Evanston Poetry Scene – places to write and read

We’ve put together a guide to the poetry scene right here in Evanston, RHINO’s home base. This guide will come in four occasional installments: today’s covers favorite spots to think and write and contemplate. Check back soon for community events and publication opportunities, a bookstore lowdown, and a who’s-who of Evanston poets and roundup of our town’s literary cameos.

Places to Write and Read

While Starbucks, Peet’s, and Argo have all set up shop here in Evanston, so have countless independent coffee shops. We at RHINO are especially fond of Brothers K, the host of our monthly reading series, RHINO Reads!. Despite its heavy literary name, Brothers K has a decidedly lighthearted, community-gathering-place feel to it. (The name is a red herring anyway. The owners are two brothers whose last name is Kim.) This is the one of the larger coffee shops around and, while it’s generally buzzing with customers of all ages, it seems there’s always a place to sit and write. The Brothers K’s smaller offshoot in downtown Evanston, The Other Brother, makes up for its size with a relaxing atmosphere and a friendly staff eager to chat with the customers.

Thanks to their proximity to Northwestern Campus, Kafein and Unicorn Café are hotspots for student writers as well as Evanston residents. Open late, offering a menu whose highlights include Grasshopper Milkshakes and Aztec Mochas, and hosting weekly open-mic nights, Kafein oozes artsy-ness. Unicorn Café, a little brighter, a little more modest than Kafein, opens early in the morning and closes at eight pm: perfect for the daytime writer.

Down the street from Amaranth books, Café Mozart has a distinctly (stereotypically?) European feel. In fact, the clientele this afternoon includes a trio of young French people, an Italian couple, and several (presumably American) solos with laptops and legal pads. In a complete 180 flip, the newest of Evanston coffee houses, JJ Java, resembles the garage your high school friend’s awesome parents turned into a lounge for the kids. They’ve taken advantage of their enormous, eclectic space by hosting events for a few Northwestern organizations. However during regular business hours, the shop is quiet, making it a perfect place to write uninterrupted.

For those who prefer a scenic vista to a caffeine pump for their writing inspiration, we recommend Northwestern’s Lakefill. However, the Lakefill is just one of the many scenic vistas from which to draw inspiration. As local poet Parneshia Jones says, “We sit on such a beautiful piece of land. We have this coastal, almost New England feel, while being every bit Midwest at heart. Landscape is important and usually a driving force in a writer’s work. The land, the people, the history provides the artistic community with endless inspiration.”

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our good friend and RHINO Fourth Sunday Poetry Forum supporter, the Evanston Public Library. Light, airy, and of course, quiet, EPL has 2 locations and provides a full “free” bookstore of inspiration and many places for contemplation.


Thanks to RHINO Intern Sarah Weber for the research and compilation of this series. Sarah is a senior Theatre and Creative Writing major at Northwestern University. Originally from Dallas, she’s spent the last several months making a concentrated effort to truly get to know Chicago and Evanston and has, in the process, fallen in love with them. She plans to head to grad school in the fall to pursue her masters in publishing (location tbd).

Poetry Forum Led by Dan Godston – Fourth Sunday Poetry Workshop – January 27, 2013


Evanston Public Library

Church & Orrington

1:30-4:30 — Room 108

Dan Godston teaches and lives in Chicago. His writings have appeared in Chase Park, After Hours, BlazeVOX, Versal, Beard of Bees, Drunken Boat, 580 Split, Kyoto Journal, The Smoking Poet, Horse Less Review, Moria, Apparatus Magazine, EOAGH, Requited Journal, Sentinel Poetry, and other print publications and online journals. His poem “Mask to Skin to Blood to Heart to Bone and Back” was nominated by the editors of 580 Split for the Pushcart Prize. He also composes and performs music, and he directs the Borderbend Arts Collective. dangodston.com.

TOPIC: Writing Oulipo and Surrealist poetry and short prose — a brief history and methods. That constraints are often used in liberating the poet is a fairly well known paradox — which we can explore, discuss, and try out. Participants may bring in some French and other examples, just for fun or for more serious purposes. You may also enjoy playing with the following web sites prior to the Forum: A Book of Surrealist Games (Shambala Publications); OULIPO (Drunken Boat)

Bring 17 or more copies (2 page limit) of a poem you want critiqued.

*$5 – $10 donation appreciated.

This project has been partially supported by grants from Poets & Writers and the Illinois Arts Council.