Mardi Gras? Been there, done that. How about spending a Monday with whores?
The Chicago Poetry Bordello kicks off the Carnival season with a Lundi Gras “historic night of mischief and disguise.”
The Bordello’s Madam Black-eyed Susan (Susan Yount) responded to a few of our solicitations…er, questions.
1. How did the Poetry Bordello come to Chicago?
Sometime in 2010, a couple of tramps from New York City invited me and some others to
perform, you know, poetry, at the first poetry brothel held here in Chicago. That evening,
they asked me to be the Chicago madam. About a year later, they wanted me pay to work for
them. They even wanted me to sign a contract stating I would do so. What fresh hell is that?
So, the group of talented poets and performers I had been working with in Chicago broke
free from the NYC shackles. We went rogue and founded the Chicago Poetry Bordello.
2. To be honest, poetry readings tend to fill me with an unnameable dread. You, however,
consistently have top-notch talent. Where do you find your caliber of poets?
As madam, I take pride in my poetry whores. I met some as editor of the Arsenic Lobster
Poetry Journal. I had undergrad or grad classes (or both) with others. One came highly
recommended by a member of our troupe and another I met at a Pocket Guide to Hell
event. I enjoy reading their poetry and hearing them perform around the city. They each
have qualities I aspire to and I’m honored to read with them.
3. For the home audience, how does the Poetry Bordello work?
A poetry bordello is an event with music and entertainment, and offers one-on-one poetry
readings. Our poetry bordello puts the visitor in the midst of a brothel from Chicago’s
romantic and seedy Victorian past (think Everleigh Club). The poets involved, referred to
as “poetry whores,” read their own work in both public readings to the entire audience,
referred to as “poetry teases,” and for the price of a brothel token, they will read privately to
one or two patrons at a time. Between visits with our poetry whores, patrons mingle in our
“parlor” where old-timey music, fortune tellers, pianists, burlesque dancers, vaudevillians,
whiskey, wines, and whatever else I can wrestle up are available! So it’s not your usual coffee-
house poetry reading, and it’s a lot of fun for both poetry enthusiasts and neophytes alike!
4. What do you look for in a venue?
Finding the right venue has been the most difficult part of running the show. The most
important criteria is also the most difficult to find – a luscious space. Next, it needs to serve
some sort of spirits. Beyond those first two criteria, it needs to be affordable – not only to
our troupe but for our guests as well. The Chopin Theatre is almost the perfect venue. It
meets all the above criteria but we cannot get weekend show dates. We are still looking for a
venue that has weekend dates to offer.
5. There have been some controversies with the New York chapter of the Poetry Brothel.
Please expound on the matter.
Our rogue group was flourishing and operating peacefully for quite a while until the NYC
brothel inquired about whether we planned to do a show coinciding with the AWP 2012
conference in Chicago. After I responded affirmatively, I received an extremely crass email
from the NY group informing me that they would be attending AWP and taking part in
our show with a group of NY poetry whores, and with the conditions that we give them
70% of our profits. We replied that such terms were completely unacceptable. Immediately
thereafter, their lawyer sent me a cease and desist letter, demanding that we stop all activity
using the words “poetry brothel.”
That is about the time we were inspired to continue on with our new and improved name,
Chicago Poetry Bordello! The best thing about that (except that we now have a much
classier name to go with a classier show), I’ve not had to interact with those two tramps ever
since and that has been a huge relief.
6. Bonus question: How does the Bordello keep Johnny Law off its back?
Well, we follow only the best in the business and by that, I mean trail blazers, Minna and
Ada Everleigh. Thanks to a bit of protection money and our love of newsmen and women
alike, Johnny Law is practically a regular John. Huzzah!
A historic night of mischief and disguise awaits you.
Join the Chicago Poetry Bordello for Lundi Gras!
Monday, Feb. 11, 2013
8pm to Midnight
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division, Chicago
$5 if dressed Victorian. $10 if not.
Chopin has a CASH ONLY bar.
Live music by the White City Rippers & Jeff Levin on piano!
Burlesque beauties Baile Nouveau!
Plus hand cut silhouettes by Nina Nightingale!
AND AS ALWAYS, Chicago’s best Poetry Whores!