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Posted by : cj on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 10:10 PM
Chicago Poetry News: Click On Headlines .
Literary Gangs of Chicago
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Museum of Contemporary Art
Report by C. J. Laity

Click here for current Lit Gangs info.

Collage created with images found at google.I had a feeling this was going to be an enjoyable night because right off the bat I had good el karma. I got on the brown line at Kedzie only moments after a Loop-bound train had passed, and figured I was in for a wait; but another one came seconds later, and then when I got to Belmont, a red line train was right there waiting for me. How often does that happen?

Anyway, I saw in the recently rehabbed Chicago Reader "critics choices and other good bets" section that there was a free reading going on at Puck's cafe in the rear of the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. The name of the event caught my eye: Literary Gangs of Chicago (oooh!). Just had to check it out.

Turns out this is just what Chicago needs, a new literary series. In fact, the MCA will be sponsoring some type of literary event on the third Tuesday of every month, with readings scheduled all the way up until May 2006, with each event featuring a different literary "gang." Go MCA!

The featured gang for the premier night that I went to was the Dollar Store reading series, and included readings by Jonathan Messinger (the Books Editor for TimeOut Chicago and the mastermind behind This Is Grand), playwright Jeremy Sosenko, comedian Sean Gardner (who helps to host the regular first Friday of the month Dollar Store series at the Hideout), and neofuturist storyteller Diana Slickman.

It promised to be a fine line up, and I wasn't disappointed.

See, the idea behind the Dollar Store series is that each author is given a cheesy item from a dollar store and then they have to write something inspired by it. Then they get together and read what they wrote. The gang did a captivating job at the MCA, with the dollar store items ranging from a Digimon bath scrubber to a bar of soap with some kind of troll inside. The writing ranged from a hilarious mock blog to an all too serious description of an ordeal with breast cancer to the Bible rewritten for the boy band Hanson.

The future calendar for the Literary Gangs of Chicago series is pretty exciting too, with The 2nd Hand featured on November 15, Weep in January of 2006, 826 Chicago in February, Book Slut in March, and The Danny's Reading Series in April.

The only thing I was disappointed about was that Cassie Sparkman, the host of this series, did not get some time on the microphone. Sparkman kind of appeared earlier this year after a hiatus from the Chicago Poetry Scene, and she made a wonderful appearance for me at one of the poetry crams. It was the night I had just learned of my inevitable divorce and it was about 120 degrees in the Cafe and I hosted the entire evening crashed out on the couch. Sparkman later learned that I was only human when I failed to reserve a spot for her in the Chicago Poetry Fest, and then we lost touch. But her performance at the Cafe was fantastic, despite the heat, and I had been meaning to hunt her down to see her again, to lend her some support and to let her know I'm not always a grumpy old fucker, and finally I saw her listed as the host of this new series and saw my chance. So here you go, Cassie.

Cassie Sparkman is a very talented young woman with some important things to say and I think it would be great if Sparkman did a poem or two to warm up the microphone before the features at this MCA series. I mean, what's the rush? The event on October 18 was way too short anyway. It was suppose to run from 6:30 until 8, but started a few minutes late and then only went until 7:30. The place was simply packed to the gills with people, eager to hear a literary reading, and although it was a good one, before you knew it, it was already over. I really was hoping to hear a piece or two by our host, Sparkman, and I think a lot of other's were hoping to hear her too, as Sparkman's name was listed prominently as being associated with the event.

Hopefully, these gangs won't make the same mistake next time.

I would recommend you get off your butt next month and check out the Literary Gangs of Chicago series: it's free, they serve cheap coffee and beer, and it's a bang. To learn more about this series and its features, click on the links contained in the above story.

--CJ Laity

**We hope you found the information on this page useful. needs your help. We are holding a fundraising drive in order to stay online. There are two ways that you can help: Click here to offer a financial gift or click here to order the new book by Press.

Note: Letter eX reports on the new literary series at the Museum of Contemporary Art:
Click Here for the full story.

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