All posts filed under: Poetry + Short Stories

Image: A digital illustration of a person in a bathtub. The water is a galaxy. Image by Teshika Silver.

If You Know You Know

Free Fall face flat on sheets Stomach meeting mattress massage, A deep sigh + a settle. This is the downpour I mean When I pray for rain ——————————————— The presence of my healingIs not the absence of my painMy trauma live w me in thespare roomBut we ain’t the same. She in the kitchen, barren fridgeI feed me for us bothShe in my body and I dance her outonce a week. Shake the sticky memories off my skinReplace w honey in my teaMy trauma stay w me an I take carea her tooPlace her in porcelain tub for a spiritualrinseProse, petals, water, epsomOil, candle, crying, cradling Ancestors say let them stones go so I doSay the power you been fighting foralready been in you Sick queers been known isolationfuck a pandemicBeen known skype staticlike urgent caremedics  known to mask in publicbefore mass productionknow counting stairs + counting pills +counting calmBed be galaxyBreath be stars Know meals at front doorsunexpected callswe show upmad bitches got enough shit to shift throughdon’t always know what we need Blessed …

Mine: Poems by Carrie Kaufman

Body (January 2020)To carry meTo lift and transfer Use your core not your armsI always say.Take the weight of my body As if it was yours‘Cause I cannot hold it, Help carry it please. I was told that it’s helpfulTo visualize that you are pregnant with me.Hold me close to your middle But move us as one How exhausting are these exchanges of weight.I’m holding what’s held in your body as wellWhen we touch,When you help,It’s a transfer. A lesson (November 2020)I need to be more than a lessonYou learned. More than Magical sex A window to see possibility thruA reminder to be thoughtful  Visibly deviant Emotionally convenientI am not what you thought:Easy to leave behindToo hard to take care ofI do not haveThe most resilient heart. You mistook me for a fantasy butInhaling in syncWe were as real As the candlelight warming the room Which one of us did you soothe When you said i was strong? What did you get out of holding me? Somatics (September 2020)My body floats in a limboI hover awkwardly above ground in my dreams Never knowing “comfortable” in waking lifeI …

Image: by Kiki Dupont

Three Poems by Josef Selma Olivier

TURN MYSELF INTO COMMODITY just into something a little more interesting like anotherbody poem cannot feel lipson my nipples only my own fingertipspressed down, a kind of pressure I want to get better at smiling and making eye contactdo more than ask how can i help you get what you want fromme  I WATCH THESE DESPERATE MEN Cum into their mirrorsI love it, really love it, love seeing how Controlled they areBy their own pathetic desire. Something about watching a sad cock really grow.I at least imagine they are lonely that They had wedding rings they took off before filmingTo show off and try to connect with the fantasy of some womanThey will never know because they forgot how to be humanand before I finish I tell them, though they cannot hear,I want you to cum all over me, I want to really feel it, that warmthThese men, after they are finished, I imagine, return to themselvessilently Without ever knowing how to be whole. WHEN YOU HATE SOMEONE’S CONFESSIONSDOES THAT MEAN YOU COULD NEVER LIKE THEIR POETRY? I’m too intense …

Image: A group of poets in various poses under and on a structure in Humboldt Park.

Touchless Entry: A Socially Distant Art Collective

One of the first buzzwords to emerge from the pandemic was “mutual aid.” Quarantine’s stakes of survival reminded many of us of our fundamental interdependence, and the lack of coordinated leadership called for us to have each other’s backs out of necessity, compelling us to take care of each other in ways that our government refused. Of course, mutual aid is not something new that emerged out of a vacuum. DIY artist communities are one model for collectivity, for an alternative economy of care and co-creation. I couldn’t bear the thought of DIY becoming extinct in the midst of the global pandemic. Pre-pandemic, apartment galleries, basement punk shows, poetry readings, raves, afterparties, and other forms of underground events were vital forms of creative community-making on the margins of the mainstream. These are lifeworlds, and they sustain us. Unfortunately, most of these subterranean activities cannot translate safely into a COVID world. And every Twitch dance party I’ve been to pales next to IRL clubbing.  Months into missing all of this, my roommate and I banded with …

Image: Illustration of a person with colors of green, purple, and magenta surrounding them. There are various patterns in the background.

3 Unemergency Poems

Not that we’re not in an emergency, but rather, the need to break out of the fast cycle of news that feels designed to agitate and then numb me into a state of helplessness. “Crisis time” invokes a logic of panic in the here and now. How will the headlines help me take care of my roommate who is, at the time of writing, using a borrowed inhaler, recovering from what the doctor diagnosed over the phone as COVID-19 and/or pneumonia? You can’t make soup with statistics and bylines.  What about the care work, dream work, and reflective thinking that sustains, moves, and propels our bodies inch by inch into the future? I find myself turning to endurance art, affect theory, performance studies, poetry, and maintenance work for a primer in how to slow down in order to keep on keeping on. These are “untimely,” perhaps, but what better time than the disrupted reality of quarantine to seep in the sustaining power of the “untimely”? In a moment of uncertainty, the durability of theory compels …

Featured image: Sahar Mustafah sits outdoors, smiling and looking off-camera. She wears a black winter coat, light grey scarf, and large hoop earrings. A bush with tan leaves fills most of the space behind her, with greenery and parts of a building behind that. Photo by Mark Blanchard.

Beyond the Page: Sahar Mustafah

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed fiction writer and high school English teacher Sahar Mustafah about her debut novel, “The Beauty of Your Face.” We spoke in January about her process of drafting, crafting, and publishing the book; how her writing and teaching inform each other; and key experiences — and women — that have shaped her as an author. “The Beauty of Your Face” (W.W. Norton, 2020) is available for pre-order. Check out the book launch event and reading at the American Writers Museum on April 7. Find Mustafah on Twitter @saharmustafah. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and to limit plot-related spoilers to the contents of the prologue and the book jacket. Marya Spont-Lemus: I’ve admired your work since we met through StoryStudio’s “Novel in a Year” program in 2015. I loved your short story collection, Code of the West (Willow Books, 2017), and was completely absorbed …

Three Poems by Sharanya Sharma

content warning: descriptions of violence nandi relays a message after an endless swallowing    of years a little girl, limbs molded from mother’s darkest saffron stole   to my soot-stoned side hewn from sweat      and love.  hungrily she cupped a hand        to my frozen ear.      the cold pelt          singed        in her exhale   as  with earth-stained lips she scratched words           into being   the way eyes were once carved            into my face.    she said               lord       give me a mouth           that is too full            of teeth to hold a prayer still              in my blood.  and skittered away      before a guard     could tell her not to touch me             as if the whorls            of her ancestors’ fingers            were not imprinted     in my skin.  unblinking i gaze into a land of concrete      and glass. even here,    in a view of metal ants and water         i cannot cross, i see              your feet  blue thighs poised      melding into              sea and sky                  toes jeweled            in a blanket                of white.  they call it snow. the falling of silk slivers that disappear into hair               and flesh.  lord, tell me.        will they     know the …

Featured image: Sharanya Sharma. Sharma sits with hands folded on a white table, with copies of “Set Fire to This Crooked House” and multi-colored notebooks in the foreground. Sharma wears a marigold cardigan open over a black and white striped shirt and smiles at the camera. Behind Sharma are several pastel throw pillows and a large plant, and natural light comes through the windows. Photo by Kristie Kahns Photography.

Beyond the Page: Sharanya Sharma

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed writer Sharanya Sharma about her MFA thesis project, “Set Fire to This Crooked House,” a poetry collection that she is in the process of developing into a book. We spoke this summer about how her poems re-envision Hindu mythology and critique histories of colonization, especially in relation to museum culture; how acts of retelling can help keep stories alive; and the broader impacts she hopes her work has. Three poems from “Set Fire to This Crooked House” are published on Sixty here. Find Sharma on Twitter @sharanyawrites. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: I loved the poems you shared at the MFA reading and am so excited to learn more about the collection and your plans for it. Is that program what brought you to Chicago originally? SS: It is. I was a teacher full-time for six years and didn’t have much …

Why I Die In Winter

After taking the longest, hottest shower, the cold air beyond the curtain grabbed at my skin like frigid hands ripping me from the arms of a warm lover. That was the morning that Jeremy died. It felt like the end was near the night before. He asked me to put his rocking chair on the enclosed front porch even though it was the dead of winter, and freezing. A snowstorm had blanketed the lawns, trees, hedges, and rooftops, creating a picturesque scene that covered the bloodstained streets, grass depraved lawns, dying trees, and crooked hedges the summer left behind in our South Side neighborhood. The storm drowned out the sounds of every block.  We sat in silence for a moment, wrapped in layers of African mud cloth and every blanket we could find, taking in deep breaths of crisp, cold air, relieving our lungs of the sickroom smell we inhaled daily.  “Remember when?” Jeremy said as he lit up a joint.  I immediately began to laugh because he was so funny.  “Remember when we first …

Image: Image: The cover for T. Fleischmann's book Time is the thing a body moves through, designed by Stevie Hanley.

“Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through”: A Review

The book begins in transit. Literally moving from the get-go, a bus trip. “I leave Buffalo when the moon is still out, and on the long bus ride south I find myself unable to read.” By coincidence, I crack open my book on a bus ride, too, albeit a shorter commute, and I, unlike T. “Clutch” Fleischmann, am able to read on transit.  This is to say: the book begins in transit because the body is in transit; in conversation with itself and itinerant others.  The title holds all of these moving parts: Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through. This is one of those gorgeous book titles that gets me all worked up knowing I didn’t come up with the line myself. So beautiful it sounds immediately true and resonant, even if I can’t put my finger on exactly what it means. It resonates with a moment in Clutch’s last book, Syzygy, Beauty, which proposed, “Choreography is one way to articulate time, your body moving forward.” But the new phrasing is less linear, …

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

Jenn Freeman, Po’Chop, and The People’s Church of the G.H.E.T.T.O

In 2017, I followed  burlesque dancer and performing artist Jenn Freeman, also known as Po’Chop, on Instagram while researching Jeezy’s Juke Joint, a renowned Black and Brown burlesque show. I was researching it with the hopes of being a performer, not an audience member. As a queer-married intersectional feminist, I saw burlesque as an outlet to express my sensuality and expand my art practice. However, in my research I didn’t find classes for Black women. Fast forward to August 2019. I received a direct message from Po’Chop on Instagram requesting to commission some of my portrait drawings for an exhibition about the empowering divine Black energies of Audre Lorde, Jackie Ormes, Elder Lucy Smith, and Beauty Turner. Po’Chop receiving a referral from a gallery I previously worked with aligned me to the motherload of manifested interactions. During our conversation about the commissions, we talked about the hurdles of Black feminist scholarship and the joys of performing it through our artistry.  The first time I saw Po’Chop perform was the first day of our phone call. …

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

Feasts, Fasts, and Excavations: Interview with Devyn Mañibo

I recently had the opportunity to be fed by Devyn Mañibo at a performative four-course meal she hosted at Extase Gallery in collaboration with Marie Ségolène and Jake Collings called MARROW, a communion in excavation. I’ve wanted to talk to Devyn about the way she utilizes food and cooking for connection and dissection since coming across documentation of a feast she hosted as part of her ongoing project F(E)AST at Ground Level Platform/SAIC earlier this year. The photos featured vibrant green banana leaves as a table spread holding up brilliant citruses, mounds of white rice, and cross-hatched mangoes with guests using their hands to engage with the servings. The environment she built and served made people pay attention to their food, to examine each material in relation to others on the table by way of color, texture, flavor, or purpose. The first thing I noticed in the setting for MARROW was a flower in the centerpiece of the table. It  looked like a sunflower that swallowed an artichoke, sharp and demanding with many layers in …

Image: Installation shot of Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well, 2019. © Gregg Bordowitz. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Analog Love: Synching Up In the Time of Queerness

“Queer life and love in the 1980s was cruelly characterized by the knowledge that time was running out.” —Joshua Chambers Letson, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life What if queerness is not out of time? What if it is in fact deeply entangled in time, intimate with its intricate loops, its swells, its passing lulls? Consider the clock to be a geography of relation. To declare queer not out of time but in fact enmeshed with time is to dance towards becoming synchronous against the odds. Attuning across long distances, linking despite (or perhaps because of) grief. To fall in time is to fall into a love unrequited: time cannot love you back, cannot nurse your wounds, cannot even promise you company. Time is out to kill, racing against us. Even yet—we rush to its side, seeking its alliance at a lover’s deathbed or amidst the off-hours communion of the dance floor. + Lately I’ve been dancing with archives. Everything touches up with everything: I am experiencing what seems a surreal …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Eric Blackmon

Sixteen By Eric Blackmon 15 years, 7 months, 4 weeks, 1 day, 16 hours, and 33 minutes to be exact. 5,724 dreadful days, 137,416 and a half hours, 8,244,993 miserable minutes. And I won’t forget a second of it. I missed 66 of my kid’s birthdays, 337 holidays, 16 vacations, 14 graduations, 11 funerals, First steps, first words, all of my 20s, half of my 30s, most of my life. I lost everything. Every dime I had, four appeals, friends, family, my fiancé, my relationship with my kids. At times I lost faith, Other times I lost hope, A few times I ever lost myself, But I survived. I survived the conditions. I survived the ornery, tyrannical officers; some wolfish, vulturous inmates. A stabbing, being jumped, two black eyes, two busted lips, one chipped tooth, a busted head, 6 stitches, 1 broken nose, 1 fractured arm, 1 concussion. The suffering, the pain, the loss. But I overcame. I endured. By never hearing, never seeing, never speaking, never caring, never feeling, never loving, never resting, never …

Free Write Arts & Literacy: Poems to Photos

As part of the Envisioning Justice Initiative, Sixty paired writers and photographers with each of Illinois Humanities’ selected community hubs: organizations working within communities around issues of incarceration and justice. One of those organizations is Free Write Arts & Literacy. Going on 19 years, Free Write has provided arts and literacy education to thousands of youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, as well as providing employment and creative opportunities on the outside. A cornerstone of Free Write’s pedagogy is using poetry and personal narratives as a vehicle for both literacy and self-empowerment. In a society and system that is quick to apply ready-made ideas informed by race, class, and condition, on their lives and fates, Free Write encourages their students to “own their narratives” through telling their own stories. Below, you will find two poems written by Free Write students last year, prompted by Aracelis Girmay’s “Elegy in Gold.” Taking a cue from the New York Times series pairing photographs inspired by poetry, photographer Chelsea Ross created a series of images in response to the poems. The …

Inside the Just Art Program at Cook County Jail: Part 2

Continuing the Envisioning Justice project’s coverage of Just Art, I sat down with Aimee Krall-Lanoue, a teaching artist who has facilitated weekly writing classes at Cook County Jail since May. Just Art, which began in 2015, currently consists of three teaching artists who instruct on visual art and writing. Krall-Lanoue is also an English professor and writing center director at Concordia University, and specializes in basic writing. She is interested in the ways that language is used to construct hierarchies, and increasing political awareness around language. One of her larger life goals is to create community writing centers all over the city, staffed by (paid!) writers who live in those communities. Over coffee, we discussed Just Art, pedagogy, and the structural barriers that prevent people from coming to writing. Jordan Sarti: Can you talk a little about pedagogy and how you teach classes differently at a basic writing class at Concordia versus at the jail? Aimee Krall-Lanoue: This is one of the things that I was very concerned about, was that I can make a lot …

Featured image: Maggie Robinson and Allison Sokolowski performing in “I Am” at the Chicago Danztheatre Auditorium, as part of the Body Passages culminating event. Maggie balances with one foot, knee, and hand on the floor, as Allison stands on Maggie’s lower back. The performers hold each other’s left hands and look at each other. Both are barefoot and wear white t-shirts and jeans. Behind them is a well-lit stage, with a string of colorful paper suspended across it. Still from a video by John Borowski.

Body Passages: Culminating Collaborations

This is the fourth and final article in a series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first, second, and third pieces can be found here). These articles provide brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is an artist residency and performance series curated and produced by Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). Trigger warning: The performance “Blood Memory,” discussed below, contains references to sexual assault, including in childhood. During a culminating event featuring groups’ final performances, the Body Passages artists offered the audience sugar cereal, sparkling cider, and glowsticks; invited us to dance with them and record ourselves reading their poetic curations; and asked us to travel back in time with them to New Year’s Eve 1998. Especially appropriate given Body Passages’ collaborative focus and …

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 3)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. adolescence growing up is best        black    lonely      i am almost twenty    i dont want to get on the L right now          met four people i don’t like in a row  …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Aprils Fools and Their Universe: Damon Williams, Jr. and #LetUsBreathe Collective

Damon Williams, Jr. (he/him) is a poet, organizer, one half of brother-sister duo April Fools, co-director of the #LetUsBreatheCollective, and overall unique being. I first heard of his work through mutual comrades, through his and Daniel Kisslinger’s podcast Airgo, and through his rhymes, which embrace self-healing and accountability, and expel self-love and love of your neighbors. MG: Can you introduce yourself for me tell me a little about yourself? DW: I am Damon Williams, Jr. I am 25 years old, and I am a facilitator, teaching artist, organizer, and media and culture maker on the SouthSide of Chicago. MG: What does Chicago mean to you and how do you feel it’s energy affects people? DW: Chicago is home and Chicagoans are hometown people. It is a city that is landlocked, where we live upon this land taken from indigenous native people. It being in the “middle” of the country; being the “Second City,” named after it was rebuilt and thrived once again after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; it is not second to New …

Body Passages: Lani T. Montreal and Maxine Patronik on Developing “Blood Memory”

This is the third article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first and second are online). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. In September, I spoke with writer Lani T. Montreal and dancer/choreographer Maxine Patronik about their collaborative process; their resulting piece, “Blood Memory,” about trauma and bodily memory; and their thoughts about artists’ responsibility when presenting work with sensitive themes. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Lani and Maxine’s final creation – along with those by other Body Passages groups – were performed at a culminating event at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium on October 12 and 13. Marya Spont-Lemus: It was so cool to get to observe you today at work on “Blood Memory,” your piece-in-progress for Body Passages. So thank you! Before we get into discussing that collaborative piece and your process, I’d love …

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 2)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. my best friend is black and she lives in lincoln park she comes from unsally’s beauty. from neighbors who grow shrubs to imagine she is unhere. from unsnow cone man. …

Cruising the Archives: Chicago’s Gerber/Hart Library and Archives

“Often by chance, via out-of-the-way card catalogues, or through previous web surfing, a particular ‘deep’ text, or a simple object (bobbin, sampler, scrap of lace) reveals itself here at the surface of the visible, by mystic documentary telepathy. Quickly — precariously — coming as it does from an opposite direction. If you are lucky, you may experience a moment before.” — Susan Howe, “The Telepathy of Archives” This past February, an initiative to pull books containing “LGBTQ content” from a public library swept through Orange City, Iowa. While the campaign wasn’t successful, its intentions remain the stuff of relatively recent Midwestern history. This is to say that when the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981, patrons couldn’t necessarily count on finding their own experiences and narratives reflected in the shelves of public libraries — while queer content might not have been explicitly banned, it was certainly a blind spot in most mainstream collections. Named after Henry Gerber (founder of the first American gay rights association incorporated in Illinois) and Pearl Hart (one of Chicago’s …

This image depicts part of a performance score, bound into a thin book. On the top page, toward its bottom-right corner, it reads “Dear Corey: Unfold (into you)” in black ink on grey paper. Across the binding, on the bottom page—the majority of the image—text, lines, arrows, and shapes appear in black ink against a whitish vellum background. Solid black abstract shapes connect and overlap, creating white space where they overlap. Lines swoop, loop, and change direction, and some end in arrowheads. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book in progress)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the second of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the first interview here and the third here). In late May, I met with Udita to discuss the book’s first mock-up, her aesthetic choices and decision-making process, and the role of intimacy, the body, and language in her work. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, 7 pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: So, you made a book! Udita Upadhyaya: Yeah. This is not what it’s going to look like but this is the first mock-up with real pages of the scores and some of the color and stuff being decided. MSL: Wow. Can I look …

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 1)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. MY MOTHER SPEAKS TO CHICAGO SUMMERS Next poem….

The photograph shows the artist at center, standing in front of one of the gallery’s internal, white walls, with performers and guests sitting or standing on either side of her. Black vinyl letters are installed directly onto the walls, in the form of words and phrases in English and Hindi. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text. English words/phrases shown in this image include “a tender beginning,” “offer,” and “of this winter.” A gestural drawing—also made of black vinyl—is shown on the left-hand side of the image.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the show)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the first of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the second interview here and the third here). In early March, on the last day of her show “nevernotmusic” at Roman Susan, I met with Udita to discuss her processes of creating and “gifting” performance scores, transforming the scores into an installation, and learning from performers’ interpretations. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, at 7pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: Knowing a bit about your work, and specifically your work with language, I already wanted to talk to you for “Beyond the Page.” And then I was so excited to hear about “nevernotmusic” — the …

Body Passages: Exploring Visual Art with Poets Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken

This is the second article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first is here). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. On an afternoon in early May, I showed up to watch an “open rehearsal” at the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance studio only to find myself a participant. This opportunity became even more exciting when the people I was there to see—Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken, two delightful and effervescent poets who were in residence through Body Passages—invited me to join them as they sought inspiration and inputs in the galleries. We spent an hour together exploring the Cultural Center’s first-floor exhibitions, as the pair shared their observations and perspectives about visual artworks, made connections to their own lives and practices, and generated ideas for a joint creative project—an interdisciplinary, in progress work, prompted by their participation in Body Passages. A …