Best Poetry Events In Chicago

April 1, 2013 8:00 AM

Dylan York reading from her iPhone at Uncharted Books as she sips a root beer. (Credit: Mason Johnson)

By Megan Horst-Hatch

In honor of National Poetry Month, which kicks off today, add writing a sonnet or attending a poetry reading to your schedule. After all, Chicago, which has been the subject of poems by Carl Sandburg, is the perfect place to take in a poetry reading or even try your hand at composing a haiku. From the suburbs to the Loop, Chicago has numerous activities planned so you can learn more about poetry. To celebrate National Poetry Month, consider checking out the following events.

Marc Smith of the Uptown Poetry Slam (Credit:

Marc Smith of the Uptown Poetry Slam (Credit:

Uptown Poetry Slam
Green Mill Jazz Club
4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Chicago, Il 60640

Date: Every Sunday

See the man who started slam poetry at the Green Mill’s Uptown Poetry Slam, which happens every Sunday. Hosted by Marc Smith, you can see some of Chicago’s most vibrant artists performing at this weekly event. Slam poetry is a competitive form of poetry where individuals share their work without a piece of paper acting as their shield, reciting poetry from memory with as much emotion as they can muster. If you want to see someone truly give everything they’ve got, this is the place to go.

Winnetka Public Library
768 Oak St.
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-7220

Date: April 7

Have you ever wanted to create a haiku, but never knew where to begin? For those looking to expand their literary chops, consider attending Haikufest. During the event, participants will learn about haikus, a form of poetry that originated in Japan, and read sample poems. Next, writers will be challenged to compose a poem in 17 syllables or fewer, and can share their work with the group. A question-and-answer session will follow the discussion. Although this is a free event, registration is required.



Poetry Open Mic
Gallery Cabaret
2020 N. Oakley
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-5471

Date: April 10 (& Every Other Wednesday)

If your inner poet is dying to get out and share your latest creation, then consider heading to Gallery Cabaret, located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. There is no pretense with the poetry open mic at the bar; just walk in and sign up for a spot. If you want, you can also just get a beer from the bar and listen to others as they read their work. Just about any topic can be covered in the poetry open mic night, so hold onto your hats. The bar also tries to record every open mic performance, some of which are available online. Can’t make it to the next performance? Not to worry; the event is held every other Wednesday, with another open mic scheduled for April 24.

(Credit: Revolving Door Reading Series’ facebook)

(Credit: Revolving Door Reading Series’ facebook)

Revolving Door
7 Ultra Lounge
1270 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, Il 60622

Date: 4th Thursday of the Month

Revolving Door is an eclectic reading held the fourth Thursday of the month. Often blending poetry with fiction and storytelling, the featured readers at Revolving Door know how to keep an audience’s attention. It’s all boosted by the efforts of FathomDJ, accompanying the readers with a wide range of great music.

Poesía En Abril
Poetry Foundation
61 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 787-7070

Date: April 13

If you’re looking for poetry in a foreign language, consider adding Poesía en Abril to your schedule. The event celebrates the work of two poets who are influential in Spanish-language poetry. This year’s event honors Coral Bracho and Juan Carlos Mestre, and features visual poetry. Don’t speak Spanish? No problem; the event also includes bilingual readings. Cosponsored with Contratiempo, Instituto Cervantes and DePaul University, the one-hour event is held at the Poetry Foundation’s headquarters in Chicago’s Near North Side. The free event is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dylan York reading from her iPhone at Uncharted Books as she sips a root beer. (Credit: Mason Johnson)

Dylan York reading from her iPhone at Uncharted Books as she sips a root beer. (Credit: Mason Johnson)

Poetry Made of Diamonds
Uncharted Books
2630 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Poetry Made of Diamonds

Date: Monthly

Poetry Made of Diamonds is a monthly poetry reading that could be explained, but not well.

There are poets that read, some of them make sense, some of them don’t, most fall in between. Regardless, it’s always entertaining. Host Russ Woods always makes sure to choose performers who tend to be both engaging and fun, which is certainly better than the off-putting and boring characteristics that some readings shoot for. Plus, Uncharted Books is a great, new-ish bookstore that’s worth checking out.

Poetry Fest
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State St.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 747-4300

Date: April 27

If you’re in the Loop on April 27, consider scheduling in a day-long festival. The Chicago Public Library will hold its annual poetry fest at the Harold Washington Library Center. The event is organized with the Poetry Foundation and features keynote speakers and presentations. This year’s events include a presentation by poet Campbell McGrath, a writing workshop, a how-to seminar on publicity and marketing for poets and an open mic event at 3 p.m. As long as you’re visiting the library, check out the extensive poetry resources in the collection, covering everything from poetry criticism, how-to guides for creating your own poems and biographies of notable poets.

John Yau (Credit:

John Yau (Credit:

John Yau
Myopic Books
1564 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-4882‎

Date: April 27

Have you ever wanted to get an inside look at a poet’s work? If so, then join John Yau, a Massachusetts-born poet who published his first book of poetry at the age of 26, who will participate in a reading and discussion at Myopic Books. The award-winning poet has since published additional works and is currently a professor of art criticism at Rutgers University. A question-and-answer session follows the talk. The free event does not require registration in advance. Myopic Books is located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, and is close to the Damen stop on the El’s Blue Line.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at

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