“The Youth Laureate Letters”: Reflections on Returning

The following is a guest post by National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson. This is the fourth in a series of bimonthly blog posts that Kara will be writing during her laureateship this year. 

My dear readers,

National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson. Photo by Mercedes Zapata

I hope as the weather gets colder you’re able to whip up a bit of warmth in your lives. While winter on the east coast feels like no match for Chicago, I still go looking for warmth every day. I’ve been able to find it in friends, furnaces, and fried food. Of course, there’s a lot of warmth in writing as well! I’ve got plenty of poems to get me through the season.

It is finally winter break for Smith students. While the semester was filled with joy and knowledge, it feels good to be home. My mother made me vegan treats in anticipation of my return. As I write this post, I am nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie. I am so grateful to be back home safely! I cannot wait to use this time to rest and to turn some more of my attention to art. This semester was a busy one, and I found my poems got put to the bottom of the pile. Luckily, I have a few weeks to work on them. I have prepared a reading list in anticipation of the break, and this week I get to dive in! Reading for pleasure is a practice I intend to keep. During the semester I was saddened by the lack of time I had to tend to my books. Now I can keep my head in the crook of whatever story I crave.

Homecomings are strange. I am stunned by the way the streets have stayed the same. The parks have kept their places. But my poems are changing. I’m excited about the space change makes for creativity. As I gather more homes, I’m forced to find more language for all the places I live. I need words for how high the hills rise on the east coast. Before leaving I had a lack of language for the way our relationships with roads weaken. The boulevards blur and the houses head to the bottom of my mind. Now I have a vocabulary for vast cliffs and a depression that’s geographically imposed. Just this semester, I’ve traveled to so many places I’ve never called home. I found myself in Minnesota earlier this month at St. Olaf to sing songs. This homecoming marks the first time I’ve sat in my room in over three months. But distance only dared me to work harder. I am proud of the way I’ve made Smith a place of my own, and how I continue to make places for myself all around the country.

During this past semester I got to interview Yara Shadidi and Kiernan Shipka about what it means to be turning 20 as we enter the new decade that is 2020. Talking to these women helped me understand the way age urges us to parent ourselves. The body is constantly a place of knowledge and knowing, a place of poems. Even at our age, we are experts because expertise isn’t exclusive of pimples. We are the experts of ourselves and poetry is the place of that expertise. Both Yara and Kiernan offered words that left me with confidence in my youth. As we approach the new year I am fixing my focus toward the new decade. I am tickled and frightened by the future.

I am letting love lead me into this new era, and I hope you all are doing the same!

Discovering Local and Public Poetry

As Rebecca Newland, former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, walks around her Washington, D.C., neighborhood, she often encounters vendors selling a local newspaper whose proceeds benefit the homeless of the DC Metro area. Many of the vendors are also writers who mention the page on which their article or poem appears in the issue. This got her thinking about the prevalence of local poetry and ways for us to discover it with our students.

Rita Dove and “On the Bus with Rosa Parks”

Because of her enduring impact and legacy, one doesn’t need to look far to find Rosa Parks memorialized in poetry. In 1999, Rita Dove—U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993-1995—published her poetry collection ”On the Bus with Rosa Parks.” In celebration of the Library’s new exhibition, “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words,” we’re reprinting two poems from Dove’s “On the Bus with Rosa Parks” in this post.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with the Annual Young Readers Center Puppet Show (the Day After Thanksgiving!)

The Young Readers Center is excited to invite you to see the annual Puppet Show on the day after Thanksgiving on November 29, 2019. This year we are sharing Native American Folktales, with stories and poems from nations such as Cree, Seneca, Winnebago, and Navajo adapted from books by Abenaki authors and storytellers—the father-son duo Joseph and James Bruchac.