Hip-Hop Poetics: Kevin Coval reads from “The BreakBeat Poets” tonight at Prairie Lights

The BreakBeat Poets
The BreakBeat Poets is out now from Haymarket Booksimage via Prairie Lights Bookstore

Live From Prairie Lights: Kevin Coval

Praire Lights Bookstore — Thursday, July 30 at 7 p.m.

First, two points of fact:

1. Very little poetry is Hip-Hop, but all Hip-Hop is poetry.
2. “Hip-Hop is the Hip-Hop is the largest youth culture in the history of the planet rock.

For the first point, see Nikki Giovanni’s “Thug Life” tattoo, a tribute to Tupac Shakur. For the second, see Kevin Coval’s website and its shout out to The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, the illest anthology yet to grace poetry shelves at bookstores near you.

Featuring “78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999,” The BreakBeat Poets is a collection by and for the Hip-Hop generation — those “artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture.” It honors the American poetic tradition. It breaks with the past. It exists for its readers: People who love Hip-Hop, people who love poetry, people who’ve never read a poem and people for whom poetry has only rarely spoken, if it has spoken to them at all.

The BreakBeat Poets is, in other words, an anthology that wants to expand the idea of what a poem is for and who poets are. (Hint: “[S]cribes recording and remixing a fuller spectrum of experience of what it means to be alive in this moment.”) And tonight, Kevin Coval — the “voice of the new Chicago” (as the Chicago Tribune puts it) who co-edited the anthology with the city’s other unofficial laureate, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and poet/rapper Nate Marshal — will read from The BreakBeat Poets at Prairie Lights.

“I think what hip-hop does so well, and these poets do so well in part because they come from the same spaces, the same communities, is the notion of representation, or re-presentation, of identity, self, and place,” said Coval in a recent must-read interview with Gawker.

Hear for your self. The reading starts at 7 p.m.

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