A popular block party that featured local poets was held in Austin for the first time on Saturday as a way to introduce poetry to the community.
The Austin Town Hall hosted the Third Annual Chicago Poetry Block Party where several poets performed including Frankiem Mitchell, a Humbodlt Park resident.
“I have been doing poetry for a while now and I love it,” said Mitchell, the program and art director for the nonprofit John Walt Foundation in Chicago. “Poetry is a way to express yourself in an artistic form, and a way to say how you’re feeling about something.”
About 800 people attended the five-hour event that included games for children, vendor booths, food and live music.
Daniel Burk, a Jefferson Park resident, was among the attendees at the event.
“I am here because I love poetry and because I attended previous block parties,” said Burk, a literature instructor at Arrupe College of Loyola University of Chicago. “I taught some of the poets’ work in my class and I came here because I wanted to meet them.”
Austin resident Tonika Wright said she’s glad the event finally came to the West Side.
“All you ever hear about on the West Side is killing. So much so that children are afraid to come outside and are confined to indoors,” said Wright. “This event is positive and provides a family atmosphere for the community. Hopefully, it will show everyone the bright side of the West Side.”
Each year the Poetry Foundation sponsors the outdoor event in partnership with Crescendo Literary to bring poetry to neighborhoods not known for the arts. In 2016, the block party was held in Bronzeville on the South Side and last year in Pilsen on the Southwest Side.
“A void has been filled on the West Side with this block party. This event is an opportunity for the foundation to show what’s happening in your neighborhood and not all poets are old and dead,” said Ydalmi Noriega, director of community relations for the Poetry Foundation. “Poetry is universal and can be enjoyed by anyone.”
The event was held on the West Side this year at the request of attendees, according to Eve Ewing, co-founder Crescendo Literary.
“The first year we had the block party it was in Bronzeville. Afterwards people was coming up to me asking if we would that bring it to the West Side, so we did,” said Ewing. “Now the goal is to have the block party in as many neighborhoods as possible.”
The block party also attracted poetry lovers like Brian Mukle, who traveled to Austin from his home in south suburban Olympia Fields.
“The reason I came here was because I love poetry. This is my first time attended the block party after hearing so much about it,” said Mukle. “Now that I have attended I can look forward to coming back next year.”