Haymarket Books describes itself as a radical and independent publisher, and in light of current events, I am grateful that they are still in the game. They have a new home—Haymarket House at 800 W. Buena in Buena Park—which is where I attended the launch of poet Maya Marshall’s All the Blood Involved in Love on June 22. It was a beautiful and stirring evening that featured other Chicago-based poets. They read from their own works leading up to the woman of the hour—Maya Marshall.
The event space at Haymarket House is a sun-filled loft-like space surrounded by lush summer greenery. Aricka Foreman was the first reader and she is a formidable poet who grounds her work in the construct of Black women having agency over their lives, sexually and reproductively. Foreman introduced poet and artist Krista Franklin, who read some of her work focusing on the burden of reproductive expectations of women and the societal burdens that women are leaving behind as they claim their power.
Marty McConnell is a writer who has supported the writers on the dais for a long time and seemed hesitant to read her work. She read a short story about the balancing act of a queer relationship where one person is not out to their parents. It was a beautiful and quiet story that went deep into the many aspects of love and how that pans out in relationships. Jacob Saenz read his selections, which included a funny observation of a raccoon choosing his garbage or the married couple next door. Saenz’s tagline was funny and cause for reflection on relationship choices. The final reader was Kenyatta Rogers, who received his MFA from Columbia College in Chicago and now teaches creative writing at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. Rogers’ economy of words served up punchy and yet reflective depth.
Rogers introduced Marshall and like the other poets, there was a bond made during the pandemic with Maya being the source of comfort and support. That was the consensus of the audience as well. I met Maya when she worked for me at Ennui Cafe in Rogers Park back in the day. She mentioned those days in her opening remarks, asking the audience if they remembered that kind of cafe that you may have heard of back in the ’90s. There was a knowing laugh from the audience and then she said that she worked there and a group of us were present.
She read from her new book of poetry, All of the Blood Involved in Love, to a very receptive audience. I saw my first lightning bug flicker of the summer as dusk settled. I spoke with her at the reception in the gardens after and we both agreed it was magical. Maya’s work and all of the other poets felt prescient to me. The rights that people have fought for and taken for granted are compromised in the system under which we live—and ironically, this event was two days before the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The women focused on the expectations of sex and reproduction and what it adds to or negates from a woman’s worth in a White patriarchal society.
Haymarket Books publishes writers who have radical vision and stand firm in their convictions. Writers such as Noam Chomsky, Angela Y. Davis, Arundhati Roy, and Howard Zinn are published under the imprint. It is a fitting launch of a new book of poetry and of writers who embody a contemporary radical vision. Haymarket House provides a space for writers and readers. The mansion that they have acquired is a “people’s house” and a fitting reincarnation for a beautiful Gilded Age mansion. For more information on Haymarket and its many authors, please visit https://www.haymarketbooks.org/. If you get the opportunity to visit, do it. The place has a chill vibe and it has been refurbished for contemporary use. Plus, it’s a Chicago institution—a world class city for the arts.
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