photo: William Allegrezza
Located at the Hyde Park Art Center
, the series showcases experimental fiction writers and poets.
Incorporated: July 20, 2006
Fringe benefits: It's one of the few readings in town where you can hear both experimental poetry and fiction.
Oftentimes you can follow the conversation over to Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap and share a brew a bit of talk with the writers.
When: Once a month, generally Tuesday evening.
Up next: Ricard Cortez Cruz and Chuck Stebelton read Nov. 21, 7-8 p.m.; Hanna Andrews, Becca Klaver, Kristin Aardsma and Brandi Homan read Dec. 12, 7-8 p.m.
"I thought this was actually a sad literary scene when I moved to Chicago in 2000," says poet William Allegrezza, a teacher at Indiana University Northwest and an editor for experimental poetry journal Moria. "But then there was an explosion of reading series in the city, a real experimental renaissance."
Allegrezza quickly became immersed in the literary scene, mainly traveling north to attend reading series that showcased experimental poetry. But when a few of the reading series went on hiatus, it sparked Allegrezza to bring some of that literary energy to his own neighborhood, Hyde Park. Centerstage recently chatted with Allegrezza, the series founder and curator, to get a better sense of this experimental series.
How did Series A get started?
I went to visit the new Hyde Park Art Center. It's a really interesting space but they didn't have a lot in the way of literary arts so I wanted to add something. And I wanted to add a literary reading on the South Side because, while there are a couple, they tend to be at times that are hard to attend. I noticed there were a lot of experimental poetry readings but there aren't that many experimental fiction spaces or place where you can practice and explore different types of language right now, outside of what's traditionally seen as poetry. So I wanted a space where fiction and poetry writers could come together.
Who attends the readings?
We tend to get a pretty enthusiastic South Side audience. Hyde Parkers are like, 'Holy cow! Something's going on here!' But it's also a pretty even split, between North and South Side residents. It also depends a great deal on who's reading.
How is the reading structured?
There are usually only two readers and the readings go for about 20 minutes each. It's fairly informal and it's BYOB so people come in and talk to each other. There's usually a very informal discussion afterwards. People can linger a bit at the end and talk to the writers or usually a group will head to Jimmy's and continue the discussion there.
What does experimental mean for you and for this series?
[laughs] That's a loaded question. I'm pretty open to anything that seems innovative in some way. You might get someone who is very experimental, like one fiction reader who brought in a recording of himself on a laptop and had the laptop read his work. He wrote about the years after Lake Michigan dried up and there was a new community there and it was kind of futuristic. He was paired with this woman who worked in the prisons and wrote about an experience with the prison. It's hard to say which one was more experimental or innovative. It's just mostly looking for new uses of language.
And is there a reading that stands out as being really memorable?
In September we had the fiction ensemble and they wrote this piece together and read intermittently. One of them would get up and read and they would just stop and another one would get up and read and you didn't know who was going to get up and read and whether that person had written that part or not. It was interesting to see the minds overlapping.
What influences your sense of aesthetic as a curator for the series?
I come to this as an experimental—whatever that might mean—poet, in the vein of somebody like Pound, Olson and Robert Cree. I'm also very interested in what's being done and looked at and innovative in other parts of the world, especially Italian and French writers. I'm a college teacher so I keep up on aesthetic theory. And, in a practical sense, as an editor, I want literature to be something that's in the world, that someone can experience.