It's seem every month there is a new reading series popping
up, but I honestly feel that you can never have too many. Any venue that is
willing to allow writers take that stage and share a thought is worthy of
hosting a series. However, to be a good series you must have a good host or
hosts, and the newest series in town, Uncalled-for, has two fine writers at the
helm. Megan Milks and Tim Jones-Yelvington have a borrowed the series from
Brooklyn and are launching at Las Manos Gallery (5220 N. Clark St) this
Saturday, Jan. 9th. Billed as a mostly queer, mostly prose reading series,
Uncalled-for will feature the work of Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, M. Shelly Conner,
and Ms. Milks herself this time around.
I asked co-founder Tim why he felt the city needed a reading series like Uncalled-for and he had this to say, "Much so-called experimental literature seeks to innovate or challenge traditional notions of form, while at the same time embracing formalism, or the opportunities various forms provide. I feel this is compatible with the project of many Queer activists who are challenging the forms gender and sexuality take -- we reject the notion of stable and fixed identities, while still embracing identity as a fundamental component of liberatory politics. "Uncalled-for Readings" raises the question -- what is Queer lit? What is Queer? The writers? The texts? We intend to leave these questions deliberately open-ended as we move forward." I also had a chance to ask co-founder Megan Milks the same question and this was her response. "I don't know that Chicago necessarily needs a reading series like Uncalled-For Readings; which is why we were interested in sharing the title of Ari and Danica's series in Brooklyn. We like the name's irony as well as its looseness, and Ari and Danica were excited by the idea of sharing a name and sensibility that will (we hope) forge a kind of alliance between NYC and Chicago writers. We're hoping to figure out how to do that more explicitly than simply sharing a name, possibly by hosting a joint NYC-Chicago event at the end of the year.
Why 'mostly queer, mostly prose'? Again, we're riffing off of our parents' tagline, 'mostly queer, mostly poets.' We like the &-ness of 'queer,' and also its implied emphasis on the nonnormative, the weird and the grotesque. That said, we want to note that our series seeks to unite multiple aesthetic approaches and is not fixed upon experimental lit (though I think both Tim and I see ourselves as following a certain tradition of queer experimental writing). And while we want to feature poets, we don't actually know that many, being prose writers ourselves. (Poets, get in touch!)
Where we fit in among Chicago's lit scene, which granted is already brimming over with reading series(es?) and literary events, is yet to be seen. Chicago's lit scene is rich, from what I've experienced of it. I think though that there are plenty of writers in this city who write within a queer tradition (wherever they'd locate it) and would benefit from reading to a queer/queer-allied audience.
As well, Chicago's queer scene is rich, with Homolatte and Sappho's Salon both showcasing literary work in addition to musical performances. Both events do a terrific job bringing together musicians, literary artists, and other performance artists while creating community. Uncalled-for hopes to provide a similar atmosphere of camaraderie through the literary arts: the series will feature a wide range of aesthetic approaches, in writers and writing broadly defined as queer, and in combinations of writers that are "queer" in their unexpectedness. So yeah. We're uncalled-for, but there's room."
So, called for or not Megan and Tim are setting the stage, starting a dialog, and are ready for your ears and reactions. The reading starts at 7:00pm at Los Manos Gallery on Saturday Jan. 9th.