The Printer’s Ball 2010

August 2, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

The Printer’s Ball

Once a year, Chicago literary fans gather to peruse and collect tables and tables of free, independent literary material. Back issues of Stop Smiling, Make Magazine, Bateau, to name a few–(there are so many different publications, it’s impossible to name it all) Poetry Magazine, Platypus–these are of course the titles that I recognized, so they stuck in my memory, yet in addition of course there are so many other peculiar, attractive, sexy publications on view, and (this is the amazing part) available to take. That’s right. Somehow, everything is free. In addition to which there are drinks, there is a buffet, there is (drum roll) entertainment–bands, readings, performances–what always amazes me is the amount of work that this event demands. But also, people get so excited about it. This I started wondering about–I started wondering what it was that made people buzz around so much–I mean of course there are obvious reasons, like the odd leftist 70s political magazines that were sprinkled around at different tables–or the buttons, I mean it’s tons and tons of cool schwag–presses (like featherproof, for instance) make curious multiples (see above) that are also readily available–unique text objects that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. And it’s kind of like an industry party–Chicago’s, albeit less formal, version of AWP. But here I suspect is the real source of enthusiasm: artists have regular art openings–functions whereby they congregate under the auspices of a similar artistic interest, they recognize one another as aritsts and while sharing casual conversations, nevertheless validate their artist-ness. I don’t think writer’s get the same cathartic opportunites–at least not to the same extent. While writers participate in readings, readings require some composure, one attends a reading to listen–(I was talking to a co-worker who’s primary experience stems from the art world and she asked how many people tend to go to readings. I said, “maybe between 5 and 30.” she said, “30?” I said, “yes. Sometimes. I think it’s fairly common.” and she was amazed, I think about the idea that as many as 30 people would go somewhere to listen to other people talk. Which is pretty neat–but you see it’s different from an art opening, because people go to openings to socialize, to support their peers, to talk and drink and talk. There’s that addage–if you want to see the show, you go when there’s no one else there)–meanwhile at the Printer’s Ball, it really is a giant party, where writers recognize one another as writers, where publishers recognize other publishers. The overall welcoming atmosphere then, too, becomes an interesting place for those who aren’t familiar with these independent literary practices, and I think the sense of abundance, the free-ness of all the publications, makes everyone feel the generous, energetic innovation of the community. Which of course is inspiring in and of itself. Thanks to the Poetry Project, The Underground Library and Columbia College for making this possible and available to the rest of us!

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