August Reading Series Spotlight: Leslie Reese

Leslie Reese 

Native Detroiter Leslie Reese is a Chicago-based writer, poet, and teaching artist. She is the Chicago Poetry Center Poet-in-Residence at Swift Elementary School. Leslie is the founder of folklore & literacy, which uses poetry, books, visual art, music, movement, and performance as gateways to literacy, discovery, and self-expression. As a volunteer, she has developed and facilitated Adult Learner reading and writing classes with Literacy Chicago, and been a kindergarten reading mentor with WITS (Working in the Schools).


By Leslie Reese

i hail from where the sky is open and juicy like the blood of pomegranate;
        where my brothers of night beg trees for their flesh, spiders for their
        streams/hoping to make drum, hoping to make harp strings.

i hail from the fearless orchestra who shouts-out the devil’s shit
        and sends it running and limping on broken legs and
        shattered feet and shell-shocked head.

i hail from brilliant mothers of welcome home, hugs, hibiscus, and heaven.

i hail from loud laughter/ stars fall out of sky / zings snakes dead/ and rapture
        through ritual bathing, tapestry-making, lovemaking, gardening,
        making songs, making music i dance to witness and record hair-raising
        journeys through the labyrinth.

i hail from thunderclouds of hair, rainclouds of devotion.

i hail from juice of mango and honey wine.

i hail from right justification chokes down evil and snuffs like cigarette butt.

i hail from smoky mists of volcanic ash.

i hail from angels. i hail for angels. i hail from hummingbird, gazelle,
        dianthus, cicada, and lily-stemmed song i hail from angels.

i hail from the blues’ teary eye/ a reminder of the principle of passion.

i hail from fearless twilight, rumbling trains, and waterfalls.

i hail from joined triangles of memory and the healing resolution of pain.
i hail from angels. i hail from angels. i hail. indeed. i hail from angels.

Leslie Reese, “Hailstorms” urban junkstar (Past Tents Press, 2005)

 Leslie Reese’s Poet Spotlight: Lucille Clifton

Reese: Black poets specifically and non-white poets generally have a long history of writing about lynching since before the time of Emmett Till (July 25, 1941-August 28, 1955). While poets have struggled to document, imagine, memorialize, and restore dignity to those whose lives were taken, such events have not always hurt and enraged broad swaths of the American conscience. I continue to cherish Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)’s work because no other poet has consistently conjured strong emotions in me while employing so few words. Her poem, “jasper texas 1998” is written in the spirit voice of James Byrd, Jr. (1949-1998), who was murdered by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas on June 7, 1998. I like the way this poem reveals the non-physical self, or spirit, as witness and interrogator of temporal experience.

jasper texas 1998

By Lucille Clifton

For j.byrd 

i am a man’s head hunched in the road.
i was chosen to speak by the members
of my body. the arm as it pulled away
pointed toward me, the hand opened once
and was gone.
why and why and why
should i call a white man brother?
who is the human in this place,
the thing that is dragged or the dragger?
what does my daughter say?
the sun is a blister overhead.
if i were alive i could not bear it.
the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth
into the dirt that covers us all.
i am done with this dust. i am done.
Lucille Clifton, “jasper texas 1998” Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (Copyright © 2000 by Lucille Clifton)

 Chicago Poetry Center Team Spotlight: 

Daniel Postlethwait

Daniel has been with the Chicago Poetry Center since 2019. He is an assistant principal at Brennemann Elementary and was first introduced to the CPC through Hands on Stanzas when he was still teaching 2nd grade. He lived in Spain for a decade and loves his job. He gets to have a direct impact on kids and communities that support them. He works to make sure that equity is the lens for which all school decisions are made.
He loves to travel and be outside. Swimming over running and he can typically be found with a smile on his face.

What The Moon Has To Say

By Daniel Postlethwait

Look up from worries
Unbend the plunging gaze from sorrows
and listen to what the moon has to say
Though body aches
for missed embrace
and eyes strain for laugh lines
and crow’s feet
overflowing from strangers masks
Look up, I plead!
Tune out the ominous numbers
away from screens to the night sky
and listen to what the moon has to say
Bookmark the rage
Temper the fears
Those under your feet
Those on the horizon
and listen
Listen hard to what the moon has to say



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.