poem index

Read This Poem: 826CHI

826 Chicago826CHI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. With this in mind, we provide lively morning field trips, after-school tutoring, in-school support, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. All of our programs are challenging and enjoyable, and ultimately strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.

The work of the participating poets in Read This Poem is a reflection of their own point of view and artistic expression, and does not represent the views of 826 National or its chapters. Some of the poems may address mature themes or contain adult language, and may not be suitable for all audiences, including students at 826 chapters.

David Welch Picks Hannah Gamble

There’s a bawdiness that runs throughout much of Hannah Gamble’s debut, Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (Fence Books, 2012). But more, there’s a wonder for the natural world, too, as well as for the heart—and a respect for both domestic and the foreign, both the private and public selves and how they engage within the world.

Her poem “In a Time of War” has all of these elements and  weaves them together fantastically. But regardless—because?—of all that I’ve never read anything quite like it. I love this poem for how it simultaneously delights in and throws barbs at its subjects.

David Welch

David Welch is the recipient of the 2014 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and the author of a chapbook of poems, It Is Such a Good Thing to Be in Love with You (The Laurel Review/Midwest Chapbook Series). He teaches in the English Department of DePaul University, serves as Poetry Editor of ACM, and is an enthusiastic volunteer at 826CHI.


Hannah Gamble

Hannah Gamble is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2015 winner of the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle magazine. She lives in Chicago where she was the 2014 Artist in Residence at the Museum of Science and Industry and is a featured performer in The Clark Street Bridge Arts and Science Performance Series.

Hannah Gamble Picks Joel Craig

Reading this poem for the fifth and sixth time, I maybe confidently understand half of it. And I like it very much! And know that something substantial (and not just interesting/ provocative) is here, whether or not I can fully make it out. For example, I don’t know if I’m supposed to know who the owner “asked to put on a demonstration” is, but I can see how the mule, given a command, leads the speaker to assert that it “is not a good place to be, / to follow any verbal order you’re given.” And then how this relates to wars and how our wars have made being an American what it now is. But beyond wars and country, or, perhaps, further into this country where the humans live, there are also conversations between person and cat, trying to help people in very bad situations, software, racist redneck gangs, reporters, one person’s nightmare involving owning things and being naked, and, finally, just being. Contemplating. This is a stuffed-full poem that ends with an inviting beauty and calm. Read it now, please.


Joel Craig

Joel Craig is the author of The White House (Green Lantern, 2012). He lives in Chicago and edits poetry for MAKE.

Joel Craig Picks Olivia Cronk

Olivia Cronk’s poems take you on a trip through everything you’ve been missing about the word—and your imaginative life. In Skin Horse, she traces the act of speaking, the sound of speech, and the meaning of words, by lining it all up with a world of gnarls and lasers. A painterly world as gothic as it is psychedelic about how terrible we are. The palette is syntax. Image is a cruel treatment. The line is velvet trim. So we can grow out of and back into our best nightmares.


Olivia Cronk

Olivia Cronk’s first book is Skin Horse (Action Books, 2012). Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Deluge, Dusie, Electric Gurlesque, Jubilat, Newfound, Spolia, Swine, and Tender. With Philip Sorenson, she edits The Journal Petra. She teaches at Northeastern Illinois University.

Olivia Cronk Picks Ladan Osman

Osman has me bound to the text here (in “scarlet ribbon,” I suppose, “under the kitchen table,” of course) long before I arrive at segmentations and social class, humiliatingly casual re-settings of child-logic. She’s got me with the key (magical, always), but then where it’s really at is in the speaker’s naughty eavesdropping, the “guessing who was at the sink by how they used water.” What? How true, how forgotten...Osman uses eleven words—eleven, a tenner plus a key—to peep into time and space and the nauseating echo of gesture. Damn, she knows my “missing teeth.”


Ladan Osman

Ladan Osman's chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, appears in Seven New Generation African Poets, a box set of chapbooks published by Slapering Hol Press in 2014. Her collection The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and was published by University of Nebraska Press in April 2015. She lives in Chicago.
Photo credit: Reginald Eldridge

Ladan Osman Picks Roger Reeves

In “Brazil,” the speaker and a stranger compare “whose dead sing louder.” Both attest to streets swollen with dark bodies: whether in Katrina’s water or a favela gutter. Reeves presents diasporic struggle through images of systemic decay and disease. “I will not focus,” the speaker says, then catalogues arthritic tracks, braces, spines, the mouths and ears of sleeping and dead children. Sun and dust touch each figure, as the speaker’s eye watches motes fall. The scene is intimate: the speaker feeding a stranger an orange while accounting for the black body currency genocide buys.


Roger Reeves

Roger Reeves's first book, King Me, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013. Reeves has been named a Cave Canem and NEA Fellow and is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and Whiting Award. He is currently an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths