HELENE ACHANZAR | Director of Programs
Helene Achanzar is the Director of Programs at the Chicago Poetry Center, a senior editor at Poetry Northwest, and the Midwest Chair for Kundiman. She has 15+ years of experience in education and literary arts programming, including roles with Illinois State University and After School Matters. Her poems can be found in jubilat, Sixth Finch, Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2022 New England Review Award for Emerging Writers, her writing has been supported by the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Mastheads.
Esther Ikoro is the founder of Soft Metric Media, a creative agency focused on science communication and social good. She received a Master of Public Health from the University of Illinois, and spent several years working with community-based organizations in Chicago. She helps clients in the tech, healthcare, art, and education industries to build better programs, campaigns, and connections with their communities. When she’s not hiking, camping, or canoeing she’s performing standup comedy and sharing her fascination with the natural world on her show “See You Outside” and Discovery Education’s Mystery Science.
Tatiana Jackson-Saitz is from the Boston area and is a senior at the University of Chicago where she studies English Language & Literature as well as Environmental & Urban Studies. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Modern Love section, and she has worked at the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is passionate about writing and arts programming.
Sam grew up in a beach town in northwest Michigan before attending college at the University of Michigan, majoring in Creative Writing & Literature and Biopsychology. There, Sam began to understand how important it is for him to write, and in 2015 Sam won the Hopwood award for his poetry. After graduating, Sam moved to Chicago, where he continues to pursue his artistic passions while working for CPS as a substitute teacher.
Marty McConnell is a poet, educator, healer, and nonprofit professional based in Chicago. She is the author of “when they say you can’t go home again, what they mean is you were never there,” winner of the 2017 Michael Waters Poetry Prize; her first full-length collection, “wine for a shotgun,” received the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Awards, and was a finalist for both the Audre Lorde Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and her first nonfiction work, “Gathering Voices: Creating a Community-Based Writing Workshop” was published by YesYes Books. She is the co-creator and co-editor of underbelly, a web site focused on the art and magic of poetry revision and her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Best American Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, Gulf Coast, and Indiana Review among others. If she were to own a bookstore, she would name it Books & Buch — a combination bookstore and kombucha bar.
Elizabeth Metzger Sampson is a writer and frequent collaborator with visual artists, and their work has been published and displayed in galleries both nationally and internationally. They’ve built the current organization at CPC over the last decade with a focus on arts access and equity and sustainable, healthy growth. Beth consults with MMG on equity and transformative organizational practices, and supports local transformative justice initiatives in a variety of roles. As an educator, Beth has taught everyone age 8-80, and has previously taught at universities including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as in CPS as a poetry teaching artist. They founded Dear Navigator Magazine, an experimental literary arts journal for SAIC. Beth is regularly named to Newcity’s Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago list, and can be found talking all around town, on podcasts, radio shows, and on stages like the Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion and Orchestral Hall at Symphony Center.
RINNAH SHAW | Operations and Resource Coordinator
Rinnah Shaw is the Operations and Resource Coordinator at the Chicago Poetry Center. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Rinnah has been living in the Chicago area since May 2022, and she is always looking for more ways to get involved with her local community, especially in areas related to the arts, youth programs, and transformative justice. She fell in love with the nonprofit scene after working for the Highland Youth Garden, an urban garden in downtown Columbus that combats food insecurity through free fresh food markets and youth programming. Rinnah also holds double degrees in Illustration and Creative Writing, and strongly believes that telling our stories through art can be a transformative, empowering, and revolutionary act.
FEBRUARY SPIKENER | Literary Life Intern
February Spikener (she/they) is a Black femme poet from Detroit currently residing in Chicago. She has earned her degree in English with Creative Writing and Psychology from Wellesley College, and is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. Her work has been published in ‘Poet Lore’, ‘So to Speak: feminist journal of language and art’, among others. Ever inspired by their loved ones, their poems reflect how they navigate through the world and what it means to love and be loved. She believes that love is and has always been the answer and that the mastery of love is a form of survival.