In every home there is a box of “…yeah,” that place where you stash those things you want to keep but don’t really have a place for. When I came to talk to Andy Karol for our interview our night ended up searching through this box until we found an old bar napkin. Many poets I know have fond memories of the Green Mill’s bar napkins. I know I have one nestled in a notebook of mine which holds the opening to a poem that came to me while listening to the Slam. The napkin we were looking for was a similar kind to the one in my notebook. It was from Andy’s first night at the Green Mill. It had a poem that she had written for an impromptu contest of Marc’s invention. The contest was for the audience to write love poems to his co-host’s, J.W. Basilo, girlfriend. Andy won and whispered the poem into J.W.’s ear as he read the poem to his girlfriend over the phone, both of them standing on stage. This was how Andy made her debut into slam scene. I had asked if she still had it and so we ended up searching through the box of …yeah. Almost immediately we found a napkin with a poem on it and brought it into the light, but turned out to be the wrong napkin poem (there were a few in there). After some more digging we finally found the original poem, it was difficult to read having been written in pencil but here are a few lines:
…You’re my funhouse
and I your life-sized Carnie
your mirrors reflect the me I see and know…
…I discover new ways to win you over…
…My carnival prize I win with you everytime…
The poem had to have a carnival theme as part of the contest, if you didn’t figure that out.
The Road to the Mill
Born in Valparaiso, IN, Andy wrote poetry most of her life, she would hang around a small coffee house listening to the open mic. However as she grew up she focused more on stage performance. Yet while focusing on theater, getting her college degree in theater and communications, poetry still would sneak its way in. “I was very attracted to Shakespeare…it was still a difficult course [in college] but it fueled my love of language.”
Andy came to Chicago in 2003 to get more involved with theater. However Andy had some baggage she brought with her. “I grew up always being cast as the background chorus girl…Looking back it makes me really angry, because I was good enough, I just didn’t have anyone to back me up.” Andy tried working on the talent agency side of the industry and during that time she said, “I hated being on the phones, but I felt I needed to do that to find out if [this industry] was for me.” Then, one day, she asked to sit in on an audition and was asked to read opposite of the actor auditioning. “I was like, this is me, I’m the reader… I’m not supposed to be helping everyone else and not give myself a damn chance.”
Andy discovered the mill as many do, after a break up. She had been taken to see Andrea Gibson and that had been her first real exposure to the professional slam scene. As she left the show she said her and her ex “walked out of there… telling poetry to each in a joking way, but it put me in a headspace that said this feels right, this feels good.” Her ex had always spoken about the mill, but it took until the summer of 2012 for her to wander into the Mill. “I know it is very cliché to say, but I felt very at home.” She was hooked form the start and started to give herself the chance she deserved.
But what about now?
Since her arrival, Andy has featured at venues around Chicago her first being at the Gallery Cabaret and most recently at LitMash. She volunteers with Chicago Slam Works and is responsible for the photos used in the posters for RedLined. She has released a chapbook titled Failsafe, assembled from the best of her work she has written and performed over the past few years. The book focuses the transformations and the depressions she has come through. “Slowly but surely, I developed self love because I had no choice… this is a book that is from the dark to the light and everyone’s life is like that.”
Andy has come a long way in a short time as a performer and when asked how she does it she says, “You need to not be afraid of no, and you can go so far.”
Your skin is built around its own church.
Don’t tell me you’re not a believer
until you’ve looked at the night sky
and introduced yourself before making a wish.
-excerpt from “Fail-Safe”