‘One Poem, One Chicago’ Invites City to Celebrate Gwendolyn Brooks

Bringing poetry and the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks to more Chicagoans

The Poetry Foundation, in partnership with Chicago Public Library (CPL), Third World Press Foundation, Brooks Permissions, and Northwestern University Press, is proud to announce One Poem, One Chicago.

An opportunity to engage Chicagoans in poetry and foster a sense of community through reading, One Poem, One Chicago will launch with a reissue of Gwendolyn Brooks’s landmark poetry collection Blacks, which will be available via CPL and public programming.

Poetry for All

One Poem, One Chicago is an extension of Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago, which launched in 2001. Chicago’s connection to poetry has always been deep, from the founding of Poetry magazine in 1912, to serving as the home to poets who have changed the face of the literary arts through their unique voices and innovation. Now is the perfect moment for Chicagoans to embrace poetry and experience its impact together.

“Poetry is an essential part of literature, and it’s only fitting that we shine a light on it,” emphasizes Chris Brown, Chicago Public Library Commissioner, as he reflects on One Poem, One Chicago complementing the existing One Book, One Chicago program. “Our past One Book, One Chicago selections are infused with poetic elements. Adding a One Poem, One Chicago selection is the natural next step to fully celebrating the beauty of language and enriching our reading experience.”

For the inaugural One Poem, One Chicago, copies of a newly published edition of Brooks’s Blacks—including its iconic cover—will be available at all 81 branches of the Chicago Public Library (find your nearest location) and at the Poetry Foundation’s 30,000-volume poetry library in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. In addition, a limited run of the collection will be available for purchase from Third World Press Foundation. Nora Brooks Blakely, president of Brooks Permissions, shared her excitement that her mother’s legacy will continue to be celebrated by the Chicago community through this special initiative.

A Chicago Legend

One of the most highly regarded, influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks holds the distinction of being the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize in any category. Blacks, a collection of poems that spans more than 30 years and features Brooks’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Annie Allen, was first published in 1987 by Third World Press Foundation. Northwestern University Press is publishing a limited edition of Blacks in collaboration with Third World Press Foundation specifically for One Poem, One Chicago.

“Third World Press Foundation is honored to publish this literary masterpiece by Illinois’s most beloved poet laureate and Chicago’s elder Black literary stateswoman,” said Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti, Third World Press Foundation founder and a 2022 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. “We’re looking forward to introducing Ms. Brooks to a new generation of readers through One Poem, One Chicago.”

“Partnering with Chicago’s venerable Third World Press Foundation to publish Blacks is a brilliant example of community, arts, and humanity partnership. One Poem, One Chicago makes space to celebrate this partnership and the genius that is Gwendolyn Brooks,” said Northwestern University Press Director, poet, and Poetry Foundation Trustee, Parneshia Jones.

Community Programming

To complement Chicago’s collective reading of Blacks, there will be several free opportunities to learn about Brooks’s life and legacy.

Live performances of No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks will be held at the Harold Washington Library May 16–18. Written by Chicago poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall, No Blue Memories is a uniquely staged retelling of Brooks’s life using simple, illuminative paper-cut puppetry by Manual Cinema set to music composed by Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods. Three matinees will be designated for students and two evening showtimes will open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

On May 25 at 7PM, the Poetry Foundation will host a panel discussion on the life and impact of Brooks’s poetry featuring Nora Brooks Blakely, Dr. Haki Madhubuti, and Dr. Kelly Norman Ellis.

In honor of Gwendolyn Brooks’s 106th birthday—known as “Brooks Day” in Chicago—all are invited to a reading of Blacks and new poems by local poets on June 7 from 10AM-6PM at the South Side Community Art Center. This 10th annual Brooks Day is presented in partnership with the Guild Literary Complex.

After the marathon reading, Brooks Permissions will host a virtual panel on Brooks’s only novel, Maud Martha, with insights from Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Dr. Sandra Jackson-Opoku, and Sandra Cisneros.

Information on how to get involved with One Poem, One Chicago is available on the Poetry Foundation website. Follow the Poetry Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for event information, and visit the River North building to pick up One Poem, One Chicago-related materials.

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