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Beans & Bagels Offers Coffee for a Sonnet

By Patty Wetli | April 26, 2013 12:58pm

LINCOLN SQUARE — Shall I compare thee to a summer's day...or a latte?

In celebration of William Shakespeare's 449th birthday — technically April 26 is the day the bard was baptized — Beans & Bagels is offering free coffee on Friday to any customer willing to read one of Shakespeare's sonnets. Aloud.

Linzi Johnston chose Sonnet No. 88, her fiancé's favorite number.

"I'm on my way to an interview and we're way too early," she said, as she munched on a sandwich. "But this is beautiful."

By noon, roughly 20 customers had taken Beans up on the challenge.

Callie Johnson, a teacher with the Viola Project, which offers Shakespeare camps for girls, was keeping track of each sonnet read, slowly ticking off numbers on her list.

 Linzi Johnston reads a sonnet at Beans & Bagels as her fiancee Ernesto Melchor looks on.
Linzi Johnston reads a sonnet at Beans & Bagels as her fiancee Ernesto Melchor looks on.
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"It's tough to come in and read it cold," she admitted. "It's definitely not how we speak today. It's poetry. That's what makes [the sonnets] so beautiful and that's what makes it so intimidating. There's a heartbeat of the language."

Beans general manager Adam Snow borrowed the idea for the sonnet marathon from an event he participated in during his undergraduate days at Loyola University.

"What I'm about with regards to poetry, so much of the experience is externalized," he said. "This was supposed to be read aloud. Poetry was rap, it was musical."

Whereas a group in New York City is attempting to raise $50,000 in order to hire actors to read the sonnets, Snow wanted to keep his effort more accessible.

"It's the people's theater," he said. "I feel these things are supposed to be ours."

While acknowledging that Shakespeare is indeed an "old, dead white guy," Snow said the poet/playwright remains just as relevant today as he was 400 years ago.

"I feel like he was someone who understood a lot of what it meant to be a human."

The sonnet marathon continues at Beans & Bagels, 2601 W. Leland Ave., through 3 p.m. Snow said the experiment may carry over if there are scores of poems still to be read by the end of the day.