Patrick Reninger says his poetry has a sense of the absurd, which is certainly true. He’s the kind of poet who can make any subject funny while simultaneously addressing life's more serious issues and situations. Patrick is a regular contributor to the Kentucky literary journal Open 24 Hours and a two time semi-finalist at the Green Mill Poetry Slam.
Back in his teens he jammed on blues harp at the famed Maxwell Street Flea Market on Chicago’s Near West Side. According to the Examiner, Maxwell Street was the birthplace of Chicago Blues, electric blues that developed when the ‘Great Migration’ brought blues men like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf up Highway 61 from the southland to Chicago. It was not uncommon for musicians we now consider legends to play on street corners at the market.
During its heyday of the 1930s and 40s, the market provided inexpensive Sunday entertainment for as many as 50,000 people who came by to browse the vendors’ and neighborhood shops’ offerings of food, clothing, and household goods.
In the 1960s the University of Illinois started moving in and old buildings came down. In 2008 the “New Maxwell Street Market” moved to Des Plaines and Roosevelt and continues today but it ain’t the same.
These days Patrick plays all over the Chicagoland area at places like House of Blues, Chicago Cultural Center and the Chicago Blues Festival. He finds improvising on blues harp is not unlike writing poetry. “If you listen,” he says, “there’s a narrative arc to my musical improvising, just as you have in a poem. Without that it’s just honking which might sound interesting for a little while but doesn’t hold up in the long run.”
To hear Patrick's feature on Poetry Spoken Here, click here.
To hear some of Patrick's music, check out this special episode of Poetry Spoken Here.