Poetry Cram: The Ultimate Chicago Poetry Anthology
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440 pages, $22
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Featuring poetry by: Alfa Rodriguez * Allison Lizcano * Almira Astudillo Gilles * Amber Groomes * Amy Srodon * Andrea Uptmor * Andrew Rafalski * Angelika Teuber * Angelique Williams * Angie Tomcik * Ann Perbohner * Anna Husain * Anne Wesley * Antonia Clark * Beth Staas * Bianca Teresa Cappetta * Bonnie Kepplinger * Bonnie Pignatiello Leer * Brendan Thomas * C. John Graham * Camille Rose Castillo * Carol Brockfield * Carol L. Gloor * Casey Derengowski * Catharine J. Jones * Chance Corbeil * Charlotte Digregorio * Charlotte Hart * Cheyenne Demus * Chris Mack * Chris Reid * Christine Cassello * Chuck Joy * CJ Laity * Clare McCloskey * Clarke Canedy * Colleen D. Storiz * Colleen Mcmanus Hein * Cynthia Gallaher * Cynthia Pfeiffer Stell * Dan Cleary * Daniel Weinberg * David Breeden * Davy Corbett * Debka Colson * Deborah Nodler Rosen * DeJuan Dunn * Dianalee Velie * Diane Anjoue * Divya Rajan * Dizzy Costales * Don Ward * Donna Eder * Donna Kiser * Donna Pecore * Doree McNulty * Dred Sista Ren * Duane R. Christianson * Edith Willis * Ellen Savage * Frances Buckley * Gail Goepfert * George Korolog * George McKim * Gerard Sarnat MD * Ginger Rubinstein * Giuliano A. Fontanez * Glenn Ferdman * Homer Smith * Infamous * Itala Langmar * Jailene Hernandez * Jamie Lynn Perry * Jasminum McMullen * Jason Sturner * Jayson Nessi * Jeanette A. Jordan * Jeffrey Allen * Jenna Augustine * Jennifer Dotson * Jennifer Santana * Jenny Santellano * Jessica Lane * Jill Eisnaugle * Jim Graham * Jim Lambert * Jo Stewart * John Brooks * Jose Bono Rovirosa * Joseph S. Spence, Sr. * JoyAnne O'Donnell * Judith Mk Tepfer * Judith Wiker * Julian T. Brolaski * Julie M. Tate * Kaleb Hoffer * Kami Andridge * Kate Schlachter * Kathy Lundy Derengowski * Kayleah Jewel Porter * Khadijah Kysia * Kim Berez * Kohar Jones * Kristin LaTour * Larry O. Dean * Laura L. Koenig * Laurie Blum * Laurie Lee Didesch * Laurie Slicer * Lillian Jordan * Lina Chern * Linda Kaban * Linda Leedy Schneider * Linda M. Bendorf * Liz Paveza * Lorraine Brown * Lorraine Harrell * Louise Mathewson * Lynn Veach Sadler * Marcia J. Pradzinski * Margaret Dubay Mikus * Margie Skelly * Marian Kaplun Shapiro * Marianne Schaefer * Marilyn Kraus * Marilyn Peretti * Marissa Brawn * Marita DeMarinis * Martin Willow * Mary Chapman * Mary Krane Derr * Mary Langer Thompson * Matthew Polk * Michael Ethan Landau * Michael H. Brownstein * Michelle Brinckerhoff * N. Barry Carver * Nancy J. Heggem * Nathaniel Terrell Jones * Neal Whitman * Norman Nanstiel * P.S. Cottier * Pamela Borovich * Pamela Larson * Patrick Kijek * Patty Dickson Pieczka * Paul Buchheit * Paul Stewart * Peg Nichols * Peter Rodenby * PJ Destin * Rabi' Akbik * rachel levy * Rae Timothy * Reggie Legend * René Ostberg * Renée Szostek * Richard Ilnicki * Rob Baker * Robert Coté * Robert Klein Engler * Robert Nixon * Robin Goldberg * Rod Reinhart * Salud Martinez * Sandra Posadas * Sandra Santiago-Posadas * Sandy Goldsmith * Sara Gove * Scott McFarland * Sean Spellman * Shannon Byers * Sharon Ankrum * Sharon Bentley * Sheila A. Donovan * Shermin Izadpanah-Kruse * Shirlee Sky Hoffman * Shontay Luna * Stella Vinitchi Radulescu * Steve Mayfield * Susan Beall Summers * Susan T. Moss * Susanne Donoghue * Suzanne Seed * Tania Ahlin * Tara Keogh * Ted Recio * Terri M. O’Hara * Thomas Foote * Tim Kucharski * Timothy A Schuler * Timothy Schnoor * Tinamarie Penn * Tom Roby * Valisa Benson * veronica precious bohanan * Vito De Meo * Wendy Brown-Baez * Wilda Morris * Yoo Chang * Zachary Kluckman * Zann Carter
THIS ANTHOLOGY has been four years in the making. For years I had been doing live performances called poetry crams, the idea being to "cram" as many poets into one reading as possible. I had also dabbled in several publishing projects, including a short lived periodical called American Open Mike.
The idea came to me to combine the cram performances with the publishing of poetry. My desire was to give away free copies of a chapbook featuring the poets who participated in the poetry crams. The problem was, how was I supposed to fund such a project? Any money I put into it would be lost, since the books would be distributed for free rather than be sold. Also, I have a personal policy against funding my projects through government or foundation grants.
I came up with the idea of making Poetry Cram a cooperative effort amongst the poets participating in it; that is, each poet would chip in a little money to pay for the books so that we could give them away free. My biggest concern upon attempting this was that I might get a lot of truly bad poetry from poets who thought they could simply pay to play. This fear proved unfounded, as a plethora of quality submissions began pouring in. I remember two lines from one of the first poems I received from a poet named Robin Goldberg—"I drip from a glass of orange juice / and seep into earthy cracks of Africa"—touching me so much that I became an instant believer in my own project. It became clear that those who decided to participate believed in Poetry Cram as well, and they were having a lot of fun with it. When a poem in the first volume by Linda M. Bendorf described a midlife hot flash as "a sizzling hot zipper" I nearly fell off my chair as I read her submission. Those who got rejected, got their money back.
The years went by and Cram became more popular, so I was able to print up larger runs, typically giving away between 300 and 400 copies of each volume. I had a lot of fun designing the Crams as well. One day out of my life was devoted to going to my favorite paper store and shopping for the perfect cover stock for each volume. I folded and stapled each issue myself, making each one a bit flawed but by doing so, making each one individual.
After a while, I decided to do theme volumes, not sure how people would react to the idea. The response was tremendous. Who would have thought so many poets have poems about holidays, for example. I dedicated one volume to poetry about Chicago and another to poetry about poetry. Yet another one contained spooky and creepy poetry. Then I upped the ante by occasionally offering cash prizes and nominating some of the selected poets for Pushcart Prizes.
It became a poetry party. We held three book release crams at the Harold Washington Library, two of which were audio recorded for WBEZ public radio. We also held release readings at a café where even more copies of Poetry Cram were given away free. Those who couldn't attend the readings got free copies of Cram by mail.
It's been quite a journey, with thirteen volumes under my belt and a fourteenth on its way, and with thousands of Crams distributed for free. It has been a four year long celebration of poetry and I've enjoyed every moment of it. The Crams are works of art that I am proud of, funded by some of the most loving, talented poets living today.
This past April, I was giving away free copies of Poetry Cram Volume 13, and I was going through my collection of previous volumes and realized I didn't even have a complete set of them, and only had a few copies left of those that I did have. I had been so successful at giving the Crams away, that the Crams themselves were being threatened by extinction. That's when I decided, in order to preserve the wonderful writing in the collected Cram volumes, I'd come out with this perfect bound anthology of poetry from all thirteen volumes.
It wasn't until I started working on this book that I realized what a fantastic collection of poetry, written by Chicago poets, as well as those who hold a special place in their heart for Chicago, this anthology is. Not only does this book showcase a volume of work by Cram favorites such as Donna Pecore, Cynthia Stell Pfeiffer, Sheila Donovan, Jo Stewart, Wilda Morris, Laurie Blum, Norm Nanstiel, Marilyn Peretti, Peter Rodenby and Stella Radulescu, but it also includes work by nearly 200 additional poets, making this what I believe to be the biggest, most eclectic Chicago poetry anthology ever.
The variety of voices and styles is unprecedented. This anthology contains light, rhyming verse from Dan Cleary next to the socially conscious voice of Larraine Harrell. There are nature poems about cherries and tomatoes within the same pages as hip hop freestyle, as well as two poems by the late Dred Sista Ren. There are poems that were written in Chicago art galleries, museums, stadiums, parks and of course in Chicago poetry venues. It's not all Chicago poets though. There are poets from Florida, California, Texas, South Carolina, poets from Britain, Italy, Australia. Wendy Brown-Baez chimes in from Minnesota and Zach Kluckman from New Mexico.
Here you will find the poetry that you won't find in other Chicago poetry anthologies—poetry written by real, down to earth poets—poems like Doree McNulty's ode to JFK, or Edith Willis' romp about her "Royal Dog, Francis". The poems in this anthology are filled with memories, moments captured in the now and hopes for the future. Small moments are celebrated for their hugeness, as when Mary Langer Thompson delivers her poem "My Son Shares Shorts on Easter Sunday" or when Christine Cassello describes pigeons in her poem "French Fry Frenzy". The images are striking and lasting, such as Shontay Luna's portrait of "Housing Project Swings", and the messages are clear, as in Kim Berez's insightful examination of politics in her poem "Ode to the Precinct Captain". Then there are the poems that perhaps will haunt you for ever after, such as DeJuan Dunn's "The Music Death Plays" or Marian Kaplun Shapiro's "Never Again, Vedran Smailovich".
I am so excited and proud to present to you this archive of a four year long poetry celebration, Poetry Cram: The Ultimate Chicago Poetry Anthology.
PS, The poetry cram record stands at 58 poets, who read during a two and a half hour event at Harold Washington Library in 2010.
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Now accepting submissions for Poetry Cram Volume 14.
Comments from the authors.
What a fine job you do, CJ. It's an excellent book filled with all sorts of interesting poems.
I'm really impressed with this book's layout and details........and poetry! ;-)
Congratulations on a job well done.
--Sheila A. Donovan
Wonderful anthology! Thank you so much for putting this together.
Eden Prairie, MN
I am amazed at the great stuff that is in there. You have attracted so many wonderful poets with your enthusiasm and hard work. As Dan Cleary dubbed we poets in the opening pages "One to whom the world pays no heed at all" you have shown us all that someone does take notice and even more opens our solitary silence to the world.
Des Plaines, IL
Very nice work- we are honored to be included.
--Casey and Kathy Derengowski
San Marcos, CA
CJ Laity, our editor, did a beautiful job putting it together… 13 volumes combined into one. I am truely humbled to be included amongst the best poets Chicago has to offer as well as “poets with a special place in their heart for Chicago”… I cannot wait to delve inside and get lost within the perfectly bound pages!
Just wanted to let you know I got my copy of Cram Anthology and it totally rocks!