In 2020, when the world seemed to slow down, many of us picked up new and old hobbies—some even stemming from our childhoods. You could not scroll a social media feed without bumping into photos of friends and family caring for new plants, picking up knitting needles, or returning to a beloved instrument. 

This is what led me to seek out a writing group. 

Coincidentally, it’s also what led to the birth of PenFlow writing sessions. It was not lost on me that such a space started up in poet Gwendolyn Brooks’s beloved Bronzeville. 

“We wanted to create a space for people to get back to writing, or to even start writing, and provide an intimate setting for them to perform those pieces for anyone who may be nervous performing in front of others,” said PenFlow co-host Jovan “Skrypt” Plunkett.

Besides the occasional English class assignment, I had never taken a crack at writing poetry—let alone performing a piece in front of others. But the vibe at the sessions is such that even a novice like myself felt welcome to perform in front of some of the best spoken word artists, rappers, and poets in Chicago. 

Each session begins with a two-hour window to write about the topic picked for the evening. The scene is an inviting one—a space about the size of a three-bedroom apartment, with quiet rooms for strictly writing others for those of us who like to be a bit more social, and a main room for collaboration. As guests arrive, co-hosts Jovan and Darron Anthony filter through the group to see who would like to perform. Though there is no pressure, there is often gentle nudging. “I always look forward to hearing your songs! Even if they are unfinished,” I overheard Darron saying to one of the group’s songwriters one night.

Hosts invite attendees to feel out the scene for the first two sessions, then decide if they would like to become a member. The space is 420 and BYOB friendly, which allows some of the creators to get into their modes.

PenFlow, 4500 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Wednesdays, 7–11pm. Contact @penflow_writingsessions via Instagram for more details.

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