The Green Mill
4802 N. Broadway
$6 cover; slam winner gets $10
The original poetry slam—hosted by Marc Smith (“Slampapi”), the creator of the slam format—continues at a pub frequented by Al Capone years ago. The high energy Uptown Poetry Slam festivities begin with an open mic, move on to the featured performer(s) and conclude with a poetry slam with audience volunteers as judges. Poets can sign up for the open mic and/or the slam, or just take in the entertainment. Count on a large, energetic audience.
Underground Wonder Bar
710 N. Clark St.
Jon Speigel hosts the Open Mic Showcase, an ecletic mix: music, comedy, and poetry
The Quarry 75 Events Center
2423 E. 75th St.
6:00 pm start
Hosted by Jeronimo Speaks, Solace Souls Sunday Open Mic has high ambitions: “There will be food, drinks, giveaways and more. We are officially taking spoken word to another level. Come be a part of something legendary, come become iconic, come and you’re your peers, friends, fans, and idols how you have arrived at a place of solace.”
Water Street Studios
160 S. Water St., Batavia, IL
3rd Sunday, September through May
7:00-8:30 Features first; open mic begins at 8:30
Waterline Writers presents “curated readings in the beautiful gallery at Water Street Studios.”
Venues are located in Chicago unless otherwise noted. Open mic standard is five minutes or
three poems, may be expanded given a small number of readers. Cover and feature donation
information are given when known. When the venue is a coffee house or tavern, participants are
expected to support the house by buying a drink or two. Poetry open mics come and go; it’s a
good idea to check individual listings before attending!
Bob Lawrence's guide to Chicago's poetry Readings
Young Chicago Authors
1180 N. Milwaukee
2515 N. Lincoln
9:30 pm start
Lyrics and Libations is a weekly hip-hop oriented open mic. Hosted by Blaise B. and Charles West.
Hairpin Arts Loft
2800 N. Milwaukee, 2nd Floor
Doors open 8:30; show 9:00-11:00
Founded in 2002, Urban Sandbox is “an all ages multi-canvassed open mic event that features poets, emcees, musicians, comedians, solo-artists, puppeteers and more. Dan "Sully" Sullivan curates the show alongside the Urban Sandbox Collective consisting of David Gilmer, Shelley Geiszler Randall, Nate Olison and DJ Seanile. . . . One of our goals is to provide a safe, creative space for folks from all walks of life with an emphasis on giving young artists a place to take stage, hang out, and interact with established artists outside of the student/teacher paradigm.”
43 E. Galena Blvd
6:15 open mic sign-up; 6:30-8:00; feature
Lit by the Bridge, hosted by writer Paul LaTour, meets in a unique setting. Check out the photos via the link!
5203 N. Kimball
1st and 2nd Friday
7:00 pm start
Donation for the center (jar passed around)
Roots Room, an artist development center dedicated mainly to music, holds Poetry Night on the 1st Friday and Open Mic Variety Night (“we welcome singers, poets, storytellers, magicians, comedians, musicians and whatever talent you got”) on the 2nd Friday. Storyteller Night takes place on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
Let Them Eat Chocolate
5306 N. Damen
No cover; feature donation
Ebullient host GPA (Greatest Poet Alive) hosts Poetry’s Love Letter, which usually has four featured performers, sometimes including a standup comic, all of whom follow the open mic. The chocolates and gelato at this coffee house are super. Be sure to project well to be heard over the various coolers.
Justin Pauly Art Studio
318 W. Grand Ave
$5 cover; feature donation
The Elevator Sessions, founded and hosted by poet Gregory Curry, meets on the third floor of a Near North office building. The audience faces a large freight elevator, which serves as the stage for the performers. The cover charge includes a beer or other drink. These are lively sessions!
Brothers K Coffeehouse
500 Main St.
No cover or feature donation
Rhino Reads is sponsored by Rhino Poetry, which also sponsors workshops and the highly regarded Rhino poetry journal. Open mic precedes the evening’s feature. “Occasionally we change the date from the last Friday of the month, or the venue changes. Check individual listings for the most accurate information.”
Heartland Cafe's Red Line Tap
7006 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60626
In One Ear is another long-running open mic with featured performers, currently hosted by poets Billy Tuggle and Gregory Curry. The Heartland Café specializes in “Good Wholesome Food for the Mind and Body.”
The Elbo Room
2871 N. Lincoln
9:00 pm-1:00 am
The eponymous OPEN MIC is mainly a musical performance venue, but comics and poets are welcome as well.
416 S. Clark
Doors open at 8:00; show starts at 9:00
$5 before 9:00; $7 after
Soulspeak Open Mic, hosted by Binkey and Harold Green, claims, “This is the only LIVE music venue in Chicago where you can catch the best singers, poets, musicians, comedians, actors, and DJs in ONE location.”
Phyllis’ Musical Inn
1800 W. Division
No cover; feature donation
Elizabeth’s Crazy Little Thing, hosted by poet Elizabeth Harper and musical performer Rich Experience, is “an open mike for poetry, music, comedy, performance, and whatever else . . . we welcome the cerebral, the obscene, the grotesque, the random, the perverted, the odd, the comforting, and the disconcerting.” Phyllis’, a bar that doesn’t feature beer on tap, is the only venue where my two sons (both musicians) and I have performed. Mainly a music bar, Phyllis’ features ample stage space.
Glencoe Public Library
320 Park Avenue
No cover or feature donation
Writers’ Open Mic Night was started in 2014 by Bob Boone, the founder and former director of Young Chicago Authors. The room in the library on the second floor is one of the more attractive open mic settings; the engaged audience appreciates good writing
Art Colony Studios
2630 W. Fletcher
No cover or donation for the 4 features
Poetry Reading at the Art Colony coincides with the monthly open house held by the artists who rent cubicle space at this former warehouse. Vittorio Carli, who has been hosting a poetry venue at a number of locations over the past decade plus, started the current series several years ago. It’s a funky venue, with a large sign reading “La Belle Corsette” behind the poets, a corrugated metal door behind the audience, and seating in an array of folding chairs & antique easy chairs. The show moves along well, features plenty of variety. Check out the art after the reading.
935 W. Wilson
Caffeinated Conversations is another venue founded and hosted by Gregory Curry. The readers generally congregate at the coffee shop, the storefront of a community complex run by the Evangelical Covenant Church. The reading takes place in a spacious (for poetry) mini-auditorium down the hallway. An all-ages show: bring appropriate material. The coffee shop sells “all Fair and Direct Trade coffee because we want to support the farmer and work with them on sponsoring local projects.”
The Corner House
100 W. St. Charles, Lombard
The Spilled Milk Open Mic is “Lombard's local open mic for singers, songwriters, poets, and performers.” The setting is “part coffeehouse, part art gallery, part neighborhood gathering place.”Last updated: 7/4/2015
Weeds Poetry at the Hideout
1354 W. Wabansia, Chicago, Illinois 60642
10:00 pm-2:00 am (doesn’t usually run that late)
No cover or feature
Night owl special! The Weeds Poetry Open Mic, hosted by Gregorio Gomez with assistance (mainly photographic) from Chuck Kramer, one of Chicago’s longest running open mics, has a reputation for being a wild venue. Check it out!
The Traveling Mollys
Literary Open Mic and Reading Series
The Buzz Cafe
905 S. Lombard
Oak Park, IL
Start Time :
6:30 open mic sign-up
7 - 9 pm open mice and featured readers
No cover; $5 suggested feature donation
The Travelling Mollys Reading Series and Open Mic, curated by poets Nina Corwin and Al DeGenova, is a longstanding series. In contrast to other venues, poets may feature only once at the venue, leading to a long list of distinguished featured poets. The unusual name? The series orginally had this location when the tavern was named Molly Malones. The series moved to a nearby site after Molly’s was sold, returned after the establishment changed hands again to Brian Boru. Mr. DeGenova is also the founder and lead editor of the poetry journal After Hours.
City Point Loft
110 E. 23rd ST.
8:00 pm start
The Gala, a community artist group, runs a monthly showcase as follows:
“1. Open Mic: emcees, poets, actors, speakers, singers, singer/songwriters rocking solo or with the band--all are welcome!
2. Featured Artist Showcase: with featured emcees, poets, singers, visual artists and dancers
3. Open Jam: instrumentalists, freestylers and dancers rocking together at a separate, super-secret locale (come to a monthly showcase to find out more...)”
2620 N. Milwaukee
No cover; feature donation
The Waiting 4 the Bus Poetry Collective sponsors this reading, which includes some of the area’s top poets while being supportive of new poets. Held on the first Monday for a decade, the reading was switched to the third Monday in 2015. Check the website or Facebook for special Collective events, such as the Omniphonic Challenge and the Poetry Pentathlon. The Collective also publishes a poetry magazine, Exact Change Only. Dana Jerman and Bob Lawrence are currently subbing for regular host David Hargarten (Buddha 309).
2338 N. Milwaukee
Here’s what Mental Graffiti, which sends a team to the National Slam competition, has to say about the event: “Mental Graffiti is Chicago's top poetry slam/open mic. We feature the best poets from around Chicago, the nation, and the world.” Mental Graffiti follows the Green Mill’s pattern: open mic, feature, slam.