BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“These poets all lived and breathed the Chicago air. Regardless of what or where or how they experienced our city, it became forever a part of their identity.”—Donald G. Evans, Founding Executive Director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame and Editor of Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry
This vibrant anthology launches June 13 at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center, and with it the combined voices of 150 living Chicago poets, with several illustrations by local artists and photographers.
Don Evans, who completed the project (kicked off in 2009 by the late Robin Metz, poet, editor, and Knox College professor), shares, “These are magical poems, language poems, free verse poems, hip hop poems. They are odes, haikus, and sonnets. These poets, no matter their circumstance or experiences, have this in common: they care. They care about their city and its people, they care about justice, they care about beauty, they care about decency and compassion, and they apply their own considerable gifts to the advancement of their own truth.”
Author and columnist Carlo Rotella, who grew up on the South Side, writes in the foreword:
We can plot the poems, and the Chicago-shaped rush of insight and feeling that each inspires, on the map of the city. There’s a Homan and Chicago Ave. poem, a Jackson and State poem, a poem about a young daredevil climbing a railroad bridge over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, several Lake Michigan poems, a lot of public transportation poems, many poems about the old neighborhood and the new neighborhood and how one became the other.
It was, I think, decisively wise of the editors to choose to fill the anthology with poems explicitly about Chicago, not written just written by poets who live there. That policy makes it much easier to see how the work engages the city.
We are proud to include “Kitihawa” by Elise Paschen. “Kitihawa” was originally featured in the Floating Museum art installation, “Founders” (2019), honoring Kitihawa Point Du Sable (Potawatomi) who, with her husband Jean Baptiste, established the first permanent settlement in Chicago.
Evans explains, “We chose diverse poets who are able to talk across generations and supply a different point of view. Many have been influenced by Chicago poets such as Marshall Davis, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Fenton Johnson; the poets who often were printed in newspapers such as Eugene Field; and Marc Smith, who appears in the Anthology and who founded the international Poetry Slam at the Green Mill. Tremendous poetic energy was created in Chicago. We chose artists, too, who could supply a different point of view.”
“Poetry gives us a different vantage point,” Evans adds. “For the same reason I like LA and Detroit poetry, I love poems about Chicago. I love to explore a city through its poems.”