Back in June of 2000, sitting expectantly behind our Printers Row Book Fair table, one whole issue of After Hours under our belts, my co-editor Pat Hertel and I really didn’t know what lay ahead. We began with a vision of showcasing Chicago-area writers and artists, of presenting an outlet for the “Chicago voice.” Over the past 11 years, we’ve learned that there is not one voice, but many voices that together have created the style for which After Hours is known: elegant, smart, thoughtful, quirky, down-to-earth.
As a native Chicago poet and musician, I believe that our city’s unique character and history, architecture and neighborhoods, and the ever-present effect of Lake Michigan infects the heart and psyche of every writer who has lived here—whether it be for a lifetime or a brief stopover. It is an urban voice that defines Chicago literature—the voice of writers who let the city get under their skin and into their blood, who know that social and political conditions are ultimately reflections of the human condition.
I know this is true of my own poetic voice. Having earned my MFA in Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, where the student body was international, I heard Chicago in my lines and rhythms. I heard a similar aesthetic in the handful of fellow Chicago-area writers in the Spalding program, including faculty member Rane Arroyo. These were writers in whose words you could hear the roar of the “el” overhead, could smell the lake, could feel the weariness of those who work every day for a living. These are writers who shed the illusions of ivory towers and took up the sound and fury of neighborhood taverns, backyards, and front stoops.
In 1999, I realized that it was only in our own Chicago cafes, bars, and libraries where Chicago writing and art could speak up for itself. Providing a new outlet for local artists and writers was the idea that led to After Hours. Years before, when in college, I had edited a literary magazine, Oyez Review, along with my friend Pat Hertel. I asked her if she would join me on the journey to create After Hours—and the rest is history.
In our first decade, After Hours has had the honor of being able to print an amazing body of work of regular contributors whose writing graces nearly every issue. On the other hand, with each issue we add new names to our contributor list. We’re very proud of the many first-time–published writers we can take credit for, with a number of those first-timers moving on to the publication of chapbooks, books, plays, and novels. Our first 23 issues have included Chicago-area writers and artists such as Stuart Dybek, Marc Smith, Barry Silesky, Rane Arroyo, Larry Janowski, David Hernandez, Martha Modena Vertreace-Doody, E. Donald Two-Rivers, Marvin Tate, Judith Valente, Herb Nolan, Greg Kuepfer, Cin Sallach, Kent Forman, Chuck Perkins, Lucy Anderton, Nina Corwin, Charlie Newman, Jared Smith, Mary Blinn, Charles Rossiter, Donna Pucciani, Brenda Cardenas, Tara Betts, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Patricia McMillan, Santiago Weksler, Norbert Blei, Helen Degan-Cohen, and many more.
We like to think that with After Hours we have created a rich archive that future readers will go to when they want to know what the best Chicago writers and artists were producing at the beginning of the 21st century. We look forward to discovering more new voices and continuing to stock that archive. We invite you to visit our website for submission guidelines, as well as a listing of local bookstores that feature After Hours on their shelves. You can also find us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on readings by our contributors and other news and events. We encourage new writers and artists, and love electronic submissions! We thrive on the creativity of our Chicago community and hope that we can provide a venue for Chicago’s best for years to come.
Written in Fall 2011.
Albert DeGenova is the author of two books of poetry, The Blueing Hours (Virtual Artists Collective) and Back Beat (co-authored with Charles Rossiter, 2nd edition, Fractal Edge Press), and two chapbooks, A Tender Spot, and most recently, Postcards to Jack (Naked Mannekin). From 1978–80 he was an editor of Oyez Review (published by Roosevelt University); in June of 2000 he launched the literary/arts journal After Hours, and continues as publisher and co-editor. DeGenova is half of the performance poetry duo AvantRetro which appears throughout the Midwest and greater Chicago area. DeGenova received his MFA in Writing from Spalding University, Louisville. He is a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine. He currently lives in Oak Park.