“Chicago is the world’s Harold’s chicken box”

Kara Jackson

open and picked apart
the heart of America that beats too fast,
because if you don’t run quick enough,
you don’t know who will shoot you.

In Chicago, the cops look like gargoyles with guns for teeth
the land of long buildings and lost boys. Sometimes I think
there is no name for Chicago,
just a mother’s cry to the master of the earth
bring my baby home, speak up, bring my baby home
wherever he is, so I will breathe. For once.

Chicago is a rattling dashboard camera that fell off,
or broke, or maybe both.

The city of meticulous investigations,
where the people don’t talk about death,
they just pull out everything from their pockets
and spread them on the table,
thinking how much money can we bury a black boy in?

The windy city where boys dangle and sway and spin and sputter
until the pavement feels better to sleep on than their own beds.

They can only sleep now.

 

From The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape, edited by Javon Johnson and Kevin Koval, ©2018 by Northwestern University Press

orig_photo702097_7382445Kara Jackson is 2019 National Youth Poet Laureate. Commended in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award in 2016 and 2017, Jackson is also a previous Youth Poet Laureate of Chicago. In 2018, she won the literary award at the annual Louder Than a Bomb finals selected by National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Patricia Smith.

Northwestern strives to be an instrument for change.

“Incendiary Art: Birmingham, 1963”

Patricia Smith

For avery r. young

Baby girls boom. Baby girls blow
and burn, skin balloons, booms.
Baby girls burn, boom. The Lord
dangles, festive and helpless.
Hymnals blacken while brown
baby girls pucker, leak. Blood jells,
muddles pigtail, makes lace stiff.
Baby girls blacken, crackle
in the vague direction of His hands
nailed still. Baby brown girl bodies
gap wide, wider, char and shut.

patricia-smithPATRICIA SMITH is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her writing has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Washington Post, and The New York Times and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir.

From Incendiary Art, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. ©2017 by Northwestern University Press

Northwestern strives to be an instrument for change.

Speaking Up to Speak Out

Welcome to Northwestern University Press where we mark this year’s University Press week with the theme: “How to speak up and speak out?” It’s an apt question that highlights why we’re here.

In a publishing environment that increasingly favors middle-of-the-road, low-risk, high-return books, university presses are among the few publishers that find, tell, and highlight important regional stories that would otherwise go untold. An example here at NU Press is Lee Bey’s Southern Exposure.

Fig_B_frontpanelThe book is an insightful and illustrated guide to the glories of Chicago’s South Side’s built environment. Often dismissed or derided as a place of abandonment and violence, the South Side is the origin of many of the most iconic elements of Chicago culture and home to many of its most storied architectural landmarks.

In the book, Bey, a former Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic who also served as deputy chief of staff for urban planning under Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, traces the story of the South Side, which despite decades of disinvestment, is home to many architectural treasures that await rediscovery by travelers to Chicago and architecture aficionados.

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Designed by architect Gerald Siegwart, Pride Cleans (now renovated) on 79th St. has been an architectural icon since 1959.

The cover features the D’Angelo Law Library on the campus of the University of Chicago. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the building has graced Hyde Park since 1959. Another mid-century classic is the Chatham neighborhood’s Pride Cleaners (right), an unforgettable example of bold, futuristic style. Designed by Gerald Siegwart, the building’s hyperbolic parabaloid concrete roof continues to attract fans and admirers at the corner of Seventy-Ninth Street and St. Lawrence Avenue.

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Interior of the First Church of Deliverance at 4315 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The building was originally a hat factory.

In addition to numerous classic and innovative businesses, the book also tours public parks and beaches, homes and residences, and places of worship. A fascinating example is the First Church of Deliverance at 4315 South Wabash. Originally constructed at a hat factory, in 1939 Walter Thomas Bailey partnered with black structural engineer Charles Sumner Duke to remodel and expand the building. They doubled the building’s width, added a second story, and refaced the façade in white terra cotta.

In Southern Exposure, Bey and Northwestern University Press celebrate the vibrant and resilient culture of Chicago’s South Side, offering a luminous example of how university publishing can spotlight unsung stories from our shared history.