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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Soul singer Christian JaLon turns her love inward on the new If You Let Me

Posted By on 08.28.18 at 12:23 PM

  • Ray Abercrombie
  • Christian JaLon

Earlier this summer, Chicago soul artist Christian JaLon released "Getting to Know Vinyled Love," a short behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of her 2017 EP Vinyled Love. On that EP, she'd tried to convey what love means to her—though it was inspired by a specific relationship, she connected those feelings to her understanding of divine love, which has its roots in her connection to the church. But now that relationship is over, and on her latest EP, If You Let Me (released August 20), JaLon is ready to cleanse her musical mind of love—at least romantic love. It's the last project she has planned before her debut album, due in 2019.

"The content that I put into If You Let Me are really just residual feelings from Vinyled Love," she says. "They both came from the same place—I just wanted to get it all out. After this, I really won't have any more love songs in me for a while."

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Friday, August 17, 2018

ThoughtPoet is on a mission to capture the beauty in black Chicago

Posted By on 08.17.18 at 01:00 PM

ThoughtPoet self-portrait - CHRIS THOUGHTPOET
  • Chris ThoughtPoet
  • ThoughtPoet self-portrait

"I like to describe myself as a creative rather than a photographer," says Christopher "ThoughtPoet" Brown. "Sometimes I feel like the label is limiting. I write, I act, and I try to do more with my photos than just capture moments."

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jamila Woods and Kevin Coval collaborate with Vinyl for a Cause to benefit Young Chicago Authors

Posted By on 06.26.18 at 10:00 AM

The cover for VFAC 004, by Chicago artist Paul Branton - COURTESY REVERB LP
  • Courtesy Reverb LP
  • The cover for VFAC 004, by Chicago artist Paul Branton

Today local label Vinyl for a Cause drops a limited-edition vinyl seven-inch called VFAC 004 in collaboration with Chicago-based online record marketplace Reverb LP. It's the fourth Vinyl for a Cause release, and like the first three, it brings together two local artists to reimagine each other's original creations—and half of the net proceeds go to a nonprofit chosen by the artists.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

South-side poet Kwynology wants you to fall back in love with Chicago at her open mike

Posted By on 06.25.18 at 04:13 PM

Kwyn Townsend Riley, aka Kwynology - MATTHEW HARVEY
  • Matthew Harvey
  • Kwyn Townsend Riley, aka Kwynology

South-side native Kwyn Townsend Riley, aka Kwynology, is in love with the city of Chicago. Her hopes for its people, her pride in its culture, and her appreciation of its influence on her individually were recurring themes in my conversation with her. They also appear in her recent poem "Windy." In the emphatic spoken-word piece that is as sobering as it is starry-eyed, Kwyn delivers a sermon on what her hometown means to her and expresses her gratitude, optimism, criticism, and vision for "Windy," which she personifies as a hurt person who only wanted to "burn blunts, blow trees, and do poetry, and be free" but has ended up burning "childless dreams."

"I want people to fall back in love with the city," Kwyn said. "It just feels like so many people have given up on it and are leaving it behind."

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

826CHI's Teen Writers Studio amplifies the voices of Chicago’s youth

Posted By on 06.14.18 at 06:00 AM

The cover art of I Will Hold You Like a Bible - KRIS EASLER
  • Kris Easler
  • The cover art of I Will Hold You Like a Bible

The Chicago high school students enrolled in 826CHI's Teen Writers Studio aren't afraid to learn from each other. "Everyone is welcoming and willing to help each other grow and learn," says 11th-grader Stephanie R. of her experience in the program. For fellow 11th-grader Kara K., being a part of the encouraging environment at the Writers Studio has helped her become more confident in her skills and given her a community to engage in discussions over difficult, but relevant topics, like gun violence. "I always feel safe to express myself at 826CHI," she says.

On Monday at a special event at the Poetry Foundation, Stephanie, Kara, and their fellow members of the Teen Writers Studio will release a chapbook of their poems and short stories created over the course of the 2017-'18 school year entitled I Will Hold You Like a Bible.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Five literary biopics whose pictures are worth a thousand words

Posted By on 05.30.18 at 06:00 AM

Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table
  • Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table
The biopic has been a staple in filmmaking since the sound era began, though over the years literary figures seem to have gotten fewer screen treatments than other notables. On Friday, Gene Siskel Film Center opens Haifaa al-Mansou's 2017 film Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning, and next Tuesday, Chicago Film Society screens Charles Vidor's 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye. Taking a page from these, we've selected five additional biopics about writers, ones that don't just rest on words but also offer up some visual artistry.

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Brodsky/Baryshnikov is a meditation on mortality, with a little bit of dancing

Posted By on 02.03.18 at 11:36 PM

Mikhail Baryshnikov reads Joseph Brodsky's work. - JANIS DEINATS
  • Janis Deinats
  • Mikhail Baryshnikov reads Joseph Brodsky's work.

The set for Mikhail Baryshnikov's tribute to Joseph Brodsky consists of a structure resembling a ruined old greenhouse—something you might picture surviving in a neglected corner of the Ranyevskaya estate years after the sale of the cherry orchard. Baryshnikov's route to the stage takes him through a door at the back of the structure, across its near-empty interior, and finally out a downstage set of doors. Almost comically circuitous, it's not what you'd call a star entrance. And it's not followed by anything you'd call a star turn. The great dancer spends the next few moments unpacking items from a valise: books, a pint-size whisky bottle. Then he starts reciting Brodsky's poetry, in Russian.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The second annual Chicago Poetry Block Party proves that poetry belongs to everyone

Posted By on 08.01.17 at 04:45 PM

On Saturday, July 29, Crescendo Literary presented the second annual Chicago Poetry Block Party at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Founded by prolific Chicago-based poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall, Crescendo is an arts and educational organization devoted to the principle that artists enrich their communities and vice versa—and the block party doubles as an incubator for writers who want to combine their creative work with community organizing.

Ewing, who's also an essayist, visual artist, and postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, says the point of the block party was to take poetry out of the ivory tower and increase its accessibility.

"Poetry is not a luxury," she says, quoting Audre Lorde. "To me that means that poetry is something human beings have been doing forever and ever. It's a chance for self-expression that belongs to all people, no matter where you come from or who you are."

Intrepid filmmaker Morgan Elise Johnson captured the block party's all-inclusive guiding principle in action.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Terence Davies discusses the passions behind his latest film, A Quiet Passion

Posted By on 05.17.17 at 01:00 PM

Cynthia Nixon (left) plays Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion
  • Cynthia Nixon (left) plays Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion
Terence Davies is one of England's most important living filmmakers, having directed two seminal British films, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992). His subsequent films—among them The House of Mirth (2000) and The Deep Blue Sea (2011)—are just as rich as these, combining vividly realized settings, balletic camera movements, and exquisitely understated performances to create visions of the past that resonate in your memory long after you watch them. Davies is also an impeccable dramatist, rendering his characters' emotional pain in palpable terms and writing dialogue that flows like music. His latest feature, A Quiet Passion (which opens Friday at the Music Box), is a moving biography of Emily Dickinson and another deeply personal work. As Davies explained when I spoke to him last month, he frequently drew on his childhood memories when devising the film, and its sympathetic portraits of female characters (not least Dickinson herself) stem from feelings he had as a boy for his mother and sisters. Davies also discussed the early filmic influences that continue to inspire him and some of his working methods.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

On Brian Williams's terrible ‘beauty’ gaffe

Posted By on 04.07.17 at 02:55 PM

Brian Williams pictured in 2014 - AP/BRAD BARKET
  • AP/Brad Barket
  • Brian Williams pictured in 2014
Missiles erupt from American warships to strike Damascus, and Brian Williams of MSNBC calls the sight "beautiful." He's denounced, of course. The chemical attack on Syrian civilians, many of them children, by Bashar al-Assad outraged Americans of every political inclination; but the president's eye-for-an-eye response—or what he'd clearly like to have Americans applaud as an eye-for-an-eye response—disgusts many of us as a tone-deaf glorification of violence.

The proper response to violence is never violence. It's something else.

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May 07

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