Lea Basile-Lazarus and Susan Gundlach Photo by Bob Hoagland

April in Evanston brings more than warmer days and the greening of lawns and trees. April is also National Poetry Month – accompanied by a community calendar loaded with events to increase awareness and appreciation for poetry. This April marks the 17th year of observances throughout the country since the Academy of American Poets launched National Poetry Month in 1996. This year’s celebration of poetry in Evanston includes happenings for all ages – toddlers through seniors. Here is an overview:

Poetry for Kids at Evanston Public Library Locations
There are good reasons for nursery rhymes often being children’s first encounter with literature.  The rhyming, singing, and vocabulary-rich fun of these short lyrical rhymes make them great food for developing brains. During April, parents and caregivers can bring their preschoolers and toddlers to any of the three EPL locations for “April Nursery Rhymes” to find, sing, and collect take-home copies of nursery rhymes posted on the libraries’ walls.  At North Branch Library, kids 24-36 months with their caregivers are invited for “Time for Twos” from 10:15-10:45 a.m. every Tuesday in April to enjoy songs, books, puppets, and rhymes. “Pre-School Storytime” at North Branch Library happens every Friday in April, and 3- to 5- year-olds with their caregivers will participate in stories, songs, and verses. North Branch Library invites children 6 and older to “Word Salad,” an hour of delicious fun concocting short poems from a buffet of words. This program will be held Saturday, April 29 between 4 and 5 p.m.

Four Poets at Bookends and Beginnings
Part of the bookstore’s well-packed program schedule this spring includes four accomplished poets reading from their works. On April 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Henry Israeli, Simone Muench, Michael Robins, and Abigail Zimmer will share the evening’s poetry program.

Art and Poetry at Noyes Cultural Arts Center
“Stories in Words and Images” is a lush exhibit exploring the complementary relationship between two art forms: printmaking and poetry. The two Evanston artists – printmaker, Lea Basile-Lazarus and poet, Susan Gundlach – have collaborated as artists many times: presenting workshops for art teachers and classroom teachers, and also using the art forms of book-making and poetry with students. The exhibit in the second floor gallery at Noyes will feature between 25 and 30 mixed-media prints and poems that connect in either imagery, atmosphere, or the stories they tell. The exhibit at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., will run from April 9 through April 24. The opening reception on April 9, between 2 and 4 p.m., will include music by an ETHS jazz trio: musicians Jonah Karsh, Joey Bonansinga, and Evynne Stitely. The exhibit will also include an interactive area for young visitors where they are invited to write and draw responses to artist prints and poems on display.

 Storytelling and Poetry at Fleetwood-Jourdain
 On April 19 at 1 p.m., members of the Foster Senior Club will enjoy a poetry presentation by storyteller and dramatist Lucia Luckett-Kelly. The club for senior men and women meets weekly, is one of Evanston’s longest-running organizations, and has an active membership of more than 150 people. Anyone wishing to join the club and enjoy poetry and other weekly programs may call Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 847-448-8254.

Jo-Anne Hirshfield Poetry Awards
One of Evanston’s longest-running poetry celebrations is the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards. This contest and event in its 39th year is sponsored and hosted by the Evanston Public Library, honoring the memory of Jo-Anne Hirshfield. More than 200 entries from four age groups (elementary, middle school, high school, and adult) were submitted to the Evanston Library by the March 13 deadline, and the three prizewinners in each age category will be announced on April 23. The awards event begins at 2 p.m. at the main library, and each of the prizewinning poets will be invited to read his or her previously unpublished and winning poem – and receive a cash prize. Evanstonian Susan Moss, this year’s event judge and past Hirshfield prizewinner, will also read from her work. Ms. Moss is a former high school English teacher, a poet with two published collections: “Keep Moving ’til The Music Stops,” (Lily Pool/Swamp Press) and “In From The Dark” (Antrim House); and she is serving a third-term as President of the Illinois State Poetry Society. The public is invited to this free event in the library’s Community Room where refreshments will be served.

Off the Shelf Blog
An easy way to become addicted to the Evanston Public Library’s blog is to regularly click on during National Poetry Month to enjoy a poem a day selected by library staff and patrons and to read the posted profiles of local poets talking about poetry and the process of writing.

A RHINO Poetry Happening
The official hot-off-the-press 2016 RHINO Poetry Journal will be available at the RHINO Release Party from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 23 in the new north wing of Chiaravalle Montessori School, 425 Dempster St. This is an opportunity to mingle with poets and lovers of poetry, enjoy refreshments, and sample a memorable RHINO cookie. Anyone wishing more information about anything RHINO can contact someone in the know at editors@rhinopoetry.org.

“Poem in Your Pocket”
April 27, Poem in Your Pocket Day, originated in 2002 as part of New York City’s National Poetry Month celebration, but the warm-hearted event was nationally adopted in 2008. To join in and get in touch with one’s inner-minstrel, folks are encouraged to select a favorite poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. On April 27, Evanston shoppers and pedestrians might have the good luck to come in contact with street teams passing out ribbon-wrapped poems.

RHINO Reads! At Bookends and Beginnings
Evanston’s RHINO is far from endangered. This esteemed poetry journal is a product of The Poetry Forum, a non-profit literary organization in Evanston that sponsors poetry workshops and readings. RHINO’s readings are held the last Friday of each month at the bookstore, Bookends and Beginnings, and the April 28 event (6-7:45 p.m.) is free and will include an open mike and a reading by featured poet Tony Trigilio, Professor in the Poetry Program and Interim Chair of the Department of Creative Writing at Columbia College. Copies of the newest issue of the RHINO journal will be available for sale, as well as a good variety of other poetry books. RHINO Poetry is described by its editors as “being devoted to creative work that tells stories, provokes thought, and pushes the boundaries in form and feeling – while connecting with our readers and audience.”

More RHINO in April
On April 30 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. the Poetry Forum is sponsoring its monthly walk-in poetry critique session facilitated by a master poet. Those interested in having work critiqued should bring at least 17 copies of a poem to the group session held at the main library.

Pocket PoemIf this comes creased and creased again and soiledas if I’d opened it a thousand timesto see if what I’d written here was right,it’s all because I looked too long for youto put it in your pocket. Midnight saysthe little gifts of loneliness come wrappedby nervous fingers. What I wanted this to say was that I want to be so closethat when you find it, it’s warm from me.
                 By Ted Kooser       (“Pocket Poem” is from former U.S. Poet
      Laureate Ted Kooser’s book, “Valentines,”  
     published by the University of Nebraska Press,
    and reprinted here by permission of the author.)Poetry “In a sense, poetry captures what we already know, but it touches us with its intensity and sincerity so we can relate to the subject matter. I truly feel privileged and humbled to have been asked to read all of these poems and judge the event.” – Susan Moss, judge of the 2017 Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards.

Judy Chiss

Judy Chiss has been a feature writer at the RoundTable since 2007 and especially enjoys writing about interesting happenings in the schools, as well as how our local not-for-profits impact the community....