Chicago, my hometown, is known for allot of things.
It is perhaps the most Roman Catholic city in America. At one time everyone in the Chicago area identified themselves by their parish, even if they were not Catholic. This sense remains the case but less so but of course when Pope John Paul II died it was normal to see every Polish, Irish, Italian and Mexican tavern in the city with the Pope's picture, often over the bar, and the funeral Mass on the TV.
Chicago is also known for its tribalism, its racism and is roughness but it is also known for having the greatest symphony in the world, seven great universities, the best Hot Dogs anywhere, two great Baseball teams (One I love and one I hate) and the best architecture outside of Italy or France. Chicago is a great place and when I returned home four years ago I was instantly satiated.
Poetry has also been a great gift from Chicago. Some bad poetry has come out of Chicago for example the uninspired slam scene which is vapid and uninteresting but some really great poets as well have been formed here- Sandberg, Anania, Hoover, Monroe, Mac Low, Carroll and Chernoff are all Chicagoans and poets who have made the world better and have busted through.
Cracked Slab Books (www.crackedslab.com) is the press that I own with my friend and partner in crime William Allegrezza (it is appropriate that two Italian Americans run a Poetry Press in Chicago LOL) and we have just come out with our Anthology, The City Visible, Chicago Poetry for the New Century. This anthology is the record of a poetic conversation in Chicago from 2000-2006 between many groups in this city who are writing with experimental modes. We wanted to create an anthology that focused on experimental poets and poets who use international influences in their writing but who live or work in this- the most American city.
I am very proud of this book. It brings together very diverse voices, groups, religions, races and styles and makes poetry new again- which unfortunately our friends at the Poetry Foundation have forgotten about as they promote Kay Ryan and Philip Larkin-- in our anthology however is poetry, cut from the bone like meat in our long closed stockyards. Tonight is our second reading- at Powells north on Lincoln at 7 PM- if you come and read this on the Irascible Poet I owe you a beer--- Chicago Style