December Reading Series Spotlight

December Spotlight: The Lights That Never Went Out


2020: What a year. To close it out, the Chicago Poetry Center asked our team–Board members, Poets in Residence, Interns, Curriculum Designers, Programs Manager, and Executive Director–to write a collaborative poem. We wanted to know how our team was feeling and thinking about this year. As a group, our lines recall tragedy and challenge, kindness and perseverance; we saw, felt, and experienced turmoil and gentle reminders of our humanity.


This poem (video and full text below) showcases what a year of growth it’s been at the Chicago Poetry Center; it features new board members, new team members, and builders of new programs. We’ve met the challenges of this year as a team. As a team, we found a way to reinvent our programs for remote learning, to build new programs, and to expand our services to our larger community.


Leslie Reese writes, “I nearly forgot to remember / all of the kind people who continued to be kind / the lights that never went out.” This whole team has spent a year being a light that does not go out, ensuring poetry in schools, online, and in each of our homes.


My gratitude as Executive Director, for this phenomenal team, for their hearts and their work, is boundless. This community doesn’t stop there: our students, our classroom teachers, our audience members, and our donors all deserve recognition. I thank each of you for being a part of this community and ensuring that it thrives. Luis Tubens salutes 2020 succinctly, “Our hope is that you will leave just as you came, / Cold. Messy. Barren. / Yet full of hope and optimism.” It is with that optimism and with gratitude for each of you reading this, that I wish you a happy and healthy end to 2020, and a happy new year to come.


Thank you,
Elizabeth Metzger Sampson
Executive Director


Chicago Poetry Center Collaborative Poem

Video: Chicago Poetry Center’s Collaborative Poem.
Click on the video to watch the team read their lines. Video by Gabrielle Nelson.

Linked Lines for 2020

By The Chicago Poetry Center Team

With special thanks to Gabrielle Nelson for compiling us

As the battle between affirmation and information continues in a virtual world of our making
I’m grateful that laughter can travel through microfibers

I nearly forgot to remember
all of the kind people who continued to be kind
the lights that never went out

If this year was my pre-k teacher, If this was a zoom class, all of us her eager students, she would ask us to unmute our lonely silence,

This beast of a year, clawed and mouthy
a beast of the interior, a quiet room, some extra sleep,

Looking up past the glassy surface of a pool,
I see the year as a cicada, rising out
of the earth with a piercing, longing shriek.

This year tasted like the shift
from summer to fall,
when leaves start to tumble
and the ground growls
with a crunch.

It took the mail, millions
of ballots that shook us, red and blue and left
us purple and bruised.

A year to refocus / on a more perfect vision / of a more perfect union
the prescription / bifocals / blended / no visible lines

2020 is a tsunami of statistics whose waves ebb and flow like tides with minds of their own

From a forgotten – not exotic – land come flavors that recall
The forbidden earth, bitter rains, and gray days.

This year tasted like mud.

It is like being swept up in the arms of a tornado, your emotions unanchored by gravity.

If this year was a weather pattern it would be a blustery blizzard with black ice,

This year is a 770 mile long derecho, slapped across the midwest,
a night black storm at 10am,

When I’m laying down, I can’t tell if it’s the red line zooming by or if it’s really that windy outside,

Our hope is that you will leave just as you came,
Cold. Messy. Barren.
Yet full of hope and optimism.

2020 has felt like walking against a never ending gust of wind,
I can’t predict its next blow,
Will it scoop me up?
Though each day I keep pressing against the odds.

See ya, 2020. Thank you to the many human lights that burned bright to get us through this one.

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“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.