Jackson Named New IL Poet Laureate

By Benjamin Cox on November 26, 2020 at 6:57am

Illinois First Lady M.K. Pritzker announced yesterday that Chicago-based poet Angela Jackson will be the state’s 5th Poet Laureate.

Jackson is an accomplished and award-winning poet, novelist, and playwright, who has published 3 chapbooks and four volumes of poetry. As Illinois’ next poet laureate, Jackson will work to promote poetry at the state and national level. She will join only four other esteemed poets who have previously held the title. The first Illinois Poet Laureate, Howard B. Austin, was named in 1936. The three other poets who have held the title are Carl Sandburg (1962-67), Gwendolyn Brooks (1968-2000), and Kevin Stein (2003-2017). In June, Governor J.B. Pritzker posthumously named John Prine an honorary Poet Laureate.

In June, the Governor and First Lady Pritzker announced the formation of the 2020 Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee to fill the position that has been vacant since late 2017. The committee, comprised of poets, writers, and academics from across the state, reviewed nominations submitted by the public and recommended three finalists to be the state’s next Poet Laureate.

The 69-year old Jackson was born in Greenville, Mississippi before moving with her family to Chicago’s Southside. According to the Poetry Foundation, Jackson earned a B.A. from Northwestern and a Master’s from the University of Chicago, where she became heavily involved the Organization of Black American Culture. Jackson’s 1993 collection Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners won the Carl Sandburg Award; and her 1998 book And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New was nominated for the National Book Award. In 2009, she won the American Book Award for her novel Where I Must Go. Her other awards and recognition include a Pushcart Prize, TriQuarterly’s Daniel Curley Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council.