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“...a checkered canvas...”

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2019 induction ceremony for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, which honored Frank Marshall Davis, Salima Rivera and Sam Greenlee. A fine evening. I really like Davis’ “Chicago’s Congo”, and especially this passage:

Across the street from the Ebenezer Baptist Church,
      women with cast-iron faces peddle love
In the flat above William’s Funeral Home
      six couples sway to the St. Louis Blues
Two doors away from the South Side Bank
      three penny-brown men scorch their guts with four bit
Dr. Jackson buys a Lincoln
His neighbor buys second hand, shoes
      —the artist who paints this town must
      use a checkered canvas ...

I hear echoes there of Nelson Algren's description of Chicago as being Janus-like and two-faced. Algren and Davis were contemporaries (born four years apart) and both were involved in the Federal Writers Project, so I assume they knew each other.

November 11, 2019 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink


Yep, Algren and Marshall did know each other from FWP, and also were neighbors when Algren lived in "Rat Alley" on the southside. That's per Colin Asher's book (which is excellent, btw).

Posted by: Sam at Nov 24, 2019 9:43:33 AM

“Sam”! Great to hear from you. I had been thinking there were only four people in the world who still read my blog, so I’m glad to see that it’s actually five.

Posted by: Pete at Nov 25, 2019 6:47:15 AM