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A New Home for Poems

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on May 6, 2007 8:30PM

Chicagoist doesn't think about poetry much. Oh, sure, we acknowledge its timeless beauty and reason for being, mostly through the cramped pages of our high school notebooks. And we recognize its innate role in the magical media of music — after all, "my hump" and "my lumps" rhyme sublimely, do they not? Surely it must be Fate. But we jest. Overall we take poetry for granted, preferring instead the down-to-earth words of novels and stories. Maybe that standing will change in our mind once the Chicago Poetry Foundation puts up their new building in River North.

mag poetryAs we learned from the Sun-Times' fragrant prose, the foundation, which has published Poetry magazine (shocker) for the past 95 years, recently closed on a parcel of land at Dearborn & Superior. Although replete with two buildings and a parking lot already built, those structures will be taken down so that a new "national home" for poetry can be created from scratch by 2010. We're kind of miffed that an organization that celebrates an art form almost as old as time wouldn't recycle the old buildings, but we're sure they have their reasons.

One interesting aspect of the $6.7 million deal was how the foundation was even able to afford it in the first place. A million performance art die-hards and any number of spoken word artists can tell you, poetry don't pay much. Enter pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Lilly heiress Ruth instigated a substantial, financial, annual gift to the Chicago Poetry Foundation back in 2002. After some legal troubles, that fund today has grown to $175 million, allowing for the deal to go through, and then some. And for those that think it unethical or strange for a pharm giant to subsidize the output of art, think to yourself: where would poetry be without drugs?

Image courtesy of geekgrrl++.