Smile Politely

An afternoon of poetry, an afternoon of prose

Back in high school, I remember my English teacher trying to explain how a career in the literary arts works. I only have scraps of that conversation left (my short term memory wasn’t so good back then) but I can recall being struck with how hard and unrewarding it sounded: lots of writing and rewriting, lots of criticism and rejection, all with very little financial reward (there are some exceptions to this). Throw in a dash of career uncertainty, a smidge of disrespect, and one begins to wonder why anyone might choose such a vocation. I invite you to answer this with whatever cliche you feel is necessary, but I’d also like to posit my own: its because of you, dear reader, you who takes time out of your day to read their work or better yet, to listen as they read their own work to you. So take your career-affirming role seriously and check out one or both of these upcoming readings, lest you fall short in yet another sector of your life.


The VOICE Reading Series

Friday, 10/23 | Krannert Art Museum | 3:30 p.m. | Free


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, generally devoid of pomp and circumstance, VOICE readings are a great way to introduce yourself to literary performance (e.g. people standing around and reading stuff they wrote). The students who read here are casual, appreciative and above all very very talented. This, the second VOICE reading of the semester, will feature three, count ’em three, poets.

Heather Salus (pictured left) and Dana Burchfield (whose chapbook “Habit” was Marginalia’s 2008 College Contest winner)  represent the old guard of UIUC’s MFA program while first year student Eduardo Gabrieloff represents the new. Of the three, I’ve only ever heard Burchfield read and she has never disappointed. Always poised and focused, her recitations shed light the condensed, image driven obscurities of her poems. It is always a treat to see her read, though I may actually be more interested to hear what Heather does with her poems, which (from what I’ve read) practically read themselves.  Eduardo is the wildcard of the bunch, but there’s a rumor going around that he’s fabulous.


John Griswold

10/26 | Author’s Corner, Illini Union Bookstore | 4:30 p.m. | Free

Those who seek the aforementioned pomp and circumstance certain to be lacking from the VOICE reading are likely to be disappointed if they find themselves at John Griswold’s reading in the Author’s Corner this Sunday. Griswold, who also writes regularly for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Inside Higher Ed as the unassailable Oronte Churm, is not known for his self-importance.  He will be reading from his novel A Democracy of Ghosts, which is a fictional account of the Herrin Massacre.  From Griswold’s website: “I grew up in Southern Illinois, in what’s still called “Bloody Williamson” County, once the most radical community in the nation. The “blood” refers to an event in 1922 called “The Herrin Massacre,” in which seemingly average American men, women, and even children tortured and murdered nonunion workers from Chicago. The backlash from the riot caused such an outcry in the press that President Harding considered sending General Blackjack Pershing to take care of this “black spot” in the heart of America.” 

If when you make it to this one, be sure to ask him for the story behind his book’s cover.  I hear it’s pretty darn interesting.

More Articles