A Bigger Table: 50 Years of the Chicago Poetry Center

Chicago Poetry Center was formed through defiant, organic, community-driven efforts following the threat of literary censorship in the 1950s. A group of Chicago writers and editors organized to create publication and performance spaces that welcomed queer and racially diverse contemporary voices. This created projects such as the Big Table literary magazine and reading series, named after a note that one of the censored writers wrote to himself to “get a bigger table”– a table that has room for everyone. In 1974, these efforts were formalized into the nonprofit Chicago Poetry Center (CPC).

For 50 years, CPC has remained rooted in our history of liberatory artistic practice. Our programs have supported tens of thousands of Chicago Public School students in exploring their powerful voices, offered platforms for nearly a thousand poets to express themselves in writing and in spoken word, and engaged individuals nationwide in critical conversations around race using poetry as a springboard for transformative dialogue.

Between July 2024 and July 2025, CPC will host a series of events designed to celebrate our 50 years and provide opportunities for poets, poetry fans, and people brand new to the world of poetry to connect and grow through artistic expression, human connection, and boundless imagination.
Stay tuned for more details! And if you’re not already on the CPC mailing list, make sure to sign up for that here to kept up to date on all things CPC.

Save the Date: Anniversary Launch Party & Exhibit Opening

To celebrate our five historic decades, we will be launching an exhibition featuring 50 broadsides, 50 iconic vintage poetry event posters, archival materials and ephemera, and the premier of a documentary film A Bigger Table: 50 Years of the Chicago Poetry Center. Find out more on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

Where: Poetry Foundation, 61 W Superior St, Chicago, IL 60654

Exhibition Run: June 27 – Sept 14

Exhibition Event: July 13, 2-4pm (Reception 2-3; Live Program and Screening 3-4)

Check out a sampling of CPC’s earliest event posters below and in our store.

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