Poet Emmoretta Jones knew immediately what she wanted to write about when instructor Quraysh Ali Lansana prompted her to think of a news story she wanted to explore. The Borders on 95th Street in Beverly had been a favorite spot of hers for years and today its abandoned state is just a reminder of what “used to be.”
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Verse Journalism is a form of poetry inspired by the news. It was born here in Chicago when Gwendolyn Brooks coined the term. Another gifted local poet, Quraysh Ali Lansana, taught the form to participants in a Neighborhood Writing Alliance special workshop series. Lansana had NWA writers turn their opinions and reactions to news events into poems, which WBEZ will present throughout the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month. This series was recorded in collaboration with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, a station partner.
Click here to listen to other Verse Journalism recordings made as part of this project.
And to hear other work around what happens when institutions leave neighborhoods, along with conversation on the topic, listen to this Eight Forty-Eight interview with UIC professor of Urban Planning and Policy, Rachel Weber.
You can also listen to Quraysh Ali Lansana speak with WBEZ’s Jason Marck about the origins of verse journalism and his own experiences with the form.