Fun fact for all you proud Chicagoans: the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was awarded to a book of poems about a black girl growing up in Bronzeville.
The poet? Gwendolyn Brooks — the first African American to earn such a distinction.
The Chicago icon would’ve turned 100 this year, and to celebrate, the renowned shadow puppeteers at Manual Cinema have teamed up with a collective of local artists for a retrospective on her life.
And she, of course, deserves it.
Brooks is essential. Not only as a voice for Chicago, but for America. She succeeded Carl Sandburg as the poet laureate of Illinois in 1968 and served until her death, in 2000. The woman’s received countless accolades. And she’s authored more than 20 volumes of poetry (including her second book Annie Allen, which won her that Pulitzer) along with lesser-known fiction.
In short: this show will be one of the best cultural events you go to this year.
Here’s your plan.
Step One: The Reading Material
Tonight, it’s all about one of Chicago’s great poets. Better reacquaint yourself. You may remember We Real Cool, but she’s more than that. For celebrating the centennial of Brooks's birth year, we suggest picking up Revise the Palm from local indie publisher Curbside Splendor, which includes poetry, essays and art inspired by Brooks. It’s as much as ode to the poet as it is the city of Chicago.
Revise the Palm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks, Curbside Splendor
Step Two: The Show
What to expect from No Blue Memories? A collaboration commissioned by the Poetry Foundation between Manual Cinema and some of the city’s most promising young black creatives: written by poets Eve Ewing and Nate Marshall, with an original soundtrack from frequent Chance the Rapper collaborator Jamila Woods. Which is all to say: this is going to be an incredible night. Best part? It’s free. But also first come, first served. It all goes down November 17-19. Check the schedule and plan your attack. For a preview, check out the companion piece above.
Step Three: The Dinner
There’s nothing more fitting for the evening than dinner in an actual former press room. That’s what you’ll find at Press Room, the low-key wine bar hiding beneath Publishing House Bed & Breakfast. The vibe: an intimate, Euro-esque lounge with cozy nooks, long communal tables and velvet chairs at the bar. The focused wine list of 70 is heavy on by-the-glass pours and labels from Australia. Grab a bottle and order up some cheese and charcuterie.