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spacer.gif   LAITY REVIEWS BONO
Posted by : cj on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 11:19 AM
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Chicago Poetry Archives: Click Headlines C.J.'S EYE ON CHICAGO: EXTREMELY CHI-TOWN (2nd Rewrite)

Very Chicago: Selected Poetry By Josť Bono, self-published, ten bucks

Two-time Sister Cities finalist, Mexican poet Josť Bono (who was first published in the South Town Economist in 1967) has written a book about the "Golden Age" (to quote a Tunnel Rat concept) of Chicago poetry which preaches a performance school of writing. The story in this book is told with the poetry Bono wrote during the timeline of that particular era (1990-1994). The tale travels through the early history of the Chicago Poetry Scene, from FitzGerald's in Berwyn to "Erotica Night," and it makes you realize--Chicago smells pretty damn good. You might look at this book as the ultimate answer to any self pity bred by the anti-slam faction; you know the types: the wannabees who don't have the guts to get out there and make a name for themselves. Very Chicago boldly documents the early days of Chicago's millennial era, when the founders of the scene didn't let anything stand in their way, at a time of accomplishment, from Stray Bullets to Hammers, from Guild Complex to Gallery Cabaret.

Bono hits hard with poems such as his signature piece "Dressed In My Wooden Tuxedo":


Next to my gravestone
people gather to say goodbye.
in a cold cape crusted with grief
empties the soul of my wife Dolores.

which was written at the Uptown Poetry Slam, or with the poem titled "At Weeds," which is a biligual example of dictation as well as poetics (it's as if Bono had a tape-recorder and transcribed his open mic. set at the infamous, age-old, Tequila house, the original Monday night venue, under the condoms and bras hanging from the ceiling, at a time when "Desert Shield became Desert Storm.")

The story of Chicago's heated Sister Cities slam is told with more than one piece, but beyond that, the "City of Blues" in general is looked at more closely. For example, the poem "Love Is A Pyramid" gives a Poetry Academy Award of sorts to a Chicago legend, E. Donald Two-Rivers:

Spirit of the Lake
we beseech your forgiveness
for we broke your harmony
on a night of full moon
when some poets screamed at you
disrupting the nature of your spirit

and it makes me wonder if this one wasn't written during a Cathleen Schandelmeier gig at North Avenue Beach. Most of the poems here reflect a Chicago venue.

The quality of this book is excellent. It has a glossy cover with a big photo of Bono's mug hovering over the skyline. It feels good in the hand. The quality of the poetry itself is on and off (What demon / let lose (sic) to destroy / and seed evil / has fallen upon us!), but it seems this type of writing sometimes translates better into a native language, and I don't speak Spanish, so I can't comment on the final few poems of this book. The writing, however, becomes better with a second sitting, having by then come to an understanding of Bono's voice, and beyond that (third or fourth reading) you might get so absorbed in the history the book is telling as a whole that you will stop analizing each piece as an individual and go with the flow. At that moment this volume becomes a gem and each piece feels like a classic.

Track this poet down and buy Very Chicago directly off of him, because those bookstores take too big of a cut. You can also email him with a request at eldcheyo@aol.com and he might even meet you at the Green Mill to give it to you. You can see Josť Bono in the movie "De Esto Nada de Nada" coming soon to a theater near you. Or you can just go to Weeds, 1555 N. Dayton, on a Monday at ten o'clock, and ask Gregorio Gomez or Sergio: "Who the fuck is Josť Bono?"

--Mr. C. J. Laity



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Note: C. J. takes a look at Jose's "Very Chicago."

 
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