Chicago’s most defining characteristic is that the city as a whole eludes definition, operating on an ideology of constant experimentation, forward-thinking and shifting perspectives. In many ways, it’s a city of perpetual rebirth. Carl Sandburg, a Chicago poet, put it best — “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on the way.”
But today, there’s a new kind of cultural revolution at work, helmed by the sounds and stories of Chicago’s youth — many of whom attribute their success to an organization who believes in cultivating artistic voices, new narratives, critical thinking and civically engaged young people — Young Chicago Authors. YCA provides young artists with the space and resources they require to produce and perform meaningful works of art, culminating in the world’s largest poetry slam competition Louder Than A Bomb. The organization is a testament to the revolution that happens when you hand over the mic.
We’re proud to be YCA’s community partner since the opening of Ace Hotel Chicago in 2017, and to widely share Voices of Young Chicago Authors, a monthly series featuring writers in their community and their work. You can keep abreast on ongoing YCA events at Ace Hotel Chicago by signing up for the newsletter or following @acehotelchicago.
Chicago and poetry have a long history together. Over thirty years ago, Chicago’s own Gwendolyn Brooks was named the city’s very first National Youth Poet Laureate. This program is an initiative of Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization. Young Chicago Authors has been continuing this tradition since 2016, selecting an individual to serve as the artistic ambassador for the year. This year’s Youth Poet Laureate is Kara Jackson, and we’re proud to share her poem below.
POEM FOR THE MIDWEST
Kara Jackson, 2019 Chicago Youth Poet Laureate
my american wasteland. you sick, twisted blade of grass. your kisses are not real
they were just the wind. your hedonism is below zero. i don’t think i love you,
just the fact that you let me smoke in your closet. you make my nose red
and do not come to collect my blood. you make me wear three sweaters
just to hug my friends. your summers are a false honeymoon. i fall for your sun every time
but i don’t abandon my coat. it is brown and it is sitting there in the den, like a dog
that just heard people outside and i am afraid to leave you and your tricky weather. i am afraid because
my mother makes good potatoes with spinach. my father knows how to keep wrinkles
out of the laundry and i am a mess who is calling herself an adult and you are the toughest girl
i have ever sort of loved.
Kara Jackson explores the essence of invisibility, the authentic elements of language and divine womanhood through music, writing and occasionally visual art.
YOUNG CHICAGO AUTHORS
Young Chicago Authors cultivates young voices from all backgrounds through writing, publication and mentorship to understand the importance of their own stories and those of others, so that they can pursue the path they choose and work to make their communities more just and equitable.
Ace Hotel London | March 19, 2020
Bodies, much like the people who house them, are vastly different. How we understand them, then, is largely dependent on how they’re shown to us. Photography — or the two-dimensional renderings we encounter upon first blush — introduce us to those bodies, but offer something else, too.
Eighth grader Franco L. reminds us of that golden kernel within, the one that burns steady and true in his poem titled "Thankful," as part of our ongoing partnership with nonprofit organization 826CHI.
Ace Hotel New York | March 5, 2020
Braulio Amado, designer & illustrator, chats with longtime Ace pal and legendary New York City DJ Justin Strauss for this edition of Just/Talk about bridging punk and electronic aesthetics, his mutant art space SSHH, experimental weirdness at Bloomberg Businessweek and what he would do with one trillion dollars tomorrow.