Today's blog is a Q&A with Bill Allegrezza, an English lecturer at Indiana University Northwest. Allegrezza has organized a monthly experimental reading series at Hyde Park Art Center known simply as Series A (a nod to modernist poet Louis Zukofsky's major work "A"). Tommorrow, the Art Center and Allegrezza will welcome Gabe Gudding, Tony Trigillo, and Tony Barnstone for the March installment of the series. Read on for more about the origins of Series A and experimental writing in Chicago.
I Am Chicago: Why did you start this reading series?
Bill Allegrezza: I started the reading series primarily because I think Chicago needs more venues to showcase its talent. I also started the series because I believe that Chicago has become a hot spot for experimental/innovative writers to collect, so I wanted a space for them to be able to read their works. Part of the decision also involved trying to put innovative fiction writers and poets in the same room to read. Currently, most reading venues in the city are either one or the other, so the writing crowds often do not overlap.
IAC: Why do you feel Chicago "has become a hot spot for experimental/innovative writers to collect"?
BA: Between 2000-2007, many innovative poets moved to the city, and many reading venues opened, presses started, and e-zines flourished. At the same time, students of influential teachers like Paul Hoover and Michael Anania started creating work and establishing poetic communities. All of those things together created a buzz, which has helped expand the experimental/innovative community and has brought attention to it from around the country.
IAC: What is the selection process like? How did the readers who will be presenting tomorrow get to be a part of the series?
BA: I pick writers I think will match well together. My process is somewhat haphazard. I solicit writers occasionally. Sometimes they solicit me, especially if they are already coming through town on a book tour. Sometimes writers suggest writers they would like to hear. I only book writers if I know something about their works, and often I know quite a bit about the writers who are reading in the series.
The readers for this month were a mix of the above. Since I know their works, I'm very excited to hear them read.
IAC: How would you define experimental writing? What is its draw and appeal?
BA: I typically don't define experimental writing to avoid the argument about what it is. So many writers feel that their work is "experimental." I view the term more as a tradition. In poetry I would point to the line of writers that works its way from Pound through groups like the Black Mountain writers to the Language poets to the current Post-Avant trends. In fiction the tradition is different but also distinct. I would point to writers considered Postmodern and those following them in the non-linear tradition.
IAC: Do you have a similar reading series at Indiana University Northwest? Why have the reading series in Chicago? at the Art Center?
BA: I do not host a similar reading series at Indiana University Northwest, and I have it in Chicago primarily to focus on what is happening in the city and surrounding areas. I picked the South Side because there are not many major reading series there; plus, the Hyde Park Art Center is a wonderful space, full of art and energy, so I hope the reading series brings people there as well.
Series A featuring Gabe Gudding, Tony Trigillo, and Tony Barnstone will be at the Hyde Park Art Center's (5020 S. Cornell) 4833 Muller Meeting Room @ 7pm.