Must Read. Truly.
Pimp My Poem by Kathleen Rooney : The Poetry Foundation [article]
If you attend one of the Chicago Poetry Brothel’s monthly events, you will be greeted at the door of the House of Blues’ Foundation Room by a mysterious man in a mustache and top hat known only as the Good Doctor. He will take your $10 cover if you are not in period garb, or your five bucks if you are clad as a proper Victorian. (NB: Convincing Victoriana is all about the headwear: hats, flowers, feathers, and the like.)
This man will hand you a bound menu of the evening’s performers, comely men and women with names like Calliope Belle, Jens Jensen III, and the Woodland Doll, and elaborate backstories to match. Durham Pure, for example, was “manifested from cigarette smoke and a gypsy’s lamp oil that caught a southern current and settled in Chicago,” and Nicola von Huntelaar was “raised by the captain of the sea ship No Hope, who found her raft skirting the Alaskan coast.”
You will enter a dim room appointed with fireplaces, silk tapestries, velvet banquettes, and damask wall hangings flecked with tiny mirrors and sequins. Every available surface will be either carved hardwood or plated with gold leaf. Because no self-respecting bordello would be caught without a piano player, there will be one, alternating his sets with DJs spinning the greatest hits of the 1890s and early 1900s.
You might order yourself a whiskey drink or some absinthe from the bar, and while you’re standing there, getting your bearings, you will almost certainly be approached by one of the Regulars, perhaps the Card Sharp, who “as a youth growing up in Bombay, India, learned how to use chicanery and card tricks to separate pigeons from their money,” or the Consumptive, who “rather than recuperate in warm and arid climes, has opted to dissipate here in the cold and muggy Middle West, living out his remaining days neither wisely nor well.” These gentlemen will gently persuade you to pay a further $5 per token for poker chips. These chips will facilitate secluded exchanges with the Poetry Whore of your choosing, the idea being that ladies of the night had best not handle cash.
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