The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival might be nearing its conclusion, but rest assured, there is still plenty of book-loving fun to be had this weekend thanks to Northwestern University, Bookends & Beginnings, the Chicago Book Expo, and your very own EPL. What’s more, here on Off the Shelf we’ll continue featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists even after the festival wraps. Next up is poet Dina Elenbogen. A teacher of creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School and of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, Elenbogen is the author of the poetry collection Apples of the Earth and the recent memoir Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story. She has received fellowships and awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the Ragdale Foundation, the Evanston Arts Council and Hilai Artists Colony in Israel, and her work has appeared in magazines including December, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Tikkun, and Rhino as well as in anthologies such as Lost on the Map of the World, Where We Find Ourselves, and Brute Neighbors. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Elenbogen will share her work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with her via email about her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and his new poem “Missing.”
Poet Profiles: Chris Green
What an exciting time to be a booklover in Evanston! The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival is currently in full swing, and from now until May 14th, you can celebrate Evanston’s vibrant literary community at more than 50 free events produced jointly by the Evanston Public Library, Bookends & Beginnings, Northwestern University, and the Chicago Book Expo 2016. Here on Off the Shelf we’re joining the fun by featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists, and first up is poet Chris Green. A Senior Lecturer in the English Department at DePaul University, Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and most recently Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry, The New York Times, New Letters, Verse, and Nimrod, and he’s edited four anthologies including Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography and most recently I Remember: Chicago Veterans of War. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Green will share his work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with him via email about his poetic origins and inspirations, his writing process, and his new poem “Chicago, September.”
On This Date: John Keats Publishes His First Poem
Another National Poetry Month might be in the books, but here at EPL we’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more poetry! So if you’re like us and April was merely an appetizer for your poetry hunger, you might enjoy feasting on this historic tidbit: on May 5th exactly 200 years ago, the revered Romantic poet John Keats published his very first poem in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner. Titled “O Solitude!,” the sonnet began a remarkable and tragically brief career that saw Keats publish three celebrated books of poetry before his death from tuberculosis on February 23, 1821 at the age of 25. You can read “O Solitude!” below, and then drop by EPL to check out the rest of Keat’s work. You won’t be disappointed.
O Solitude! (Sonnet VII)
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,–
Nature’s observatory–whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Want more John Keats? Try the following:
- The Complete Poems of John Keats by John Keats
- John Keats: A New Life by Nicholas Roe
- The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821 by John Keats
Goodbye, National Poetry Month!
Time sure flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe another National Poetry Month is already drawing to a close, but for one last hurrah, don’t miss this great mini-film adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s poem “This Is Not a Fairytale.” You can also hear her read on Wednesday, May 11th as part of the 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival, and make sure to keep coming back to Off the Shelf for Poetry 365 – a great way to scratch your poetry itch all year long.
National Poetry Month: April 30th
Piano and Scene by David Berman
A child needs to know the point of the holiday.
His aunt is saying grace over a decaffeinated coffee
and her daughter is reading a Russian novel
whose 45 chapters are set
on 45 consecutive Valentine’s Days.
Grandpa is telling the kids fairy tales
from Pennsylvania’s pretzel-making region
and it’s hard for me to be in the mood
you need me to be in right now,
as I’m suddenly wrapped up in this speculation
on the as yet undiscovered moods of the future,
like nostalgia for a discontinued model of robot
or patriotic feelings for your galaxy Continue reading “National Poetry Month: April 30th”
National Poetry Month: April 29th
A System of Cells by D.W.
In a Bluetooth beginning,
android search discovery mode
pre e-verse minds app connection
handheld night n’ snap-chat rays
data speed download gratification
micro-cosmos in a virtual wave
and the mega-gigabyte saw it was good.
keywords of antibiotic meditation
earth@ cloud storage heaven.com
Z.app, dropped signal, to wireless hell
and the face of darkness
fell over the screen
This poem was selected by Don W. (Maintenance)
Poet Profiles: Reginald Gibbons
Our National Poetry Month celebration has reached a fever pitch, but before we make our last call and flip on the bright lights, we want to introduce one more special guest to our poetry party. As you well know, Evanston is home to some seriously talented poets, and it is our pleasure to highlight their work right here on Off the Shelf. Next up is Reginald Gibbons. The Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program in NU’s School of Professional Studies, Gibbons’ tenth book of poems, Last Lake, will be published in October by University of Chicago Press, and his book about poetry, How Poems Think, came out last fall. He has published a novel, Sweetbitter, has edited a collection of poets’ essays (The Poet’s Work) and other books, and has translated a volume of Selected Poems: Odes and Fragments of Sophocles, poems by Spanish and Mexican poets, and also two ancient Greek tragedies (Bakkhai and Antigone); in 2017 he will publish a book of very short fiction. We recently spoke with Gibbons via email about his poetic origins, his writing process, and the poetry that inspires him.
National Poetry Month: April 28th
Happy As The Day Is Long by James Tate
I take the long walk up the staircase to my secret room.
Today’s big news: they found Amelia Earhart’s shoe, size 9.
1992: Charlie Christian is bebopping at Minton’s in 1941.
Today, the Presidential primaries have failed us once again.
We’ll look for our excitement elsewhere, in the last snow
that is falling, in tomorrow’s Gospel Concert in Springfield.
It’s a good day to be a cat and just sleep.
Or to read the Confessions of Saint Augustine.
Jesus called the sons of Zebedee the Sons of Thunder.
In my secret room, plans are hatched: we’ll explore the Smoky
Then we’ll walk along a beach: Hallelujah!
(A letter was just delivered by Overnight Express–
it contained nothing of importance, I slept through it.)
(I guess I’m trying to be “above the fray.”)
The Russians, I know, have developed a language called “Lincos”
designed for communicating with the inhabitants of other worlds.
That’s been a waste of time, not even a postcard.
But then again, there are tree-climbing fish, called anabases.
They climb the trees out of stupidity, or so it is said.
Who am I to judge? I want to break out of here.
A bee is not strong in geometry: it cannot tell
a square from a triangle or a circle.
The locker room of my skull is full of panting egrets.
I’m saying that strictly for effect.
In time I will heal, I know this, or I believe this.
The contents and furnishings of my secret room will be labelled
and organized so thoroughly it will be a little frightening.
What I thought was infinite will turn out to be just a couple
of odds and ends, a tiny miscellany, miniature stuff, fragments
of novelties, of no great moment. But it will also be enough,
maybe even more then enough, to suggest an immense ritual and
And this makes me very happy.
This poem was selected by Russell J. (Adult Services Librarian)
National Poetry Month: April 27th
First Lesson by Philip Booth
Lie back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s-float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.
This poem was selected by Lesley W. (Head of Adult Services)
National Poetry Month: April 26th
Having Intended to Merely Pick on an Oil Company, the Poem Goes Awry by Bob Hicok
Never before have I so resembled British Petroleum.
They–it?–are concerned about the environment.
I–it?–am concerned about the environment.
They–him?–convey their concern through commercials,
in which a man talks softly about the importance
of the Earth. I–doodad?–convey my concern
through poems, in which my fingers type softly
about the importance of the Earth. They–oligarchs?–
have painted their slogans green. I–ineffectual
left-leaning emotional black hole of a self-semaphore?–
recycle. Isn’t a corporation technically a person
and responsible? Aren’t I technically a person
and responsible? In a legal sense, in a regal sense,
if romanticism holds sway? To give you a feel
for how soft his voice is, imagine a kitty
that eats only felt wearing a sable coat on a bed
of dandelion fluff under sheets of the foreskins
of seraphim, that’s how soothingly they want to drill
in Alaska, in your head, just in case. And let’s be honest,
we mostly want them to, we mostly want to get to the bank
by two so we can get out of town by three and beat
the traffic, traffic is murder, this time of year.
How far would you walk for bread? For the flour
to make bread? A yard, a mile, a year, a life?
Now you ask me, when are you going to fix your bike
and ride it to work? Past the plain horses
and spotted cows and the spotted horses and plain cows,
along the river, to the left of the fallen-down barn
and the right of the falling-down barn, up the hill,
through the Pentecostal bend and past the Methodist
edifice, throught the speed trap, beside the art gallery
and cigar shop, past the tattoo parlor and the bar
and the other bar and the other other bar and the other
other other bar and the bar that closed, where I swear,
Al-Anon meets, since I’m wondering, what is the value
of the wick or wire of soul, be it emotional
or notional, now that oceans are wheezing to a stop?
This poem was selected by Russell J. (Adult Services Librarian)