All May Enter
All may enter the realm of the poem. Poetry belongs to each of us, wealthy, super rich, middle class, working class, and poor. I think the shut out --- middle class, working class and poor have a storehouse of poems yet to be heard. We are each rich with the beauty and purpose of words, if written words are available to us and we let their potential in. Literacy is a vital component of the power of poetry. It is a vital component of the people's power. But poetry may be oral as were the first poems. Chants and ritual words sung as the tribe gathered. Poetry is the language of the heart, brain, body and soul. It moves as the spirit moves us --- in rhythms, definite and distinct.
"Poetry is life distilled," wrote legendary Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks (Il 1968 – 2000). In the realm of each poem, we find contained the nucleus of life itself, some truth that otherwise eluded us, but pulses in our daily lives, behind our eyes, on the edge of a smile or frown, laughter or weeping. Sometimes there is a word-picture that catches our breath and inspires us, an image that makes us see a-new, a cunning turn of language that makes us want to speak in tongues.
Poetry becomes more popular in times of turmoil and social upheaval, such as today. The motto of the Civil Rights Movement was "transforming hearts and minds." What better way than through poetry? "We Shall Overcome" is a poem sung. People need poems to speak the powerful currents of ideas that impel us forward to push against the gray walls of the past. Poet Denise Levertov in her poem "Jacob's Ladder" describes a man struggling up a ladder when "Wings brush past him./ The poem ascends." When we speak as poets, we are truest to our humanity and we assume a sacred task. We ascend as angels ascend. We put on our wings. Brown, White, Asian, Black we ascend as angels ascend.
Haki Madhubuti writes "Poetry has a way of attaching itself to strangers." Yes, for inside the poem we are not strangers long, for poems speak intimately and immediately, one heart to one heart even in a crowd listening to loud mesmerizing Spoken Word poetry. Alan Shapiro writes, "reading poetry is an act of love." We pour ourselves into the words and their meanings and music. They pour themselves into us as we read. We become lovers and healers as well. Some poets shape poems from their dreams. Poems come out of their dreams. And we give these dreams to a world that needs more " dreams and dreamers, songs and singers of songs," if I may borrow from Langston Hughes.
"Poetry is life distilled," as Brooks said, and we drink it and are revived and enabled to live our own lives with keener insights, more robust passion, and tender compassion and courage. Wherever we live --- in city, town, countryside, rural area, we are revived by the power of poetry. All of us in Illinois and beyond restored in the realm of the poem.
I am honored and excited to follow Illinois esteemed Poet Laureates Howard Austin, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Kevin Stein. Illinois has a rich poetic history and promises more truth and beauty, brimming with life. In the realm of the poem, all are welcome.
Angela Jackson to Serve as Fifth Illinois Poet Laureate
Acclaimed Chicago Southside Native
to Fill Position Left Vacant Since 2017
First Lady MK Pritzker today announced the selection of Angela
Jackson as the next Poet Laureate for the State of Illinois. Jackson is the fifth Illinoisan to hold the title, an honorary
position selected by a committee of experts and subsequently appointed by the
Jackson is an accomplished and award-winning poet, novelist, and
playwright, who has published three chapbooks and four volumes of poetry. As
Illinois’ next poet laureate, Jackson will work to promote poetry at the state and
national level and had a poem published in today’s New York Times to
celebrate Thanksgiving. She will join only four other esteemed poets who
have previously held this coveted title. The first Illinois Poet Laureate,
Howard B. Austin, was named in 1936. The three other poets who have held the
title are Carl Sandburg (1962-67), Gwendolyn Brooks (1968-2000), and Kevin
Stein (2003-2017). In June, Gov. Pritzker posthumously named John Prine an
honorary Poet Laureate.
“Illinois has a proud history of poets who have given us reason
for hope in dark times, offered poignant insight into our own humanity and
delivered profound social critiques, and as I considered the nominees to be our
next Poet Laureate, all of these qualities were important in making the final
choice,” said First Lady MK Pritzker, Honorary Chair and Final Judge of the
2020 Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee. “Members of the committee
nominated astounding talents from our state, and I’m grateful for their work. After
spending countless hours reviewing all the nominees’ works, I’m confident that
Angela Jackson will continue to be a bright shining light of wisdom, inspiration
and connection as she promotes the power of poetry.”
“I am honored and excited to have been selected to serve as
Illinois Poet Laureate,” said Angela Jackson. “Legendary Poet Laureate
Gwendolyn Brooks said, ‘Poetry is life distilled.’ I hope to bring to Illinoisans poetry that
they can relate to, be lifted by, and find their lives illuminated in. Poems
bring us to ourselves and poems bring us together.”
In June, the Governor and First Lady Pritzker announced the
formation of the 2020 Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee to fill the
position that has been vacant since late 2017. The committee, comprised of
poets, writers, and academics from across the state, reviewed nominations
submitted by the public and recommended three finalists to be the state’s next
“Illinois has a proud
history of influential poets and I’m proud to continue this tradition by formally
appointing our state’s next Poet Laureate,” said Governor JB Pritzker.
“Angela Jackson is an acclaimed poet and writer and her expansive breadth of
work has already inspired so many. I know her words will have a profound impact
on the residents of our state as well as the next generation of aspiring
“Angela Jackson’s poems dwell in fervid topographies of family
and myth, heart and tongue,” said previous Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin
Stein. “Her lines bristle with the melody of conversation and soulful
blues, her voice unwaveringly human.”
Jackson was born in Greenville, Mississippi and raised on
Chicago’s Southside and educated at Northwestern University and the University
of Chicago. She was a 20-year member of the Organization of Black American
Culture (OBAC) Writers Workshop, succeeding the late Hoyt W. Fuller as its
Of Angela’s volumes, Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The
Beatitudes of the Spinners was awarded the Carl Sandburg Award and the
Chicago Sun-Times/Friends of Literature Book of the Year Award. And All
These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New was nominated for the
National Book Award. It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time was nominated for
the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen/Open Book Award, a finalist for the Hurston/Wright
Legacy Award, and a finalist for the Milt Kessler Poetry Prize.
Jackson has received the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry
Society of America, a Pushcart Prize, the Illinois Center for the Book Heritage
Award, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Fuller Award, and the Literary Hall of
Fame for Writers of African Descent from Chicago State University. In
additional to her poetry, Jackson’s novels and plays have also been widely recognized
and she has received two American Book Awards.