October Reading Series Spotlight: Frankiem Mitchell


October Spotlight: Miss America

It isn’t known how many tens or hundreds of millennia ago humans created language to wrestle the chaos of thought into shapes that could be separated, spoken and shared. Millennia later, poets used patterns of rhyme and rhythm to help them remember the words to stories. Before the ability to write things down, music was inseparable from story.

In this month’s Spotlight, Frankiem Mitchell’s poem “Miss America, Part II,” riffs on J. Cole’s song, “Miss America.” Mitchell’s poem begins as if in the middle of a conversation, with “heal” “disbelieve” “hatred” and “skin” among the poem’s first dozen words. The central image of the poem is a beheaded warrior who can “slither through another generation” and Mitchell links this image to the American flag. He ends the poem with words of thanks “for breaking me.” If we imagine the poem itself coiled like a snake, the words of the poem’s ending circle back to the poem’s beginning, breaking and healing part of one organic and muscular being.

The poem Mitchell chose to spotlight, “Lost and Found,” by Lianne La Havas, is also a song, and Mitchell himself is a songwriter. We have included links to Lianne La Havas’ “Lost and Found,” J. Cole’s “Miss America,” and Mitchell’s “Metapod.”


Frankiem Mitchell (Kiem), aka Frankiem Mitch, is a multifaceted, genre-bending writer and lyricist born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Navigating life with a handful of passions, he fuses his love for youth development and performing arts into transformational youth programming throughout South Side and West Side communities in Chicago. Mitchell’s unbound perspective lends to his transparent artistic practice and fosters his unique approach in classroom settings. Mitchell has been a teaching artist with Chicago Poetry Center since 2014, and currently is Poet in Residence at Miles Davis Academy and DuBois Elementary.

Miss America II

(after J. Cole)
By Frankiem Mitchell

had to heal to disbelieve
all the supple hatred, cradled for my skin
…and I may look as if I leak forgiveness but my godliness requires apology and truth before any sorts of pouring again
all the ways of a broken country has gifted me a mosaic love, this is an unowned art
a totem/an ode to the hue of conquerors, to the sharpened-hearted
a slow dance with the devil
a beheaded warrior’s cautionary tale to slither through another generation
when I am asked about the symbolism of snakes and serpents, I will see america’s flag as a hologram – and speak the daggers of her deceits with silken earth;
offer them as mountains and receipts to the universes
and thank her, for breaking me.


Spotify link to “Miss America” by J. Cole here. Composer Jermaine Cole & Brook Dekker. Contains explicit language.

Frankiem Mitchell’s Poet Spotlight: LIANNE LA HAVAS

Mitchell: I interpreted this song a specific way, and as I listened to the words unwind I could feel an understanding become. The concept of being taught to hate yourself within loving someone through accommodating their insecurities, was written so gracefully. I relate to that and the voids that enable that reality, loving someone to your own death, there’s a double-edged sword somewhere in there that you’d have to discover on your own. This song also inspired a song of mine, “Metapod.” You can listen to it here.

Photo Credit: colorsxstudios.com

Lost and Found

By Lianne La Havas

Come upstairs and I’ll show you where all my
Where my demons hide from you
Just look at who I have become
I am so ashamed you were the one that made me feel the way I do
You broke me
And taught me
To truly hate myself
Unfold me
And teach me
How to be like somebody else
When I felt strong enough
I was discovered by the love
I had been waiting for so long
You told me none of that was real
I cannot hide how low I feel
To know that you were never wrong
You broke me
And taught me
To truly hate myself
Unfold me
And teach me
How to be like somebody else


 Writer/s: Lianne Charlotte Barnes, Matt Hales
Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group
Spotify link to “Lost and Found” by Lianne La Havas here.

Chicago Poetry Center Team Spotlight: HELENE ACHANZAR

The Chicago Poetry Center welcomes Helene Achanzar as our new School Programs Manager. Achanzar is a poet and educator from Chicago. A Kundiman fellow, she was awarded the John and Renee Grisham fellowship at University of Mississippi, where she served as Senior Editor of Yalobusha Review. Her writing can be found in Oxford American, jubilat, Poetry Northwest, and Sixth Finch. As a teaching artist, she has worked with Free Street Theater, Chicago Public Library, and After School Matters. A proud CPS alum, Helene has supported the educational development of Chicago teachers at Illinois State University and implemented the community schools model at Chicago Public Schools through the Resurrection Project.


By Helene Achanzar

Broiling in the treeless as I did. The trust
fund babies in their wide-leg linen. As buttes
shock, then vanish from towns named Alpine
and Valentine. I learned to salt from the wrist,
not the fingers, to keep my accent to myself.
Still border patrol, a pickup pulled over,
three men with their faces in the earth,
and all the while Angelenos
and their rehearsed outrage. Across the rio,
the citrus from television. It was my first
time in the desert, and I was surprised
by the cold. Foolhardy to not know
that I did not love this place, that I didn’t
stand with them wowing beneath the eaves.


Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Poetry Northwest.

We dedicate this Reading Series Spotlight to BREONNA TAYLOR.

Chicago Poetry Center is an organization centered around poetry, and our community is full of people whose fight for racial justice focuses their lives and art. Last month, our Reading Series Spotlight was ready to be published September 23, the day no one was charged with Breonna Taylor’s killing. We struggled that day, with our own frustration, sadness, and anger. We questioned what to add to a newsletter already full of poems that spoke about issues of race and solidarity. Breonna Taylor’s name is often followed by the insistence to Say Her Name, to not forget her or her murder, in a world in which a woman who has done no crime can be killed by police in her home and no one is charged with murder. As we collected the poems for this month’s Spotlight, we realized our featured poet included two works with Miss America in their titles and a third, written by a woman speaking about the ways she was lost. The Chicago Poetry Center pledges to speak the names of those whose lives are lost due to racial injustice, to continue uplifting our community, and to continue to use our platform to fight to change an unjust system.

Say Her Name:

Breonna Taylor




“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.