Categories Editor, Poet

A Writers’ Congress

Chicago Poets on Barack Obama’s Inauguration

Edited by Chris Green

“This anthology of varied voices feels like a single praise song, in the spirit of a larger democratic project, with varying pitch and tone, and this nuance is accomplished without sacrificing the uniqueness of each poet. The reader actually encounters an element of the Barack Obama phenomenon; the philosophy of a shared experience at this poignant juncture in the life of America seems to focus the collection. At times, candid and truth-seeking, personal and public, entertaining and meditative, urban and suburban, imagistic and indebted to orality, these wonderful poems not only convey the complexity of Chitown, but they also unmask the nation’s soul, without being nostalgic or overly whimsical. We all can embrace this Obama-inspired anthology of timely praise.”

—Yusef Komunyakaa

“These poems celebrate both the hope embodied in the man, Barack Obama, and a renewed hope for the promise of Ameican democracy. So natural an act as praise seems wondrous release after the necessity to protest theprevious eight years of disastrous American policy.”

—Stuart Dybek

Selected Poems

Green World

By Christina Pugh

Bach Two-Part Invention no. 12 in A major,
Played by Glenn Gould

When it’s stiller
you can hear his voice
tinkering behind
the notes: hammering,
truing, as he dammed
or corked the instrument;
now, though, his cup
runneth over
as in all the Clear
Creeks of the west;
trout are pirouetting
from the water,
then writing on the air;
sunflowers arc
their coppers and darks
in swaths
articulate as digital
photography: can these
be the imprints
of our new
imaginations?
Where is joy
but in these silken
bolts of rhetoric,
indelicate
turnings of hyperbole?

O Say

By Jackie White

There amid the throng, a black statesman stands
encircled by waving flags, stars under stars,
stripes healing divisive stripes, and he singles out
one woman, chanting, “She was there, she was there…”

meaning for each step of the old century, meaning
for each seed of change. Let it take hold and spread
along the old routes, cornfield to coal town,
capitol to commercial hub, back across oceans…

There amid the throng of dignitaries and immigrants,
white collar beside blue, brown face beside red,
amid the spirits of DuSable, Black Hawk, Lincoln, Addams,
his voice echoes what their deeds have said.

Stirred by the beauty of promise that our rhetoric sings,
I want to say, “change has, united, come,”
to America, meaning these United States, meaning
here’s another chance to let the dream

take hold of our old roots and spread along them,
Kenya to Kansas to D.C. Now, no more a mumbling,
no more a veil drawn, no more misused white robes;
he echoes of, for, by, and says, “while we breathe, we hope,”

says, “We as a people.” Let us say, we were there
when so much sown past was finally ready for reaping,
say, this time the call will be answered, America will be
America again. Renewed, I want to say, we can see

…..Chicago and Springfield centered within Harlem
…..echoes—I, too, sing and am—within the old
…..ache-filled space between call and response,
…..within this nascent millennium. In a park, in a city
…..where the 200,000 gather amid grandmother spirits,
…..let a new chant enter like hallelujah through the old
…..hammer’s hunh.

…..Under a full moon (the eye of our many-named god),
…..let “nobody be made a nation,” let calloused hands raise
…..the torch to this indivisible, singing a new hymnal blues
…..of the democratic republic of us.

…..How tired we hear the mean spirited slander of old
…..fear-shackled hate; let it exit like the croak of a gate
…..swinging off its worn hinges, opening space to
…..dream, said Langston; dream, said Martin; dare,
…..said Jane; John said, imagine.

…..“Our hands,” he says, “are on the arc of history,”
…..within this present future hope. Let this
…..autumn turn its furrows’ signal of loss toward
…..other symbols; let it be season of seed prep
…..and great star foretelling, re-telling what César
…..chanted, what one named “Blessed,” what we
…..men and women can do. Oh, all

…..only human, and he can see there “a certain
…..loneliness,” a struggle still, but within this moment,
…..now, under the fourth moon of this fourth world,
…..let everyone, let every one, be at the table and chant,
…..(40 and 4 times) change, united, has come—
or, at least, again, begun…

About the Editor

Chris Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and the forthcoming Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry, New York Times, New Letters, Verse, Nimrod, and Black Clock.He’s edited four anthologies, including Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography, the forthcoming I Remember: A Poem by Chicago Veterans of War and the forthcoming Independent Voices: A Small Press Sampler. He co-founded LitCity (www.litcity312.com), a comprehensive literary site for Chicago. And he teaches in the English Department at DePaul University.

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