In September, Young Chicago Authors (YCA) named Kara Jackson Chicago’s newest Youth Poet Laureate. An Oak Park resident, Jackson is the third Youth Poet Laureate after E’mon Lauren and Pat Frazier. In December 2018 and March 2019, the Weekly sat down with Jackson to discuss the process of crafting poems for her chapbook, coming out this fall from Haymarket Books.
Youth creative writing organization 826CHI recently released The 826CHI Compendium, Volume VI, an anthology of poems and stories on the theme of discovery written by over one hundred Chicago students from the past two years of programming.
Queer futurism is difficult.
And She Will is a brief, difficult volume. Only twenty-seven pages, it documents author Kwyn Townsend Riley’s “heal[ing] of self inflicted and reactionary wounds” after trauma. In early 2018, within weeks of each other, Riley gave birth to a stillborn son, her fiance ended their engagement, and she attempted suicide. Her second collection of poems explores her explosions of emotion in the time after these events, charting her grief and her journey toward self-compassion.
Living in Chicago often means talking about it near-constantly—a grand, if not always consistent, tradition. One layer of the conversation is the trumpeting of glorious public accomplishments: the tallest skyscrapers, epic lakefront public works projects, no little plans being made. By the same token, Chicagoans seem to take some pleasure in public failure—the more grandiose and conspicuous the better—whether watching a gangster, a governor, or a sports franchise take the proverbial L. It’s a sacred local activity: if an outsider (usually a New Yorker) tries to get in on the action, Chicagoans circle the wagons.
Readers expecting a detailed account of urban coyotes may be surprised by Gavin Van Horn’s new book. The Way of Coyote blends memoir and ecological research in a work of creative non-fiction that explores Chicago’s wilderness and how we live alongside it. The beauty and wonder of urban nature are treated in much the same style as traditional, wilderness-focused nature writing, and Van Horn acknowledges on the first page that his “Plan A” was to live in a cabin somewhere with no cell reception. That plan fell through, however, and instead of lions or wolves, Van Horn finds beauty in the birds and butterflies that call Chicago home.
Patricia Frazier’s Graphite opens with a quote from fellow poet Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, excerpted from a passage reflecting on the Williams sisters. Rankine says Serena and Venus are “graphite against a sharp white background,” a stark contrast to the accepted homogeneity of professional tennis.
Propter Nos is the yearly journal from True Leap Press. It’s a smartly critical read with an eye toward beauty and a better world, and Volume 2—published October 2017 and excerpted here—circles around the idea of political and emotional exhaustion from a resolutely anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-nationalist perspective. True Leap is currently working on their third issue and providing free copies to incarcerated readers; learn more at trueleappress.com
it’s a honey moon
tonight, they say:
when lovers learn
to take leave.
(a rose moon
sweet, wet, full.
earth’s blood mirrored
there in her gleaming)
last night there were six gunshots
outside our bar
& tonight they don’t know
if we hear fire works
or loud play
that will kill our children.
I don’t know what to do
about babies in the street
so I lay my crystals in the
moonlight to be bathed.
I would rather
feel witchy: see
hard earth as clean.
baby a black cat
has a wet rose tongue
too. or did you think
a tense superstition
could roll over
& lay its soft belly
bare for yr light?
for Rekia Boyd & all who loved her
the afternoon your best friend’s
was acquitted of all charges
I was sitting in f******* Starbucks watching
20 or so black boys from the high school
running down State St. w/ the new
exhilaration of a bird gone to flight even at
the price of a fight or a weapon. I froze
& stood feeling the fear break the window as
the cops were called & the white man sat
outside, smirking & sipping on his iced Venti
Whatever chatting w/ the undercover
white cop in her gleaming black car
the boys dispersed, & no one was shot
though I was crying in the bathroom at this
I was wearing thick white & thin lilac,
quartz & rosewood on my wrist
it had felt like a time
you said you loved
seeing yogis squirm
to keep up, their bodies
nearly breaking. I thought
it is easy to love the wrenching or
the obviously tragic it is harder
to love the uncertain the look on
a face when it is deciding whether
to freeze or run or die or kill. it is
harder to love the ambiguity of
forgiveness. your never knowing
if you had to or were right to
& what will come of it
the judge said,
the law said,
it was not reckless manslaughter
but “beyond reckless”
so he could not continue
this is a place for reasoned
decisions & her brother
I was wondering how
on this planet
if it will always revolve around
such a pompous & burning
form of light but it is not as if
we didn’t choose
to be here
shouting at the detail
wailing in ambiguous light