Exhibit: Poetry for the Senses

Poetry for the Senses, opening May 16 at Harold Washington Library Center, is a multisensory experience exhibit aiming to bring awareness to the limitations vision-impaired people face and offer all visitors a chance to interact with poetry in a new way. Each poem is displayed in print and Braille, alongside a QR-accessible recording and an interactive scent box. Poetry for the Senses presents works by Chicago residents and poets Iliana Genkova, Sheila Kamuda, Myron Stokes, Frank Bonacci and Jerry Pendergast.

"Poetry is art. Art is a sensuous experience that belongs to everyone," writes Genkova, who curated the exhibit with Julie Morley. "This exhibit, like good writing, aims to deliver poetry to all of our senses."

The inspiration for this project came from Genkova's work with Peter Rayner, a blind by birth Australian scientist, and more recently, from a memoir writing and teaching class led by award-winning author Beth Finke, who is vision impaired. Since its creation in 2019, Poetry for the Senses has been installed at the Chinatown and Albany Park branches, as well as The Chicago Lighthouse and Friedman Place, a community for blind and visually impaired adults.

About the Authors

  • Frank Bonacci grew up in Schiller Park and now lives in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. He is the grants manager for Catholic Charities in the Joliet Diocese and an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Jerry Pendergast grew up in Lincoln Park and now lives in North Park with his wife Kathleen Craine. He is active in Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities. Most recently he was published in After Hours, Children Churches and Daddies and EXTREME Anthology of Poems with a Social Justice theme.
  • Myron Stokes lives in Chicago and works as a Counselor at the Oak Park VA Center.
  • Sheila Kamuda is the inspiration behind Live Out Loud Coaching. She is an empowerment coach, speaker, and author of Party of One: A Memoir About Getting Through Loss and Being Okay As a Party of One.
  • Iliana Genkova is a scientist and has a passion for the arts. She dabbles in poetry and creative non-fiction writing. She runs a writing group in Uptown and facilitates memoir workshops from time to time.

Genkova and Morley would like to thank Beth Finke for her invaluable input on the exhibit content, Ryan Baker for the audio setup and the authors for their contributions.

Poetry for the Senses opens May 16 on the 5th floor of Harold Washington Library Center, around the corner from the Assistive Resources and Talking Book Center. Patrons can expect to navigate the exhibit on their own, but they are welcome to ask for assistance at the reference desk or at the Assistive Resources Center. To learn more about the visually impaired community and services in Chicago, please visit Blind Service Chicago and The Chicago Lighthouse.