LINCOLN PARK — Poet Kevin Coval's citywide book tour behind his new collection "A People's History of Chicago" stops in at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church on Wednesday.
Coval is scheduled to talk from 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the church, 600 W. Fullerton Parkway. The $25 fee includes a signed copy of the book, a barbecue dinner and "an evening of history and stories," according to a flier distributed by the church.
With its title referencing Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," Coval's "People's History of Chicago" consists of 77 poems about the city, from the original Pottowattomies who lived here to last fall's Cub World Series triumph. It has a foreward by Chance the Rapper, a former Coval student who calls him "my artistic father."
Coval has immersed himself in the city since founding the Louder Than a Bomb teen poetry slams in the early 2000s. Those competitive events went on to produce a documentary of the same title in 2011. He is also a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he teaches hip-hop aesthetics.
"It's been a lot of fun," Coval said Tuesday ahead of the Lincoln Park event. "The plan is we're doing 180 readings in 365 days, one in every neighborhood. It's been ambitious, but it's also been amazing.
"I mean, I know my city really well," he added, "but this has been a real opportunity to meet and hear directly from people on what's going on in the neighborhoods."
Coval said it's given him a different vision from the reputation Chicago projects in the national media with its persistent street violence. "I've always known Chicago has a great civic pride," Coval said. "But to hear people talk about their connection to a space or their connection to a neighborhood ... has been kind of a reaffirmation of the import of people taking stock and also action in their neighborhood."
Coval said he's found city residents eager to share "the hopes and the lovely things about their neighborhood."
According to Coval, he's more than halfway through that schedule, having made about "100-ish" appearances already since the book was released this spring. He described it as "a very local, Chicago-centric book tour," but also as a networking campaign for one of his main focal points, Young Chicago Authors, which visits hundreds of Chicago schools a year.
To that end, on Wednesday he'll be bringing along some of the Young Chicago Authors' top talents, a dozen young writers known as the Bomb Squad, whom Coval described as "potentially the next generation of civic-minded poet educators."
Coval said he was looking forward to introducing them to Lincoln Park Presbyterian Pastor Beth Brown, who has shown "what a socially engaged community can do in the city."
The church asks that those interested register with the Village Chicago, a community group that's co-sponsoring the appearance, by calling 773-248-8700.