April is National Poetry Month, and as always, Chicago delivers some serious talent. Whether poetry is shared virtually by blog, out loud at slam readings, or published in acclaimed contests there are many ways to share the joy of the art this month.
The Poetry Foundation is the first venue, facility, and organization completely dedicated to the art of poetry in Chicago, and has headquarters in River North. Their poetry collections contain over 30,000 volumes, and local performances are frequently hosted. COVID has altered hours, but you can register for a daily newsletter that will share a Poem of the Day straight to your inbox, or browse their library of categories! Whether you’re looking for pieces about food and the earth or indigenous tales, there’s certain to be something for everyone.
If live performance is more your thing, OpenMike is a local initiative that is popular with teens in the city. Started by Chance The Rapper’s social empowerment organization SocialWorks, OpenMike gives teens the chance to perform poetry, prose, music, and dance for free to large audiences! OpenMike is tentatively scheduled to return in a post COVID world, but hosts an audience of over 11,000 benefactors and students. “Every month we partner with the Chicago Public Library to present a space for high school students to share, express, and network with like-minded individuals. This event, housed in the Harold Washington Library, showcases randomly selected students to present a three-minute piece of their choice,” says the SocialWorks website. Register now to share your art or encourage a friend too.
Local CPS students are also making big moves. Hailey Love, senior at Whitney Young High School, has extended her creative chops from her school slam team to ad campaigns and short films for AT&T and SocialWorks. In addition to starting her own nonprofit scholarship foundation,The Love Scholarship, she has had the opportunity to perform alongside Yo Yo Ma, and hosted her own set at WE Day 2019 in Chicago’s Allstate Arena. Love says, “Poetry gives me a voice, and sharing that has been what makes me love performing so much.”
Whether you’re swinging by a safe live performance, studying in libraries or reading up online, the art of poetry is available to you today. It can be a therapeutic form of self-expression as well as a beloved performance style, so take some time to research and appreciate this month!
By Leah Ollie, Senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School