Beer + Poetry + History = Grand Success

Last Saturday night, Chicago Detours brought together a fabulous combination: writers and drinking at the historic Berghoff Bar. AWP award winners joined local artists and novelists to read a selection of Chicago Drinking poems that we at Chicago Detours dug up from library archives and old anthologies. Readers shouted out the poems amid clinking glasses and welcome cheers for this sold-out event, which was free but due to limited space had to be capped at 70 guests.

Chris Bower started off the night with a poem by Nelson Algren, from the 1941 issue of POETRY Magazine. Becca Roberts and Amy Ganser, co-founding editors of the local Chicago literary magazine and reading series, Two With Water were among the cadre of quality readers. Becca did a wonderful rendering of a little University Club drinking song, bellowing, “Saloon, Saloon, Saloon, It runs through my brain like a tune…” While Amy read a poem that celebrated Etheridge Knight, one of the major figures (along with Gwendolyn Brooks) of the Black Arts Movement. Chicagoan Hannah Pittard, a professor at Depaul University and author of, The Fates Will Find Their Way, read “After the Unexpected Answer,” a poem she commented may be more about love than drinking. But hey, you can get drunk on love, right?

Elizabeth Tieri, editor in chief of “the deadline.” read an airy little poem about being hung over. Douglas Light, a New York novelist and screenwriter, took a break from the AWP Conference to join our ranks and with great gravitas, recited “Baptism of Firewater, Fire and Water,” by Jorge Sanchez. 

Denese Neu, author of Chicago by the Pint, elucidated the audience on the origins of the phrase to “slip someone a Mickey,” and the historical significance of The Berghoff to Chicago. Then the M.C. of the night, Chicago Detours Executive Director Amanda Scotese, engaged the audience in a game with questions, like “Who can finish this line of poetry? ‘We sing sin, we thin…’

“Gin!” someone yelled, and she chucked a City Caramel in the direction of the voice. “What’s the Chicago liquor also known as ‘Northern Discomfort?'” she asked?

“Malort!” someone yelled.

Writers Steven Flores and Sophie Grimes read two goofy poems from the Newberry Library’s Dill Pickle Archives: “The Ballad of North Side Sue,” and “Disgrace on the ‘Pickle’ Floor”. Then award winning novelist, Mandy Keifetz took the stage. “We’re vodkaquiet. Vodkadeliquescent,” she yelled. A little Ernie doll on her finger contributed some of the lines, too. And finally Chris Bower finished the night with a boisterous drinking song. “Some incline to gin or wine, and some to mountain dew — but I want stuff with an amber hue!” He roared to the crowd and concluded, fittingly, with “Clink! Drink together — Till all the world goes dry!”

The Lost Chicago Drinking Poems event, which was a featured event in the A.V. Club, Crain’s Chicago, WhereChicago and New York Daily News, had a grand turnout and grand fun, so all in all was a grand success.

If you can’t get enough of the history of Chicago’s bars and nightlife, you’re in luck! Chicago Detours offers a Good Times Historic Bar Tour starting April 1. Also, Lost Chicago Drinking Poems was such a jolly success that some suggested we should continue it annually. We’ve got all sorts of plans up our sleeve, so follow us on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to the blog (enter your email on the right of the screen) to keep up with another Drinking Poems night, as well as other exciting Chicago events and happenings.

— Sophie Grimes, Editorial Intern

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
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Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
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Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
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Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
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