Chicagoans are very proud of their city and the talent it generates. Kevin Coval is no exception as he has been a heavy influence and involved in Chicago’s poetry and hip-hop scene for nearly 20 years. Coval co-founded Chicago’s largest youth poetry festival Louder Than a Bomb in 2001 with another Chicago-base poet, Anna West. LTAB consists of 5 weeks of events where 120 teams from schools across the city to compete in poetry bouts. What Up Windy sat down with Coval at The Bagel in Lakeview to catch up on his work with youth in Chicago and his upcoming book.
In addition to the LTAB fest, Coval is a published author and the creative director of the nonprofit organization, Young Chicago Authors (YCA). The significance of youth having a cultural space to meet in Chicago is very imperative to Coval. “Providing a platform for young people in the city is important because I feel like we need to create a cultural space for young people of color in Chicago to be themselves unapologetically,” says Coval. Over the years at YCA, Coval has been a part of supporting writers and artists like Jamila Woods, Saba, Noname, Mick Jenkins and Chance the Rapper. YCA is a space for youth to learn and get challenged creatively.
Coval’s latest book, A People’s History of Chicago entails 77 poems to represent Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. This book which includes a forward by Chance the Rapper is filled with poems by Coval that tells historical stories of the city that you may or may not have seen in textbooks. Coval also collaborated with Chicago-based artists for the illustration of A People’s History of Chicago. “I’ve always been heavily influenced by visual artists so while I’m telling these stories, I want to have some of the visual artists I admire from the city to help put faces to some people in the poetry with portraits” Hebru Brantley, Paul Branton and Coval’s former student Runsy are 3 of the 6 artists who contributed to the illustration of the book.
The Bagel Restaurant and Deli in Lakeview is a childhood favorite of Coval’s. He reminisces on visiting The Bagel with his aunt who was involved in theater. Coval credits this aunt to primarily introducing him to the world of art. The atmosphere of The Bagel is an authentic deli with the crispest dill pickles brought to the table along with bread.
I ordered the potato pancake, a corned beef sandwich. Both were very satisfying but what makes The Bagel unique is that it has the best Matzo Ball soup that I’ve ever had in the city. If you’re ever in Lakeview, be sure to stop by The Bagel at 3107 N Broadway St.
Kevin Coval’s forthcoming book A People’s History of Chicago will have a release event on March 4 at the Harold Washington Library 400 S. State St. at 6 pm.