After 51 readings, the Dollhouse Reading Series—hosted by a Columbia Poetry MFA alum and featuring many Columbia College Chicago poets alongside professional and touring poets from around the country—has ended. It went out with a bang, featuring dozens of past readers, and while it will be missed by many poets and poetry appreciators in Chicago, we are not a city with a lack of readings. Whether looking for an open mic to test out a few of your new poems on a fresh crowd or simply searching for a place to hear and experience new poems, Chicago has you covered.It’s next to impossible to keep up with all of the readings and open mic options around the city; for every Dollhouse that sticks around and makes an impact, there’s half a dozen or a dozen readings that fizzle out after one or two events. Two reading series that have made their mark and regularly host a wide variety of poets are on my short list for poets or poetry readers looking for something to do on a free night: Wit Rabbit, meeting twice a month, and the Poetry Center’s Six Points Reading Series, which meets roughly every month.
When you’re a student at Columbia, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to share your writing with peers and professors to get feedback, but there are few experiences that will tell you just how well a poem punches than reading it to a crowd of strangers. As the birthplace of slam poetry, Chicago has its fair share of open mics and slams where you can get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in a poem while also putting you in touch with a group of poets that you might not ever encounter in an academic setting.
While there’s the famous Uptown Poetry Slam series every Sunday at the Green Mill, Chicago also has In One Ear at the Heartland Cafe, Mental Graffiti at Cafe Mustache, and a long list of other options (thanks to the Chicago Reader for that one). With these regular reading series, Columbia’s own series that has brought Pulitzer and National Book Award winners to campus, and readings at the Poetry Foundation, you should have no trouble filling your free time with poetry when you’re here.