Cramming into a private living room to listen at the feet of poets is a strangely intimate, absorbing experience. The poems are not filtered by distance or microphone. Sitting on the floor with your knees touching those of a stranger makes for a personal response to words read—a warmer, more human literary experience than that of most events. If you haven’t been to The Dollhouse Reading Series, you have until July to get there. Why? The famed Lincoln Square poetry salon will close its doors after five years and fifty readings. Curators Dolly Lemke and Holly Amos reflect on the series.
Do you recall a particularly memorable reading or poet?
Too many! There was the time someone came straight from the hospital, admittance wristband and all, to see David Trinidad read—and passed out at one point. Our good friend, Nathan Breitling, who died suddenly a couple years ago, read his Kudzu poems. He had recorded himself, editing out large sections of words so all that was left were various letter sounds (youtube.com/watch?v=Y3x3EGXHMUA). Hoa Nguyen gave tarot readings. Gabriel Gudding took off his shoes and sat down to read. Daniel Borzutzky passed around produce while reading. Dorothea Lasky read via Skype. Jessica Dyer read poems about her uterus. Jennifer Knox brought us home-brewed cider. Roger Reeves and James Arthur stunned everyone by reading from memory. Lauren Haldeman read with a puppet box. Many times readers have been a wee bit intoxicated and it was either charming or something else!
Why have you decided to stop?
The Dollhouse has been in three different apartments. This year Dolly may move to a space that won’t be as conducive to hosting forty friends and strangers for an evening of readings and camaraderie. Our professional and personal obligations have grown. It’s a lot of (wonderful, beautiful) work. We’re looking forward to using the extra time to work on our own poems, to help with the online journal Pinwheel and be audience members for a change. (Toni Nealie)
The Dollhouse Reading Series #49, May 14, features francine j. harris, Ryan Collins, Emily Jungmin Yoon and Jacob Victorine. The Dollhouse Reading Series #50, June 11, features Tomás Q. Mórin, Abigail Zimmer and Davy Knittle. Doors open at 7pm, reading starts around 7:30pm, 2274 West Leland. Finale, July 9. thedollhousereads.tumblr.com
Toni Nealie is the Literary Editor of Newcity and the author of the essay collection “The Miles Between Me.” A Pushcart Prize nominee, her essays have appeared in Guernica Magazine, Rust Belt: Chicago, The Rumpus, The Offing, Essay Daily, Chicago Quarterly Review, Hobart, Entropy and elsewhere. She worked in magazine journalism, politics and PR in her native New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore and now edits, writes and teaches in Chicago. Find her at toninealie.com and on Twitter @tnealie. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.