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Alumna and NU Press author Angela Jackson named Illinois poet laureate

Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson says poetry can lift and illuminate lives. Photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz

Following in the footsteps of the great Gwendolyn Brooks as the fifth Illinois poet to serve as state poet laureate, Northwestern University alumna Angela Jackson said poetry can lift and illuminate lives, uniting people.

Jackson was appointed poet laureate for the state of Illinois in November by Governor J.B. Pritzker. An award-winning poet, novelist and playwright who grew up on Chicago’s South Side and graduated from Northwestern in 1977, Jackson will work to promote poetry at the state and national level.

“I am honored and excited to have been selected to serve as Illinois poet laureate,” Jackson said. “Legendary Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks said, ‘Poetry is life distilled.’ I hope to bring to Illinoisans poetry that they can relate to, be lifted by and find their lives illuminated in. Poems bring us to ourselves and poems bring us together.”

Northwestern University Press is Jackson’s official publisher, and the Northwestern University Libraries are the home to Jackson’s collection of papers and writing.

Jackson is the fifth Illinoisan to hold the title, an honorary position selected by a committee of experts and appointed by the governor. She joins only four other esteemed poets who have previously held this coveted title; Howard Austin, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks and Kevin Stein.

Jackson’s forthcoming collection, “More Than Meat and Raiment: Poems,” will be published by Northwestern University Press in 2021.

Her collections of poetry include “Voo Doo/Love Magic” (1974); “Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners” (TriQuarterly, 1993); “And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New” (TriQuarterly, 1998), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Jackson’s collection “It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time” (TriQuarterly, 2015) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Open Book Award. She received a Pushcart Prize and an American Book Award for her chapbook “Solo in the Boxcar Third Floor E” (1985).

Jackson has also written plays and novels, as well as a significant biography of “A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life and Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks” (2017).

She has received many awards, including the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, TriQuarterly’s Daniel Curley Award, Illinois Center for the Book Heritage Award, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Fuller Award, and grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. She was a 20-year member of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writers Workshop, succeeding the late Hoyt W. Fuller as its chair.  

Check out all of Angela Jackson’s books published by Northwestern University Press.