Refugee Poet Burns Bright: Middle Eastern Poets at the Poetry Foundation

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Photo: Iraqi Mutual Aid Society

Assyrian poet Younan Houma at last year’s festival/Photo: Iraqi Mutual Aid Society

Twana Twana carried sixty years of memories from his native Mosul to Chicago’s North Side in 2012. Routine work days as a pharmacist in the old city, or glimpses of his favorite landmark, an imperfectly leaning minaret giving Mosul its nickname “the hunchback,” are cherished memories that shape his poems. Though resettlement has greatly helped his children, like many Iraqi refugees Twana finds himself torn between his birthplace and Chicago. “As a refugee you are like a candle, you burn so that others can see,” he says.

This month, Twana is one of a handful of local Middle Eastern refugee poets reading at the Poetry Foundation’s April 23 Poetry Off the Shelf event, “What We Carried: Poetry by Middle Eastern Refugees.” The festival is cohosted with the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society, a local nonprofit based in West Ridge which serves some of the eight thousand Iraqi refugees resettled in the Chicago area since 2007. Local refugees as well as published Middle Eastern poets will read at the event to shed light on Middle Eastern experiences in the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Lit: Reading Under the Influence

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Vintage-books-500x260

Halfway into round three of trivia, a race had formed in the packed back room of Sheffield’s. Everyone in the audience technically had a point after they unanimously shouted an answer, but two in the crowd had emerged ahead. Before the featured reader continued, co-host Jon Natzke interrupted him to shout, “The only people who should be answering are those with two points.” As a RUI veteran, I know this warning is necessary, as the crowd at “Reading Under the Influence” is a raucous bunch, and with a book and a drink ticket on the line, anything goes. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Evanston Public Library Hosts First Annual Storytelling Festival

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Evanston storytelling festival - (Emily Hooper Lansana (R) Zahra Baker (L)

Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana

On October 9-11, the Evanston Public Library will host its first annual Storytelling Festival, featuring a wide array of free events, including storytelling for all ages, panels, workshops, and spoken-word poetry, held at the library, the Celtic Knot Public House, the Woman’s Club of Evanston, and an outdoor family tent. Read the rest of this entry »

News: The Chicago Public Library Selects its One Book, One Chicago Title and Hosts Banned Books Week

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ThomasDyjaPhotoCreditBill Guerriero

Thomas Dyja/Photo: Bill Guerriero

“The Third Coast” by Thomas Dyja is the One Book, One Chicago selection for this fall and the twenty-sixth book the program has selected since its inception in the fall of 2001. For those unfamiliar, OBOC is a Chicago Public Library Program that aims to unite the city via the shared experience of reading the same book. Each book is selected along with a corresponding theme, which is then explored through various free programming.

As Jennifer Lizak, Coordinator of Special Projects with The Chicago Public Library explains, this year’s theme, “Chicago: The City That Gives,” “was a natural fit not only for the book [but] also for a season-long exploration.” She also notes that this year the CPL collaborated with their partners at the Chicago Community Trust in choosing a book and theme so that it would also reflect the Chicago Community Trust’s centennial celebration.

Lizak also shares why she believes the program is so compelling for so many Chicagoans: “I think people are attracted to the One Book, One Chicago program because it is a shared experience that we don’t often get to have once we are adults. Even if you do not attend a book-discussion group, there’s something neat about knowing you’re reading a book at the same time that thousands of other Chicagoans are also reading it.” That notion of community is reflected in the fact that this year, for the first time ever, every single library in the CPL system will be hosting a One Book-related event. Read the rest of this entry »

News: All About the Business—The Fourth Annual Chicago Writers’ Conference

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CWC 1

Photo: Elliot Mandel Photo

In 2011, Mare Swallow created the Chicago Writers’ Conference after she noticed a lack of opportunity in Chicago for writers to rub shoulders with editors, agents, publishers and other literary professionals. Now in its fourth year, the growth and success of the CWC is a testament to the unique and vibrant Chicago literary scene. Read the rest of this entry »

News: The Thirty-First Annual Newberry Book Sale Boasts 120,000 Titles

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July 27,      2013

Midsummer is a special time in Chicago. Each weekend seems to host another festival, another fair, taste, or block party. But for all of the book lovers in this city, The Newberry Book Fair is surely one of the most anticipated. This year marks the thirty-first year of the four-day book fair. Read the rest of this entry »

News: The Guild Literary Complex Celebrates Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award’s Twenty-Second Year

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Gwendolyn Brooks

Earlier this week, the Guild Literary Complex announced the semi-finalists for their twenty-second Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, an accolade that Brooks started twenty-two years ago to celebrate poets from all over Illinois. During an open call for submissions in June, the Guild received 120 poems from writers from across sixty-six zip codes, competing for the $600 prize. Twenty out of the original pool have made it to the final round, which will be held on July 22 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at 7pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Lewd Laughs: Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction Comes to Chicago

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competitive erotic fan fiction

Artist: Marc Palm

Chicago stand-ups Mike Lebovitz, Stephanie Hasz, Katie McVay and others will perform in the critically acclaimed traveling comedy show Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction at North Bar, 1637 West North Avenue, tonight at 8pm as part of the Comedy Exposition of 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Being in Conversation About Art: The Eleventh Annual Printers Ball

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Printers Ball 1

Photo: Cynthia Post

This Saturday, June 27, the Spudnik Press Cooperative will host the eleventh annual Printers Ball. In a conversation held via email, Angee Lennard, the founder and director of the Spudnik Press Cooperative, explained that this year’s festival will be unlike the ones that preceded it in two distinct ways: “First, this Printers Ball will be more hands-on and tactile than ever.” As Lennard notes, one such example of this is evident in the number of workshops that the Spudnik Press Printshop will run, allowing this year’s attendees multiple opportunities to create their own prints. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Blast: Thirty-first Annual Printers Row Lit Fest Aims to “Expand Your Mind”

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printers row lit festThe annual lit fest where book lovers from all over the city come to hang with other bibliophiles, learn from master writers and geek-out with well-known authors is back. Within days, the Chicago Tribune will present the thirty-first edition of the Printers Row Lit Fest (PRLF), which will take place in the Printers Row neighborhood between Congress and Polk on Saturday, June 6 from 10am to 8pm and Sunday, June 7 from 10am to 6pm. Read the rest of this entry »