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Posted by : cj on Friday, November 30, 2007 - 05:45 PM
Chicago Poetry News: Click On Headlines .
On Tuesday, November 27, 2007, nine Chicago poets appeared in Romeoville at Lewis University for one of several planned poetry readings to celebrate the release of the new anthology, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, published by Cracked Slab Books.

I have been hearing something about this new title every day for the last month or so. Having missed the previous release reading, which took place at a local church, I thought I'd pop on in to check out what the hubbub is about. It turned out to be an enjoyable afternoon of poetry readings followed by a question and answer session. The editors, William Allegrezza and Raymond Bianchi, were kind enough to give me a review copy of the anthology to peruse.

There is no doubt that there has been an energetic movement in the Chicago Poetry Scene over the last few years that has expanded like a nuclear reaction. It isn't the alpha or omega of poetry revolutions, as no revolution is, but it certainly will go down in the chronicles as one of the most influential. This particular revolution merges the voices of poets teaching at many Chicago area universities and colleges with the voices involved with print and online publications, and this cross-pollination has fueled the fire for various local poetry venues. Although it is a pet peeve of mine to give poetry movements labels, for the sake of this article I'll call it the "experimental" poetry movement, since that seems to be the term many people involved in it have accepted.

The City Visible does for the experimental movement of the early 2000s what the Tia Chuch Press anthology Stray Bullets did for the saloon poetry movement of the early 1990s. City Visible is a wonderful documentation of the prominent voices in the Chicago experimental poetry movement, with poets representing: institutions of learning such as University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, Columbia College, Art Institute, Northwestern, Truman College, Harold Washington College, and many others; print and online publishers and publications such as Flood Editions, Beard of Bees, Moria, Switchback Books, Court Green, Conundrum, Milk Magazine, March / Abrazo; and local poetry venues such as Discrete Series, Series A, Myopic Books, Danny's Series, and even Woodland Pattern, among others.

City Visible is a big book with 250 pages of poetry; it's cover price is $22.95. This collection of "on the edge" poems also contains photos, bios and "poetic statements" from the poets. It not only serves as a showcase of many of the prominent voices rising during Chicago's turn of the century, but it also seems to be a good textbook for poetry classes (although it would probably work best studied along side another anthology, perhaps the Sourcebooks title The Spoken Word Revolution, in order to represent a broader range of Chicago poetry styles).

The editors of The City Visible meticulously selected notable poets that represent the booming Chicago experimental poetry movement. If you've been paying attention to what's been happening in Chicago's literary world over the last half decade you are bound to recognize most of the names featured in this book, such as Chuck Stebelton, whose poetic vision guided the Myopic Books poetry series into what it is today. This anthology also features quite a few poets who have made their mark in Chicago but then moved elsewhere, such as Brenda Cardenas or Maxine Chernoff. A couple of poets seem not to have much of a Chicago connection at all, such a Roberto Harrison or Stacy Szymasek, but that's okay since the anthology is consistent in the style of poetry it is representing and admits openly in both its introduction and afterword that it by no means claims to be all inclusive or comprehensive. As Allegrezza says, "The city is too diverse for that."

As I read The City Visible, I found great joy in discovering the work of poets whose names have been buzzing in my ears over the last few years, such as Tim Yu, Jennifer Karmin, Johanny Vazquez Paz, Kerri Sonnenberg, Dan Beachy-Quick, or Ed Roberson. In fact, there are over fifty poets featured in The City Visible.

Cracked Slab books is a new publishing house; this is their second title. If their future ventures are anywhere near as important as The City Visible then I'm sure they will have a bright future in the publishing world.

--Report by C. J. Laity

For information about how to order The City Visible click here.

Note: takes a trip to Romeoville to check out the City Visible reading at Lewis University.

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