Chapbook and verse


The backroom of Danny’s Tavern, faintly lit by candles and a single lamp that looks like an estate sale find, appears split-pea-soup green. Shadows of the dozen or so lounging undergrads and thirty-somethings cast themselves upon the walls at the Poetry Center of Chicago’s fourth anniversary poetry reading. By the time Eric Elshtain, a PhD student in the University’s Committee on the History of Culture, takes to the microphone, donning sunglasses, the spectators have moved on to their second round of drinks and made themselves at home; a pack of Lucky Strikes, Drum rolling tobacco and papers, chapbooks, and pints of Newcastle and Guinness litter the tables. The third of four poets to read, Elshtain declares in verse, “I’m the one bent on magnum bonum city,” and offers his chapbook, “The Cheaper the Crook, The Gaudier the Patter,” for free “so as not to be undersold.”

Fellow Chicago PhD student Matthias Regan winds up the evening. He not only offers his chapbook, “Worktown, being a small region of the North American Labyrinth,” for free, but also promises the audience members a penny for each copy they take. Take they do, grabbing the shaggy-haired author’s booklets, including a poem whose narrator aspires to “buy a Rolls & get a / Nubian chauffeur in a / leopard-skin jockstrap & / hustle w/ all the lights on / & a cigarette-holder a mile long.”

The Poetry Center’s next reading is slated for September 21.

Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Eric Elshtain takes the mic (top); Josh Baldwin, '06, and Sarah Hack enjoy the live verse (bottom).

August 29, 2005