Oct 11th 2018

Magnitude and Bond: Three Generations of Gwendolyn Brooks’s Legacy

Presented by Guild Literary Complex & Rebuild Foundation — FREE

…we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

Angela Jackson, Tara Betts, Ciara Miller: three generations of black women writers from Chicago share their work and their reflections on how the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), Poet Laureate of Illinois and the first African American winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has influenced their lives and careers. Brooks and her work have had a tremendous impact on American literature in the second half of the 20th century, and her legacy holds special significance for women, people of color, and the city of Chicago, where her dedication to her community and her mentorship of younger poets is remembered right alongside her prolific literary output. During this special public reading and conversation, these three accomplished writers in Gwendolyn Brooks’s lineage will discuss the role she played, directly and indirectly, in inspiring them to write and in helping them to establish and sustain their own creative practices. Each author offers a unique perspective on the meaning and significance that Brooks holds for their work and their lives in Chicago’s literary and artistic communities, and each has been a part of preserving and advancing her legacy by continuing to pass her words and her spirit of generosity from one artist to the next, across generations.

Angela Jackson, poet, playwright, and novelist, was the recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poetry volume, Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners (Northwestern UP, 1993) won the Carl Sandburg Award and the Chicago Sun-Times/Friends of Literature Book of the Year Award (1994). And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New (Northwestern UP, 1998) was nominated for the National Book Award. It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time (Northwestern UP, 2015) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen/Open Book Award, and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. Her play Shango Diaspora: An African-American Myth of Womanhood and Love was produced in Chicago and toured widely, Comfort Stew was produced at ETA Theater in Chicago in 1997 and 2018, and as When the Wind Blows in 1985. Her debut novel Where I Must Go (Northwestern UP, 2009) was the recipient of an American Book Award. It received the Chicago Black Arts Alliance Fiction Prize in 2010. Its sequel, Roads, Where There Are No Roads (2017) was awarded the John Gardner Fiction Prize from Binghamton University (2018). A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life and Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks (Beacon Press) was published in 2017, Brooks’s Centennial year. Miracle and the Fellas, a young adult novel, will appear through Third World Press in 2018. She lives in Chicago.

Tara Betts is the author of three poetry collections: Break the Habit, Arc & Hue, and the forthcoming Refuse to Disappear. She co-edited The Beiging of America: Personal Essays About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century and edited a new critical edition of Adventures in Black and White, the long out-of-print memoir by Harlem-born, interracial child prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler. She holds an MFA from New England College and a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. In addition to representing Chicago on two slam teams, Tara won the 1999 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. Tara started her teaching career in Chicago by working with organizations like Young Chicago Authors, Gallery 37, AfterSchoolMatters, FreeWrite Arts & Literacy, and many others. While teaching on the East Coast, she worked with young poets at Urban Word NYC and taught at Rutgers University. Dr. Betts currently works with students at ChiArts High School, Chicago State University, and with participants in the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project at Stateville Prison.

Ciara Darnise Miller, a native of Chicago, holds both an MFA and MA in Poetry and African American/African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University. She also received her BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. She has published poems and academic essays in such collections and periodicals as The Whiskey of Our Discontent, Break Beat Poets, Mosaic, Fjords Review, African American Review, Callaloo, Muzzle, Alice Walker: Critical Insights, Chorus, and many more. She is the founder of the Bloomington, Indiana Poetry Slam Series. She currently lives in Chicago where she serves as an Afro-American Studies professor at Kennedy King College and the CEO of Miller’s Learning Center (MLC), a test prep and career-support company.

Rebuild Foundation is a platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Its mission is to leverage the power and potential of communities, buildings, and objects that others have written off through innovative, entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. This work is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black objects matter. Founded by artist Theaster Gates, Rebuild is part of a network of sister organizations that collaborate to extend the social engagement of Gates’ studio practice to the South Side of Chicago and beyond. https://rebuild-foundation.org/event/gwendolynbrooks/

This program is a part of the Guild Literary Complex’s Applied Words series of multidisciplinary events and conversations.

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