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3 Open Mic Nights

Roses are red, violets are blue, I want to read poetry with you

By Featured, Literature

Illustration by Meghan Sim

Outside the admittedly awesome community at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,  there’s a whole city, teeming with arts and culture and history! Chicago is filled with communities of artists and writers. Those communities thrive when folks get involved — and the people who get involved benefit, too. 

If you’re a new writer to Chicago or just a bit of a wallflower (that sad poetry isn’t going to write itself!), and you’re craving a literary circle in the city, here are five open mic nights for writers and poets. 

These events are the perfect way to get your work out there, and it’s not as intimidating as it looks. I should know: at the first poetry open mic I attended, a friend wrote my name down on the signup sheet herself before I arrived. There would be no wallflowering for me, but I did get to make a bit of an entrance. If you do want to read, get there early. Sometimes spots are limited. And try to have fun!

 

City Lit Books, Logan Square

City Lit Books in Logan Square has a pretty cool selection of poetry, perhaps due to their monthly poetry open mic. City Lit’s open mic usually has two featured poets headline the event and read selections from their new work, followed by readings from the community. It’s low-stakes, there’s a microphone, and if you don’t want to read, you can come to listen. 

These events are once monthly on a Wednesday, and sign-up begins at 6:15 p.m., with readings starting shortly thereafter at 6:30 p.m. This month’s event will be on April 17, and featured poets will be announced soon.

 

“Fruit Salad” at Dorothy, Humboldt Park

A super secret speakeasy? A lesbian super secret speakeasy?? A lesbian super secret speakeasy with craft cocktails and a photo booth??? Did my heart know love ‘til now???? Hard to say. 

This monthly event is for people 21 and older, and ticketed off the Dorothy website dorothydownstairs.com. “Fruit Salad” is an open mic night for any friend of Dorothy who writes or performs in any medium and features one or two queer headliners each month.  Unfortunately, as one of only a few lesbian bars in the city, it often sells out lightning fast. 

A ticket to this event is certainly not a guaranteed performance, so the ideal attendee of this event is one who wants to listen. 

“Fruit Salad” allots 10 open mic slots via the lottery system to interested ticket holders. Five slots are reserved for BIPOC performers. Tickets are $15. This month’s event, like the one at City Lit Books, will be on April 17. Poets are yet to be announced, but keep an eye on the website. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Show up early to this one for sure, because the door is unmarked. If you’re unable to get a ticket to this event, check out the other programming at Dorothy on their website for more literary events and queer community.

 

Eli Tea Bar, Andersonville

Eli Tea Bar is a cafe with a bar vibe that hosts a slew of literary and artistic events on the regular. Their open mic night is every Friday night from 8 to 10 p.m. and is open to writers and musicians from multiple disciplines. Signups begin at 7:30 p.m. 

You’ll want to relax with one of their many bubble teas, browse their small shop and grab a seat in the back lounge until the show begins. The great thing about Eli Tea Bar is that it has the ambiance and community of a bar space, but is non-triggering for sober patrons and welcoming to those under 21. 

If you’re looking for somewhere off campus to workshop, Eli Tea Bar also offers a friendly writers’ group every Monday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The writers’ group begins with a writing prompt, then transitions to quiet writing time before wrapping up with chill time with the other writers.

Katie MacLauchlan (MFAW 2025) has read a lot of books. She is the literature editor at F Newsmagazine.
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