poetry Tour, which includes Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks’s neighborhood library, the Union Stock Yards, where Chicago became Carl Sandburg’s “Hog Butcher for the World,” and The Green Mill lounge in Edgewater, home of the “slam poetry” launched in 1987.The tour also takes in Maxwell Street and Chess Records, which were inspirations for bluesy poets, and Haymarket Square, a memorial to the labor movement.
“The pool of poets here and competition is crazy,” said Jermaine Clark, 24, of Wicker Park. “I’ve performed at Young Chicago Authors, Multikulti, and the Underground Lounge. I’ve listened at many more.”
It is not difficult to find a place to sit and listen or perform; there are places throughout the city and neighborhoods that host Spoken Word, Poetry Slams and Open Mikes.
Many adolescents in Chicago are aware of the poetry scene. Many young poets said the city offers great support to young artists, giving many of them opportunities to express and show off their talents.
“I know that currently many areas in Chicago provide fantastic forums for youth poetry and open mics,” said Sydney Thomas, 21, of West Loop. “For instance, the Harold Washington Library’s youth center gave a lot of Chicago hip-hop artists a chance to flex their lyrical muscles including Dally Auston and Chance the Rapper, who is featured on the outside of the center.”
Young Chicago Authors, in Wicker Park, hosts a weekly free writer’s workshop followed by WordPlay, (Chicago’s longest running youth open mic). Every Tuesday, YCA packs a full house from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.
In March, YCA hosted its 13th annual competition “Louder Than a Bomb.” Founded in 2001 by Kevin Coval and Anna West of YCA, “Louder Than a Bomb” is now the largest youth slam in the world. 2011 had its largest attendance yet with over 70 teams competing.
Participants ranged from middle school to college. The goal was to draw diverse youth from around the Chicago area, as well as some areas in Indiana.
A documentary film about the competition opened in New York in July 2010 and again in Los Angeles in August 2010 at the 14th Annual DocuWeeks.
“Louder Than a Bomb always seems to have a strong presence and interest within the city,” said Thomas.
Some poets said they particularly appreciate National Poetry Month in April.
Asha Sporn, 18, of Oak Park, said, “I write throughout the year; however, April is a good exercise for me as I am participating in the 30/30 challenge where you write one poem a day. I may or may not be a little behind.”
Some of the monthly events in April include: Uncommon Ground (Wrigleyville) “Story Club” every Thursday, 8 p.m.; Township (Logan Square) “I Shit You Not!” the last Thursday of every month, 8 p.m.; The Venue (South Loop) “Solo Saturdays at The Venue” the second Saturday of every Month, 8 p.m.; Le Fleur de Lis (Bronzeville) “Asylum Sundays,” 7 p.m.; Green Mill (Uptown) “Uptown Poetry Slam,” every Sunday, 7 p.m.; Shambles Bar (Ukrainian Village/East Village) “The Shit Show Open Mic,” last Friday of every month, 8.pm.