Since becoming the library’s first artist in residence in January, poet and vocalist Luis Tubens has been spending about four hours each week at the Main Library, creating poetry and encouraging young people to express themselves.
In this first-of-its-kind library program, Tubens leads students in grades 6-12 in writing workshops and "More Than a Mic" open mic spoken-word performances, held in conjunction with the library's More Than a Month series.
Here, Tuben shares what he's learning and what inspires him.
Q. What does it mean to be an artist in residence?
A. To be an artist in residence anywhere is an immense honor. It means that an organization values your work as an artist to the point where they want to be a curator, a promoter, and motivator of your craft. Museums and galleries are traditionally places where visual artists become artists in residence, but for a literary artist like me to have a library, and such a prestigious one like the Oak Park Public Library, recognize my work is a privilege.
Q. What are you learning about Oak Park so far?
A. The first thing I learned about Oak Park is that it is home to the literary legend Ernest Hemingway. Wow. But also I am learning that Oak Park is a diverse town with rich history and beautiful people. Probably what I found to be most delightful is the array of young people that use the library as a center.
Q. What do you like about working with young people?
A. I have to say that I enjoy what I receive from the youth more than what I give. I am always surprised at the poetry and visual narratives that are produced from the workshops. It inspires me and keeps on my game.
Q. How have you gotten teenagers to join your workshops, and really be enagaged in them?
A. I first needed to understand what would interest them in the realm of poetry. For example, the students responded with the most enthusiasm and production when I facilitated rap battles, which are when two or more participants take turns creatively challenging each other with words and rhythm. Then, once they're engaged, I place poetic stipulations on their verses. For example, the participants must use couplets and every other line must be a simile. I somewhat disguise poetry in the form of rap, though the roots always come back to the expression of words.
Q. How are you applying what you're learning in this residency to your own writing?
A. In my writing I do not so much apply what I am learning but more what I am observing. The people, art, and institutions that I come in contact with during my time in Oak Park inspire my poetry. Their experiences and essence is what I hope to capture in my pages and express through my performance. I will have my writings available at the end of residency ... a little something to leave in appreciation of my time here.
Experience a live performance
More Than a Mic:
- Wednesday, February 22, 4:30-7 pm, Main Library. Featuring special performances by members of the Oak Park and River Forest High School Spoken Word poetry slam team.
- Wednesday, March 29, 5-7 pm, Main Library
- Wednesday, April 26, 5-7 pm, Main Library
After Tubens’ residency ends in April, he'll perform as “Logan Lu” at the Maze Branch monthly open mic series.
- Thursday, May 25, 6:30 pm, Maze Branch