The eighth Chicago Calling came is almost over already. Once again the event was successful, and it inspired great creativity in most of the participants, For those of you unfamiliar with the event, Chicago Calling is an annual art festival in which Chicago artists collaborate with creators from other states or countries The main mastermind behind the event is my old colleague, Dan Godston, a fine poet and jazz musician (he’s also a great cultural cheerleader). Information about his group, Borderbends which also puts on the Mingus Awareness Project concerts is available at this link. http://www.borderbend.org/
The last Chicago Calling events take place this weekend. On Friday, at Multi Kulti at 1000 N. Milwaukee, there will be an art show focusing on the topic of surveillance starting at 10 pm (I wonder if any government officials will moniter it). On Saturday October 12, many artists will celebrate nature in Gary Indiana at the Grant Theatre at 3850 Grant Street at noon to two. There is a suggested unspecified donation.
I regret not being able to go to more CC events this year, but I was teaching classes almost every night of the week. One of the events I went to involved a reading in which poets performed works by their favorite Spanish language writers. Saul Aguirre, the talented artist who hosted the event, read some work by Pablo Picasso and political commentary while Dan Godston read some works by Pablo Neruda (Saul recited the Spanish language versions.) If you want to see some of Saul’s striking pieces go to http://www.saulaguirre.com/store.html.
My readings combined the sacred and the profane. I recited poems by the very pious St John of the Cross, and the very rebellious and shockingly modern, Sor Juana who was actually silenced by the Catholic Church (she sometimes comes off like a radical lesbian riot grrl.).
There was no audience to speak of except the readers, but I think that reading the poems before so few people actually made the event more meditative and intimate. It felt like a deep religious service, and we were offering up prayers or sacrifices to the god of poetry. Actually the next time someone asks me in a snarky tone if I want to do a prayer at a family gathering, I may just read one of St. John’s poems which are actually devout in an intelligent way (which is more than I can say then most of the church services I attend.)
Yesterday I participated in the Chicago Calling reading at Phyllis’s Musical Inn, which is located near Division and Wood in Chicago. Some of the other performers included Janina Ciezadlo, Bob Rashkow (who will be featured at the Art Colony on the second Saturday in November), and Dan Godston (he added some harsh and artfully dissonant trumpet accompaniment which offered a fine contrast with Janena’s mannered reading.) There was also a woman that I had not seen before who read someone's poems in a marvelous foreign accent (I'm not sure if it was Celtic or Irish.)
Elizabeth Harper has a show there the second Wednesday of every month which usually includes a feature and some bizarre musicians, stand-up comics, and poets who perform in the open mic. The show tends to offbeat, quirky, and positive (I have never heard anyone booed there). There is kind of an outsider art vibe in the show, and I sometimes feel that the performers are appreciated as much for their eccentricity as the quality of their work.
Some of the open micers included a very young comic who did a memorable bit about a woman who grabbed his belt and let him on at a party, a very professional sounding reading by someone named Dana Jerman, who asked readers to identify which of the poems she read were her’s (I guessed right somehow), Virginia Montgomery, a poet who energetically reads passionately angry, self-deprecating rants (I think she also invented the expression douche waffle), as well as reader of downbeat, flowery verse I used to encounter at the Exit readings. Everyone pretty much kept my interest, and the performance menu was varied.
Elizabeth’s own poetry is wonderfully droll, sarcastic, darkly humorous, and generally dismissive of institutions and social conventions. Her co-host Richard is wonderfully entertaining. His purposefully naïve stories/songs often reflect on the harshness of working in corporate America, and his child like voice is often answered by unusual key tar sounds.
Overall, Elizabeth’s Crazy Little Thing is a more than worthy successor to the late, lamented Shag’s Little Thing.