Saturday, August 27, 2011

"poetry brothels" making a hit a la victoriana

image source: The Chicago Poetry Brothel
Who has ever heard of a poetry brothel?  Certainly not I.

So when my eyes fall upon the headline of a Gapers Block article called "Modern Poetry Goes Victorian: the Chicago Poetry Brothel," my interest level is more than just a little bit piqued.

What, exactly, is a poetry brothel? At the Chicago Poetry Brothel a poetry "Madam," her "poetry-whores," and a character known as the Good Doctor all work to peddle the goods of the poetry-whores" to the "depraved" audience:

After patrons get the chance to settle, Madam Black-eyed Susan introduces her poets with a few descriptive sentences about each, and each poet gets a chance to read a bit of their work to entice the crowd. Once everyone has gotten just a taste of the evening's finest lines, the poets mix and mingle with the crowd, peddling their poems, every so often taking the floor again to tease the patrons with more of their work. Because for a mere $5, you can purchase a token that gets you, not only the poetry whore of your choice, but an intimate reading with that poet, inside a velvet tent, complete with chairs, a table, and gold tassels. In this private space, the poet will recite anything the patron wants--be it the poet's own work or a poem the patron has in mind--on any topic. Being face-to-face and knee-to-knee with the poet is a very personal experience--ask the poet anything you want about the piece, ask for it to be read it again, ask pretty please for more than one poem.

I wonder if poets ever get nervous, reading to someone in such an intimate setting.  But Madam Black-eyed Susan has nothing but praise for this method of sharing poetry, as it allows for more honest feedback.

"A poetry brothel provides a unique poetry experience. While fundamentally, it's a poetry reading series, it's unlike other reading series in that it targets people who may not otherwise frequent canonical poetry readings, but still consider themselves patrons of the arts. At the Brothel this is achieved by maintaining two separate spaces: a parlor-like environment, where patrons enjoy burlesque acts, live musical performances and are able to chat with the poets or their friends and a separate space that one might regard as the poets' boudoir, where visitors experience private poetry readings with their chosen "poetry whore." During a private reading, patrons are free to stop the poet, ask questions about the meaning of a poem or to have parts re-read; something that would be impossible at a typical poetry reading! The atmosphere is both intimate and not intimidating or stuffy."

Burlesque shows, live music, and poets dressed as Victorians?  Why don't we have one of these in Pittsburgh?

*starting to think devious, neo-Victorian, writing-related thoughts*

Check out The Chicago Poetry Brothel's website here for more information on upcoming shows, poetry whore bios, and information on the colorful cast of characters that bring this artistic presentation to life.


  1. Wow That is actually pretty interesting. I wish there was one closer to me I'd love to see it.

  2. This is a good Story I was wondering if I could use this story on my website, I will link it back to your website though. If this is a problem please let me know and I will take it down right away.

  3. @ Melbourne brothel- Thank you for asking my permission- this sort of courtesy is rare! I have no problem with you reposting the story on your website since you'll be linking back to me. :)


    Lauren @ Unlacing the Victorians

  4. Only in Chicago....figures. I would make a killing at one of these. ;)