Jul 1, 2011

Printers Row Lit Fest Recap


Ok. I know the PRLF was almost a month ago, so it’s a little late for a recap post, but we’ve already established that I’m a terrible blogger.

Last year, I attended the PRLF as a volunteer. (I recapped that experience here.) There was nothing about that day that wasn’t spectacular, but I really wanted the opportunity to choose the events I attended and to wander around when I wanted and to not wear a giant white tshirt that said GET LIT.

So. This year I brought Marianne. This is why Marianne is the perfect person to bring to the Lit Fest: as soon as we turned down Dearborn and Marianne saw the dozens and dozens of tents and the hundreds and hundreds of book people and hundreds of thousands of BOOKS, she turned to me and said, “Jesse. Jesse, I think this is the coolest thing I’ve ever been to in my life.”

And that’s why I love Marianne.

The first session we went to was a conversation between Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Radioactive Lady and Elanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters. This turned into an excellent conversation about what it’s like to be a woman author, and if women can write as well as men, and if there’s a difference between men and woman writers. (This was right after that whole Naipaul controversy.)  I had just read The Weird Sisters and wanted to get a chance to ask Brown a few questions, but Naipaul carried the conversation away, and no one called on me. It was very like high school in that way.

We went to a couple other sessions, but the other main highlight of the day was sort of an accident. A torrential downpour started about midway through the afternoon, and our choices were either to find an indoor event, or head home. We decided to try the poetry slam tent, and hoped that enough people chose the “head home” option so the tent wouldn’t be too crowded.

It was too crowded, but we went anyway.

Now, attending a poetry slam is a dream I’ve had since a poetry workshop I attended in high school. Let me tell you that I should have fulfilled this dream so much sooner.

Poetry slams are, as best I can tell, one part improv comedy, one part theater, one part spelling bee, and a few parts something amazing that I don’t have a category for. Basically, poets perform–not read, not recite, perform–their poems, are rated on a scale of one to ten, and compete for a prize of dubious value.

There was a level of electricity and excitement in that tent that I’m not sure how to get across. What I can tell you is that I spent the hour clapping and bouncing in my seat and hoping that Poetry Slam Day could be every day. New life goal: attend more poetry slams.

It was just such a good, full day. I felt like I had to walk around with my arms spread out just so I could hold in everything I was learning and seeing. There were so many perfect little details sprinkled in to the overall adventure, like the Eloiseian girls who live in a high-rise but dragged their tea-party table down to the sidewalk to sell $1 cups of lemonade, or the car-commercial-in-production that we stumbled into, or the street performing drummer who travels with his full drum kit, or the crazy midwestern storm that forced us inside, or meeting the author whose signing I missed because she took shelter from the storm in the same restaurant as we did so I could still get the book signed and also have a very short conversation about magical realism. See? It was just an arms-too-small-to-hold-all-this kind of day.


I encourage you to draw a big red circle around the first week of June and to plan on being at the Lit Fest. These sorts of events can only happen if people show up, and you should show up, because that’s how adventures happen.

If you’re looking for more information about the PRLF, here’s the official Chicago Tribune recap.

Here are some videos of a few of the sessions, but just FYI, these are from Book-TV, so they’re very interesting, but a little bit dryer than some of the other events at the fest.

If you want to know more about poetry slams, one of my favorite Chicago inventions, check out Chicago Slam Works. They ran the PRLF slam, and I think I have a crush on the entire organization.

Oh, and if you’re looking for letterpress letters, I suggest you check Etsy. But really, you should just do like I do and make them a yearly PRLF tradition.


1 Comment

  • This sounds like my happy place, and my favorite kind of serendipitous adventuring. I have to say, I’ve never been to a poetry slam, but I LOVE hearing poets read their own work. Just one of the best things, ever. My school gives a big poetry award and going to the poetry events is a highlight of every year. 🙂

    The LATimes Festival of Books is also a guaranteed place of magic. Just so you know. 😀

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