Kara Jackson, 2019-2020 National Youth Poet Laureate – Brief but Spectacular

Judy Woodruff: Kara Jackson is known for being the 2019 national youth poet laureate from Oak Park, Illinois, but her art is not limited to one medium or one place.

She writes poems, but also essays and music, that explore her Southern roots and how the legacy of racism continues to impact her and her communities.

Tonight, she shares her Brief But Spectacular take on what shapes her art.

Kara Jackson, Singer/Songwriter/Musician/Writer: When I was a teenager, making work and having the audacity to call myself a poet or call myself an artist in any way, that troubled people. When I saw older people trying to gatekeep or try to humble me or whatever, I just kind of saw that as an invitation.

Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the integral poets who inspired me to write poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks is a champion of writing what’s under your nose. And so that is the kind of ethics and the kind of practice that I apply in my own work.

I think the South is just important to my work because that’s where I’m from. Like, I can’t really explain myself without explaining my dad. My dad was born and raised in Dawson, Georgia. It’s my favorite place on this earth. It’s about the size of like any given pebble.

I think that Dawson, Georgia really represents the ways in which culture usually happens in like the smallest corners of our country and like of this Earth. And it frightens me and troubles me the ways in which we, as a country, feel so comfortable discarding that space.

I mean, Black people are there, and that’s why it’s so important to me that people understand that the South isn’t disposable, because my people aren’t disposable. That speaks to a larger aspect of lineage in my work. I can’t really do anything without thinking about where I am in this place and how also I wouldn’t be where I am in this place without the people who came before me.

So, I’m constantly thinking about the ways in which I honor my lineages, but also the ways in which I deviate from those lineages. I think that every Black person, every Black artist should be given the space to talk about whatever they want, and to articulate themselves in a way that feels natural.

(SINGING)

kara jackson: My name is Kara Jackson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on writing what’s under my nose.

Judy Woodruff: And we thank you, Kara Jackson.

And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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