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History, remixed in poetry

July 3rd, 2018 2:50 PM

Vann Harris, left, talks with poet and community builder Kevin Coval about his book on June 27 at Oak Park Main Library. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Kevin Coval, the author of A People's History of Chicago, was at the Oak Park Main Library, 834 Lake St., on June 27 to talk about his book of poems, which is the latest selection in the library's One Book, One Oak Park program. Library officials said this is the first time the library has chosen a book of poetry for its community-wide summer reading.

 According to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a project by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Census Bureau, nearly 12 percent of the U.S. adult population in 2017, or 28 million people, read poetry within the last year, NPR recently reported. That's up from about 7 percent in 2012.

Coval's poetry, in particular, comes at the right time, Oak Park library officials explained, perhaps because of the fresh way he reimagines Chicago's history. Coval tells it through the lens of the people whom conventional history is most likely to have overlooked. 

In one poem from the book, "The Father Is a Black Man," about Jean Baptist Point Du Sable, the first permanent settler of Chicago and a man of color, Coval writes the following as something of an epigraph before he goes into free verse:

"There is not a single street in the city of Chicago named in honor of the Black man who founded this city, not an alley … but John Kinzie, a white man, who came after DuSable, when DuSable was forced out or pushed out or whatever, he ended up with DuSable's property, & Kinzie has a bridge, Kinzie has a street, Kinzie has a building, & all he did was buy DuSable's house."

That was followed by clever verses like this (note that DuSable was a fur trapper):

the father had style

and maybe some gators.

 Michael Romain 

Divvy out in Evanston?

The Oak Park Board of Trustees ended its relationship with the Divvy bike-sharing program in early 2018, and now it appears the city of Evanston might not be far behind.

The news site, Evanston Now, reported last month that Divvy could be on the budgetary chopping block.

According to the article by Bill Smith, Divvy was the top item residents wanted cut from the budget in an online survey.

Of the 46 programs the city asked residents to rank in order of importance, Divvy, which has a net cost of $165,808, topped the list for elimination, according to the story. 

In Oak Park, the program was costing the village about $26,665 a month.

Tim Inklebarger

Contact:
Email: michael@oakpark.com

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