October: Poet Glenn North
Forgotten Stories is a series featuring poets from the Mid-America Arts Alliance region. Each poet was asked to write about the forgotten stories of places, people, or histories from their states/regions. This may include people, places, or rituals/traditions that are no longer, or perhaps never, studied or discussed. Artists were encouraged to examine stories unique to the character and identity of their state.
New poems premiere on the first day of each month, playing audibly from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. each day until January 2022. The poets’ words and voices will be presented through our outdoor audio system. The series is curated by noted poet Quraysh Ali Lansana and the Tulsa-based Tri-City Collective.
October’s artist is Glenn North. North is currently the Executive Director of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UMKC. North is the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition and the triumphs and tragedies of the African American experience. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow, and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His work has appeared in the Langston Hughes Review, Caper Literary Journal, Platte Valley Review, New Letters, KC Studio, Cave Canem Anthology XII, The African American Review, and American Studies Journal. North’s ekphrastic and visual poems have appeared in art exhibitions at the American Jazz Museum, The Leedy-Volkos Art Center, The Bunker Center for the Arts, The Portfolio Gallery (St. Louis), The Greenlease Gallery, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. He collaborated with legendary jazz musician Bobby Watson on the critically acclaimed recording project Check Cashing Day and is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District.
I write about the tragedies and triumphs of the Black experience. The bulk of the work I have done over the past twenty years has been for public consumption. By that I mean, I do a great deal of commissioned work, I have had poems exhibited in numerous museums and art galleries, and I have even written poems in conjunction with public art projects. In a sense, I am the City of Kansas City’s Poet-At-Large. My body of work explores the dangers of merely existing as a Black man in America. The speakers in many of my poems are grappling with the realities of internal and external violence. The self-inflicted violence that is the result of social conditioning and the external violence inflicted by a systemically racist society. Having served as the Poet-In-Residence of the American Jazz Museum for nearly ten years, my poems are often informed by jazz in both the subject matter and the rhythm. Poetry offered for public consumption, or poetry that is performative, often differs from academic poetry in that it is–almost by necessity– more accessible. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has less aesthetic or intellectual value. I would humbly argue that it is just more aware of–and concerned about–its audience. Gifted lyricist Black Thought, from the hip hop band The Roots, offered the following line that perfectly sums up my ongoing efforts as a poet, “I holla at the scholarly, but street cats will follow me.” I can’t put it any simpler than that.