Performing Identities On (& Off) the Page:

Queer Femme Artists of Color

7:30pm, Thursday May 30th

Hairpin Arts Center
2810 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd floor
(Elevator available)

Drinks available for a suggested donation


Building on a conversation begun with last Fall’s Applied Words: Performing Queerness On (& Off) the Page, this reading and performance panel brings together three Chicago-based queer femme artists of color working across writing and performance, who use language, body, and voice to reconsider and confront the limitations and possibilities of identity in diverse ways. Through three unique reading-performances and a moderated discussion, this evening will explore the performative possibilities of writing to both materialize and transform the experiences and identities queer femme POC across a broad spectrum.




Unoma Azuah teaches writing at the Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago. Her research and activism focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Nigeria. Recently, she concluded a book project on the lives of gay Nigerians entitled, Blessed Body: Secret Lives of LGBT Nigerians. Her writing awards include the Hellman/Hammett Award; the Urban Spectrum Award for her debut novel, Sky-high Flames; and the Snyder-Aidoo Book Award for her novel, Edible Bones.


Ada Cheng is a professor-turned-storyteller, performing artist, and producer of several storytelling shows. She was a tenured professor at DePaul University for 15 years and taught on gender, race, sexuality, masculinity, and immigration. She debuted her first solo show, Not Quite: Asian American by Law, Asian Woman by Desire, in January 2017 and has since performed it at Kansas City’s National Storytelling Conference, Capital Fringe Festival in D.C., Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis, Boulder Fringe Festival, and Kum & Go Theater in Des Moines. She has performed her second solo show, Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving across Borders at The Exit Theatre in San Francisco, Theatre Row with the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York, and Theatre 68 with Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival in LA. Ada is the producer and the host of four storytelling shows, including Pour One Out: A Monthly Storytelling Series, Am I Man Enough?: A Storytelling/Podcasting Show, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show, and Speaking Truths Series. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell.

AJ McClenon was born and raised in “D.C. proper,” and is currently based in Chicago using performance practices, sound, video, movement, theatre and writing to share experiences living in a Black body. AJ holds a Masters in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in creative writing from the University of Maryland, College Park and has also studied at The New School. A.J. is interested in leveling the hierarchies of truth and hopes that all the memories and histories that are said to have “too many Black people” are told and retold again.






Felicia Holman is a lifelong Chicagoan, artist, Prince fan, and a co-founder of both the Art Leaders of Color Network (ALCN) and Honey Pot Performance (HPP). After two years serving as Communications Director, Felicia was recently promoted to Director of Performance Rentals at Chicago’s venerable Links Hall. She also represents Links Hall on Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Inclusion Committee for the 2019 “Year of Chicago Theatre.” Felicia creates, presents, and supports innovative interdisciplinary performance which engages audiences and inspires community. Her arts practice (“embodied storytelling”) is inherently community/communication-driven and informs her arts administration work. Felicia truly relishes her dynamic artrepreneurial life and sums it up in 3 words: ‘Creator, Connector, Conduit’.


This program is a part of the Guild Literary Complex’s Applied Words series of multidisciplinary events and conversations on contemporary social issues.

 Creative Freedom: Writing In and Out of Prison
Curated by Michael Puican & Michael Fischer

7PM, Wednesday, March 20th
Green Line Performing Arts Center
329 E. Garfield Boulevard, Chicago


A reading and panel featuring formerly incarcerated writers, and writers who teach in prisons, sharing their work and their perspectives on writing in prison, writing outside of prison, and writing about prison from both inside and out.

Presented in partnership with UChicago Arts & Public Life + Chicago Torture Justice Memorials

in connection with the exhibition
Still Here: Torture, Resiliency and the Art of Memorializing




Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit and Arc & Hue. She’s a co-editor of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives about Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century and editor of Philippa Duke Schuyler’s long out-of-print memoir Adventures in Black and White. Her work has appeared in Poetry magazineEssence, NylonLit Hub, and numerous anthologies. Tara teaches a weekly poetry workshop through Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project at Stateville Prison and is part of the MFA faculty at Chicago State University and Stonecoast at University of Southern Maine.






Eric Blackmon was incarcerated for 16 years, and became a paralegal while locked up at Stateville Correctional Center. With support from his family and friends, he represented himself and kept his case alive, winning a hearing by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a rare and extraordinary ruling. In January 2019, his long legal battle ended when prosecutors dropped the charges against him. Out on bond since May 2018, Blackmon works as a paralegal with the Christian Lawndale Legal Center. A former student of the Prison Neighborhood Arts Project, he is also committed to supporting education in prison.



Michael Fischer was released from prison in 2015 and is currently a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He’s a Moth Chicago StorySlam winner, a Luminarts Cultural Foundation Fellow, and a mentor for incarcerated authors through the Pen City Writers program. His work appears in Salon, OrionThe SunGuernicaThe Rumpus, and elsewhere, and his audio essays have been broadcast on CBC Radio’s Love Me podcast and The New York Times’s Modern Love: The Podcast.





Reuben Taylor is currently a resident of St. Leonard’s House after serving 47 years in prison. Reuben, the son of an educator mother and postal worker father, grew up in Chicago’s west side neighborhood of North Lawndale. Reuben graduated high school in 1968 and attended two semesters at a community college before enlisting in the Marine Corps. in 1968. Reuben was sent to Vietnam in April 1970 and honorably discharged in 1971. Reuben was incarcerated in 1972 for armed robbery/murder and was sentenced to 150 years in prison without the possibility of parole.






Mike Puican teaches poetry classes at the Metropolitan Correctional Center federal prison in Chicago, and at St. Leonard’s House, which provides support for formerly incarcerated men returning to the community from prison. Mike has had poetry published in journals such as: Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, and New England Review, among others. His new book of poetry, Central Air is  forthcoming at Northwestern Press.  Mike was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team and has been a long-time board member of the Guild Complex.






This reading is a part of the Guild Literary Complex’s Applied Words series of multidisciplinary events and conversations on contemporary social issues.




Magnitude and Bond:
Three Generations of Gwendolyn Brooks’s Legacy

Presented by
Guild Literary Complex & Rebuild Foundation

7pm, Thursday October 11th, 2018
Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S Stony Island Ave



…we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

Angela Jackson, Tara Betts, Ciara Miller: three generations of black women writers from Chicago share their work and their reflections on how the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), Poet Laureate of Illinois and the first African American winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has influenced their lives and careers. Brooks and her work have had a tremendous impact on American literature in the second half of the 20th century, and her legacy holds special significance for women, people of color, and the city of Chicago, where her dedication to her community and her mentorship of younger poets is remembered right alongside her prolific literary output. During this special public reading and conversation, these three accomplished writers in Gwendolyn Brooks’s lineage will discuss the role she played, directly and indirectly, in inspiring them to write and in helping them to establish and sustain their own creative practices. Each author offers a unique perspective on the meaning and significance that Brooks holds for their work and their lives in Chicago’s literary and artistic communities, and each has been a part of preserving and advancing her legacy by continuing to pass her words and her spirit of generosity from one artist to the next, across generations.


Angela Jackson, poet, playwright, and novelist, was the recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poetry volume, Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners (Northwestern UP, 1993) won the Carl Sandburg Award and the Chicago Sun-Times/Friends of Literature Book of the Year Award (1994). And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New (Northwestern UP, 1998) was nominated for the National Book Award. It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time (Northwestern UP, 2015) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen/Open Book Award, and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. Her play Shango Diaspora: An African-American Myth of Womanhood and Love was produced in Chicago and toured widely, Comfort Stew was produced at ETA Theater in Chicago in 1997 and 2018, and as When the Wind Blows in 1985. Her debut novel Where I Must Go (Northwestern UP, 2009) was the recipient of an American Book Award. It received the Chicago Black Arts Alliance Fiction Prize in 2010. Its sequel, Roads, Where There Are No Roads (2017) was awarded the John Gardner Fiction Prize from Binghamton University (2018). A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life and Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks (Beacon Press) was published in 2017, Brooks’s Centennial year. Miracle and the Fellas, a young adult novel, will appear through Third World Press in 2018. She lives in Chicago.

Tara Betts is the author of three poetry collections: Break the Habit, Arc & Hue, and the forthcoming Refuse to Disappear. She co-edited The Beiging of America: Personal Essays About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century and edited a new critical edition of Adventures in Black and White, the long out-of-print memoir by Harlem-born, interracial child prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler. She holds an MFA from New England College and a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. In addition to representing Chicago on two slam teams, Tara won the 1999 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. Tara started her teaching career in Chicago by working with organizations like Young Chicago Authors, Gallery 37, AfterSchoolMatters, FreeWrite Arts & Literacy, and many others. While teaching on the East Coast, she worked with young poets at Urban Word NYC and taught at Rutgers University. Dr. Betts currently works with students at ChiArts High School, Chicago State University, and with participants in the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project at Stateville Prison.


Ciara Darnise Miller, a native of Chicago, holds both an MFA and MA in Poetry and African American/African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University. She also received her BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. She has published poems and academic essays in such collections and periodicals as The Whiskey of Our Discontent, Break Beat Poets, Mosaic, Fjords Review, African American Review, Callaloo, Muzzle, Alice Walker: Critical Insights, Chorus, and many moreShe is the founder of the Bloomington, Indiana Poetry Slam Series. She currently lives in Chicago where she serves as an Afro-American Studies professor at Kennedy King College and the CEO of Miller’s Learning Center (MLC), a test prep and career-support company.


Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Its mission is to leverage the power and potential of communities, buildings, and objects that others have written off through innovative, entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. This work is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black objects matter. Founded by artist Theaster Gates, Rebuild is part of a network of sister organizations that collaborate to extend the social engagement of Gates’ studio practice to the South Side of Chicago and beyond.

This program is a part of the Guild Literary Complex’s Applied Words series of multidisciplinary events and conversations.

Performing Queerness On (& Off) The Page

7pm, Thursday September 13th
Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St. Chicago

This reading and panel brings together authors whose work interweaves queerness and performance for a discussion of how queer kinship, embodiment, and identity moves between the page and shared times and spaces in their creative practices. They ask why performance has remained central to what we identify as queer writing, what new possibilities it generates, and just what makes it so queer to begin with?

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Tim “TinTim” Jones-Yelvington is a Chicago-based author, multimedia artist, and nightlife personality/drag performer. His multi-genre novel “Strike a Prose: Memoirs of a Lit Diva Extraordinaire” published by co•im•press, was a finalist for the FC2 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction contest and the Noemi Press Book Award for Prose, and runner up for the 1913 Prize for First Books. He is the author of two short fiction chapbooks—”Evan’s House and the Other Boys Who Live There” (in “They Could No Longer Contain Themselves,” Rose Metal Press) and “Daniel, Damned” (Solar Luxuriance Press), and one full-length fiction collection, “This is a Dance Movie!” (Tiny Hardcore Press, selected by Roxane Gay). His debut poetry chapbook, “Become On Yr Face,” was winner of the 2016 DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press chapbook contest, and its follow-up, “Colton Behavioral Therapy,” winner of the 2017 Gazing Grain contest, judged by Camille Rankine. His work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Puerto Del Sol, Harpur Palate, and others. From 2010-12, he guest edited [PANK]’s annual queer issue. His dynamic live readings evolved into his drag/nightlife persona TinTim, well known on Youtube as “America’s first drag queen public intellectual, aka the ‘Cornel-Motherfucking-West of drag.'”

Marty McConnell lives in Chicago, where she coaches individuals and groups toward building thriving, sustainable lives and organizations. Her forthcoming second poetry collection, “when they say you can’t go home again, what they mean is you were never there,” won the 2017 Michael Waters Poetry Prize; her first full-length collection, “wine for a shotgun,” received the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Awards, and was a finalist for both the Audre Lorde Award and a Lambda Literary Award. YesYes Books recently released her first nonfiction book, “Gathering Voices: Creating a Community-Based Poetry Workshop.” She is the co-creator and co-editor of underbelly, a web site focused on the art and magic of poetry revision. An MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Best American Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, Gulf Coast, and Indiana Review.

Gabriel Ojeda-Sague is a gay, Latino Leo living in Chicago. He is the author of the poetry books Jazzercise is a Language (The Operating System, 2018), on the exercise craze of the 1980s, and Oil and Candle (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2016), on ritual and racism. He is also the author of chapbooks on gay sex, Cher, the Legend of Zelda, and anxious bilingualism. His third book, Losing Miami, on the potential sinking of Miami due to climate change and sea level rise, is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2019.

C. Russell Price is an Appalachian genderqueer writer originally from Virginia. They are a Lambda Fellow in Poetry, Ragdale Fellow, Literary Death Match champion, Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree, and a Pushcart nominee. They are the author of “Tonight, We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other” (Sibling Rivalry Press) and a forthcoming collection of poetry (“oh, you thought this was a date?!”) and essay collection (“Everyone Is Doing It; They Just Aren’t Telling You”).

This reading is a part of the Guild Literary Complex’s Applied Words series of multidisciplinary events and conversations on contemporary social issues.

American Authors, Transnational Voices
Tuesday July 31 2018 ~ 7 – 9 PM
Chopin Theatre 1543 W. Division, Chicago

At a moment when the US government seems to be pushing much of the rest of the world away, Natania Rosenfeld has assembled a program of writers whose work is informed by backgrounds, experiences, and research that reach across national borders. The memories and histories of persecution, migration, exile, and assimilation threaded through these authors’ poetry and prose are a welcome reminder that American writing is always already global.

Natania Rosenfeld grew up in Oberlin, Ohio, received her BA from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D in English literature from Princeton. She worked as Assistant Curator of Books and Manuscripts at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, taught at the University of Pennsylvania and The Curtis Institute of Music, was Associate Editor at The American Poetry Review, and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Duke University. She has been a Professor of English at Knox College in Galesburg, IL since 1998. Natania is the author of, Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf (Princeton UP, 2000), several scholarly articles on literary modernism, and a book of poetry, Wild Domestic (Sheep Meadow, 2015). Her e-chapbook, She and I: Essays, (2018) is available for free download at http://www.essaypress.org/ep-103/. Recent short fiction, personal essays, and poems have appeared in magazines including Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Hotel Amerika, The American Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, The Fairy Tale Review, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, and POOL. Four of her essays have been listed as “Notable” in Best American Essays. Her in-progress novel, “Hidden,” focuses on Jews hidden in World War II, their afterlives in New York as well as those of their hiders in Poland, and their descendants. Natania has completed a collection of personal essays, “Eye, Myself and You: On Art and Identity,” and is at work on “Scribbling Jewesses: Intertwined Essays on Else Lasker-Schueler, Charlotte Salomon, Florine Stettheimer, Maira Kalman and Sophie Herxheimer,” and a second book of poems, “The Green Lamp.”

Ruth Danon is the author of Word Has It (Nirala, March 2018), Limitless Tiny Boat (BlazeVox, 2015), Triangulation from a Known Point (North Star Line, 1990), Work in the English Novel, (Croom-Helm, 1985), and Living With the Fireman (Ziesing Brothers, 1981). Her poetry and prose have appeared in Barrow Street,The Florida Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Post Road, Noon, Versal, Mead, BOMB, The Paris Review, Fence, The Boston Review, 3rd Bed, Crayon, and many other publications. Her work was selected by Robert Creeley for Best American Poetry, 2002.  Her poems also appear in the anthologies, Eternal Snow (Nirala, 2017) and Resist Much, Obey Little (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017). She has been a fellow at the Ragdale Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Ora Lerman Foundation, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She grew up in upstate New York on the grounds of the Binghamton State Hospital, where her mother, a Hungarian refugee, worked as a psychiatrist. She is completing a memoir about this experience. She lives in Beacon, New York and teaches in New York City and Beacon.

Dina Elenbogen is author of the poetry collection Apples of the Earth (Spuyten Duyvil, NY 2006) and the memoir, Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story (BKMK Press, University of Missouri, 2015.) Her poems have received the Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize, the Anna Rosenberg Award from Poetica Magazine, and the Miriam Lindberg Israel Poetry for Peace Prize. She has completed a second poetry collection, Most of What is Beautiful, and an essay collection, Losing our Sages. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in magazines such as Woven Tale Press, Tiferet, Prairie Schooner, Calyx, Poet Lore, Rhino, Paterson Literary Review, Voices Israel, Lit Hub, Tikkun, Chicago Reader, New City, Midstream, Sheridan Road Magazine, JUF News, The Times of Israel, Chicago Jewish News, and Bellevue Literary Review, and in the anthologies City of the Big Shoulders (University of Iowa), Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose, and Photography (De Paul Humanities Center), Beyond Lament (Northwestern UP), Without a Single Answer: Poems on Contemporary Israel (Judah Magnes Museum Press), Sarah’s Daughters Sing (Ktav), Word by Word: The Iowa Writer’s Workshop 75 Years (University of Iowa), Nice Jewish Girls: Growing Up in America (Penguin/Plume) and Where We Find Ourselves (SUNY Press.) Dina received a MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She teaches at the University of Chicago Graham School, where she received the 2012 excellence in teaching award, and at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Faisal Mohyuddin is a writer, artist, and educator from Chicago. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, The Riddle of Longing (Backbone Press, 2017), and his first collection, The Displaced Children of Displaced Children (Eyewear Publishing, 2018), was selected by Kimiko Hahn for the 2017 Sexton Prize. He also received the 2014 Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner and a 2017 Gwendolyn Brook Poetry Prize. His poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Missouri ReviewNarrative, RHINO, Poet Lore, Chicago Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, New England Review (online), Atlanta Review, Catamaran Literary Readerthe minnesota review, Tinderbox, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Hair Trigger. His poetry is anthologized in Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas), The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), and Misrepresented People: Poets Respond to Trump’s America (New York Quarterly Books). The child of immigrants from Pakistan, Faisal received his undergraduate degree from Carleton College, an MS in education from Northwestern University, and an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago. He teaches English at Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois, and he serves as educator adviser to Narrative 4, a global not-for-profit dedicated to empathy-building and barrier-breakinexchange of stories.g through the  He is an alumnus of the U.S. Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Program, he has been recognized for innovative teaching by Microsoft and he has twice been a National Endowment for the Humanities summer teaching fellow.


  • February – Segregation and Education in Chicago
    Tuesday, February 21, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words examines how Chicago’s racial divide affects its educational system. Kevin Coval, Founder/Director of Young Chicago Authors, will be leading a panel of experts on education policy and artists alike in a discussion into the future of schools in Chicago and nationwide.


  • March – Intersectional Women’s Issues: Representation in the Media
    Tuesday, March 14, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words deconstructs how women are represented in film, music, television and other popular media and what lasting effects these portrayals leave on young, female identifying individuals. Dr. Nicole Spigner, Associate Professor of African American Literature and Culture at Columbia College Chicago, will lead a discussion with artists working to reimagine the narrative of women in the media.


  • April – Accessibility to the Arts: Class and Opportunity
    Tuesday, April 11, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words focuses on gauging who, economically and socially speaking, has the accessibility and opportunity to engage with the arts on a public level. The conversation will speak to the dichotomy between “low and high culture” art forms and how they impact the larger community as a whole.


  • May – Mental Health and Homelessness
    Tuesday, May 9, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words addresses the link between the mental health system and homelessness. The discussion will be centered around what can be done locally, nationally, and globally to combat homelessness and the need to re-evaluate how mental health facilities operate and provide care for those individuals.


  • June – Gender and the Arts
    Tuesday, June 13, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words tackles gender identity and how the private and public spheres converge in the arts. C. Russell Price, visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern, leads an investigation into how gender identity influences creativity and an artist’s career.


  • July – Nature and Neighborhoods
    Tuesday, July 11, 7:00pmThis month’s Applied Words features eco-poet and Associate Professor of Creative Writing Matthew Shenoda leading a discussion about how varying communities’ interaction with the natural world affects their public health differently by class and race.

Applied art” – noun: the application of design and aesthetics to objects of function and everyday use; the incorporation of design and creative ideals to objects of utility, such as a cup, magazine or park bench

Applied Words” – noun, verb and series from the Guild Literary Complex