billy lombardo is the author of The C.A.P.E. Crusade: Your Guide to a Great College Application Personal Essay, The Logic of a Rose: Chicago Stories, The Man with Two Arms, Morning Will Come, and Meanwhile, Roxy Mourns.
A Nelson Algren award winner, billy is the founder of Polyphony Lit, a student-run literary magazine for high school writers and editors. He has taught at Chicago-area high schools since Prince dropped When Doves Cry.
A dynamic speaker and performer, billy has presented and performed at more than 300 high schools, universities, conferences, and literary events since 1989. He runs a writing and editing business called Writing Pros/e and teaches in the English department at Trinity High School in River Forest, IL.
billy has coached hundreds of students through successful college application personal essays, and still works one-on-one with a limited number of clients.
He currently lives in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.
Somewhere in the middle 70s, a dark-eyed girl named Gia appeared like a miracle in Bridgeport, and billy wrote a poem for her called "A Dream, A Ring, and a Memory," and you can laugh at it now, but that cry of love felt like the first ever naming of the thing within.
Not long after that poem, a beautiful nun from St. David’s called billy a “cub reporter.” An exclamation point might have been involved.
Several other things happened.
Then came the Green Mill. It was still strange to hear poetry in bars back then. The patrons jostled for space at the bar and they yelled out their drink orders and they bumped into your wrist with their cigarettes and sometimes a fight didn’t break out. And when their beers and their bourbons came sometimes they drank them and sometimes they dropped them and sometimes somebody else drank them, and they only remembered it was Sunday because they had to work tomorrow.
And sometimes they realized someone was reading a poem on stage and they what-the-fucked is this, and if they didn’t like what they heard they snapped their fingers and they groaned and they stomped their feet until the poets and the other crazies got off the stage.
Oh, but if they liked what was happening up there, it was a miracle. But it was also like digging a spade into easy earth; you thought you might be able to do it again. It got so quiet in that old speakeasy that you could hear the ashes from their cigarettes fall, and they cheered so like hell that you couldn't look anyone in the eye for fear of it ending. And you wanted it to happen every minute of your life.