Poet Frank Varela writes smart and strong enough for the page but is also a captivating reader, able to jump into the voice of a character like Crazy Willie for a walk in the land of magic realism. In Varela's poem "The Seven African Gods," Willie waits at the entrance to Humboldt Park, falls into step with the author, and offers an explanation for how it came to be that "Puerto Ricans were banished / to Chicago." Meanwhile the park changes around him: "Oaks lengthened into palm trees; / Elms--strangler figs; / The gray sky of winter--turquoise." Varela, an award-winning librarian by day, will be the featured reader Monday, September 9, when the River Oak Arts open mike night breaks in a new venue and a new pair of hosts: Nina Corwin and Al DeGenova. Molly Malone's Irish Pub is a larger, quieter venue than the old location at Shanahan's; the monthly prose and poetry forum usually draws 10 to 14 readers and an audience of up to 50. Corwin and DeGenova follow in the footsteps of series originator Charlie Rossiter and, more recently, Barbara Perry. Varela will read from his most recent book, Bitter Coffee; after that it's literary potluck. Sign-up starts at 7; the readings begin at 7:30. Except for Varela (who gets a half hour), readers are limited to five minutes each. Molly Malone's is at 7652 Madison in Forest Park. Admission is $3; call 708-524-8725 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Elizabeth A. Verela.