Yes, exactly. According to Kathleen Rooney’s expose, “Pimp My Poem,” you can find poetry whores in Chicago. What is the set up?
Here’s Rooney to set the mood: “You will enter a dim room appointed with fireplaces, silk tapestries, velvet banquettes, and damask wall hangings flecked with tiny mirrors and sequins. Every available surface will be either carved hardwood or plated with gold leaf. Because no self-respecting bordello would be caught without a piano player, there will be one, alternating his sets with DJs spinning the greatest hits of the 1890s and early 1900s.”
And, if you wear period–read: Victorian–clothing, you get in for only $5 (normally a $10 cover). But, once you’re in, you can buy a chip that will give you access to a one-on-one poetry reading from one of the “troupe of acclaimed poets who provide visitors with the most unique and intimate poetry experience available in Chicago. (from the Chicago Poetry Bordello website).”
Rooney argues that the Brothel provides a service that fills a niche and a need for the literocrats of today’s society: “The poem you get for five dollars at the Poetry Brothel is literally more dear than the dozens you get for zero dollars at a regular reading because most people do not actually believe the best things in life are free.” Does a payment, dim lighting, a slight buzz, and a costumed tempter/ temptress reshape the way we value poetry? It’s an interesting question, and though the answer definitely is one of double entendre, the novelty and gumption of this tactic deserves wonder and admiration.
And…would you go, if you had the chance?