Pancakes and Poetry in Courtyard B


Pettinger, Lenore, writer

It was a warm Saturday on Sept. 16 and as part of NEIU Weekend, students, faculty, and fans of the English department gathered for a Pancakes and Poetry Breakfast.

The event was held in the secluded, shady courtyard between buildings B and D and orchestrated by Dr. Tim Libretti, head of the English Department.

Dr. Tim Scherman was the chef du jour cooking up blueberry pancakes on camp stove griddles. Other breakfast items included juice, water, La Croix, pastries, fruit and, of course, coffee for this hour of the morning.

Instructors Olivia Cronk and Christine Simokaitis organized a group of 15 writers for the literary entertainment part of the morning. The readings were a little broader than the “Poetry” title would suggest.

The writers gave us not only original poetry but short stories, essays, and entries from their personal journals whether from childhood, a past life or current day.  Some had to overcome their evident nervousness to share their most personal thoughts with an audience that was at once familiar and unknown as writing is so personal and involves so much emotion.

There were wonderful, poignant journal entries from childhood experiences with grandma watching “The Price is Right,” to playing the lotto at the local convenience store, to stocking up on junk food, to remembering the gaudiest apartment decorated with a flamboyant flair that only an ‘older’ lady with a penchant for glitter, gold and silver can accomplish.

Katrina Underwood shared the wild and crazy nights of embarrassing meet-ups at infamous Chicago bars which made us all laugh because we either lived through those same nights long ago when we were showing our “wild oats,” or we are at that stage now putting ourselves through those same laughable moments.  

Luke Kwasny had the audience paying close attention to his hilarious riff on “The Tortoise and the Hare,” laughing as Mr. Hare charges through life acquiring an MBA, a CPA, a wife, a mortgage, kids and an IRA, thoughtful as ragged, street corner Tortoise reminds us of the spiritual and the esoteric. “Mr. Hare, where to?”

Other writers gave us their emotions on how painful a personal loss can be, or why we always feel like we are at that horribly awkward age of twelve. We heard how heartfelt the quiet, everyday events can be, and how the heart-stopping, crashing, fearful, tumultuous, life-changing events can stay with us the rest of our life.

Najlah Iqbal gave us political anger commensurate with our times, and others gave us experiences growing up in a culture, a family, or a neighborhood that was not like our own.  Olivia Cronk ended the readings by thanking us for coming to hear this event of “resistance, art, and celebration.”

When Dr. Timothy Libretti organizes this event next year, you should come.  It does not matter what course of study you are majoring in at NEIU, you will meet wonderful people. Your creative energy will be awakened. You will not regret coming. And you get to enjoy pancakes cooked by NEIU faculty while you’re at it.