Schtick

"These are the poems, people."

Schtick is the tale of Jewish assimilation and its discontents; a sweeping exposition on Jewish-American culture in all its bawdy, contradictory, and inventive glory. Exploring how Jews shed minority status in America—in his own family and in culture and politics at large—poet Kevin Coval shows us a people's transformation out of diaspora, landing on both sides of the color line.

About the author

KEVIN COVAL is the author of numerous poetry collections and chapbooks, including the American Library Association Book-of-the-Year finalist Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica and most recently, L-vis Lives! Racemusic Poems, described as a “stunning, and very personal, piece of literary work that should be required reading in every high school in America” by Impose magazine.

In his early twenties, Coval founded “Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival,” now one of the largest youth gatherings on the planet, recently the subject of an award-winning documentary of the same name. Coval currently serves as Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, the non-profit home of Louder Than a Bomb, and numerous other youth writing and hip hop programs. He is a native of Chicago and teaches at the School of the Art Institute and is a frequent contributor to WBEZ: Chicago Public Radio. His next work is Schtick: Jewish Assimilation and Its Discontents, forthcoming from Haymarket Books in April 2013. Coval can be reached at kc@kevincoval.com. New poems and event notices can be found at www.newschoolpoetics.com and www.facebook.com/kevincoval.

Video

Coval discusses Schtick on WBEZ's Afternoon Shift with Rick Kogan:

WCIU's You & Me This Morning

Reviews

"Coval does for the Jews what Whitman did for America."
MARC MARON, comedian, host of WTF

"[Coval's] newest work may be his best work... a sensational collection, alternately heartfelt, humorous and provocatively political."
RICK KOGAN, Chicago Tribune

"A take-no-prisoners Jewish classic."
RABBI BRANT ROSEN, Mondoweiss

"Coval's frank admissions of contempt are often balanced by tenderness, affection, and complicated analyses of identity. "Schtick" implies routine, but Coval's book is anything but. Instead it's an outpouring of self-assessment, cloaked in a tallith of vivid, streetwise language."
TAL ROSENBERG, Chicago Reader

"Coval gains fluidity and depth with each collection. In his fourth book, this line-crosser and bridge-builder—of suburb to city, white to black to Jewish, literature to hip-hop—wrestles with his Jewish American identity in rambunctious, irreverent, and staccato rants, raps, and laments. Coval veers into memoir in trenchant and rueful prose poems about his youth and family. Gliding between the personal and the communal, the sacred and the profane, the painful and the absurd, Coval muses over the fate of European Jews filtering through Ellis Island, losing names and shedding identities, and the treacheries of assimilation. He offers clever, hilarious, and melancholy odes to Jewish holidays and Jewish comedians, lashing protests against both anti-Semitism and the plight of Palestinians, and such barbed riffs as this snap from 'how jewish boys get irish names': 'cuz america is afraid of what it can’t / pronounce.' Propulsive, provocative, shrewd, sorrowful, tender, and soul-baring, this is a watershed collection for Coval and his readers."
DONNA SEAMAN, for the American Library Association's Booklist Magazine

"Coval leans all the way in with Schtick, exposing the grimy, slippery truths about how we live and love and hate with his characteristic wit, rhythmic cadence and unflinching honesty. Powerful."
TRICIA ROSE, author, Hip Hop Wars

“A poet once observed that ‘poetry is the music of facts.’ Kevin Coval's poetry rings with that music. From the grit and turmoil of everyday life, Coval constructs a new beauty that inspires and transforms."
—BERNIE SAHLINS, founder, The Second City

“I dig this book, for many reasons, mainly because it makes me think. Any literature that causes us to use our brains and contemplate our roles within the human condition is a good thing! I love... how it mixes Humpty-Hump in with the likes of American iconism. Also I'm part Jewish (it's a slice of my mutt-ism).”
—SHOCK G, aka Humpty Hump of Digital Undergound

“Historical/hysterical... reverent/blasphemous...this book bursts with pride/shame/joy/pain. Coval bravely edits nothing. His dazzling images/ideas fly at you, as if scattershot from some Yiddish theater/circus cannon.”
—TIM KAZURINSKY, cast member, Saturday Night Live (1981-1984)

“Kevin's poems are hugely influenced by the fact I performed at his bar mitzvah. Yes, I said the word doody. And yes, now he's brilliant.”
—JEFF GARLIN, co-star and Executive Producer, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Praise for L-vis Lives! and Kevin Coval

"This book is bold, brave and morally messy – twelve rounds of knock-down, drag-out shadowboxing against a shapeshifter. The dark humor, intellectual fervor, and emotional rigor Coval brings to bear animates these pieces, turns caricatures to characters, implicates us all. It's about time."
—ADAM MANSBACH, author, Go the F**k to Sleep

“One of my favorite poets.”
—MOS DEF

"Kevin Coval is a new, glowing voice in the world of literature."
—STUDS TERKEL

"A prophet…a tour-de-force…he can soothe and scathe, hurt and heal, in the course of a single poem."
Providence Journal

"Coval’s greatest strength is his rhythmic, beautiful prose and his willingness to speak truth to power, no matter what the personal cost."
URB

"A concious Jewish phenomenon…[Coval’s] work speaks to the Jewish relationship to the American color line."
Jew School