May 24, 2023

2023 Making History Come Alive Through Words Poetry Competition Winners


Chicago Collections Consortium, in partnership with Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Library Center and the Poetry Foundation, was proud to host a reception on 5/23 for the 2023 winners of Making History Come Alive Through Words poetry competition.  The competition was first launched in 2022 in celebration of CCC's 10th anniversary and asks Chicagoland high school students to excite their curiosity and creativity by visiting EXPLORE CHICAGO COLLECTIONS portal and writing a poem inspired by what they find. 

2023 Jurors for the competition included: Mary Case, Co-founder Chicago Collections Consortium and Dean Emerita, University of Illinois Chicago University Library (Humanities; Information and Computing Sciences; Social Science); Katherine Litwin, Library Director, Poetry Foundation, and Kenyatta Rogers, Poet, The Chicago High School for the Arts, Faculty Member, and co-host of the Sunday Reading Series with Simone Muench.

CCC is proud to recognize the following students for their outstanding poems:

Jada Rodriguez, William Howard Taft High School

Mira Schroeder, William Howard Taft High School

Justin Simpson, Kenwood Academy High School

Estelle Wong, William Fremd High School

Nora Wunsch, Jones College Prep

Honorable mentionGinevra Kellogg, William Howard Taft High School

Jada Rodriguez, William Howard Taft High School

L _Chicago Scenes.jpg

Her red coat

I watch the women's red coat as it shields her from the storm, Her heel prints as she leaves them behind in the snow, Smelling as her winter scent follows after her in the wind.

My boots crunch leaving behind sloppy footsteps

My bags hang on each side of me while I struggle to stand upright, My gray coat is as gloomy as the dark sky.

I watch her as we walk down the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The traffic moves along the quiet streets

I walk faster to make it in time so I do not miss my train. 

We go our separate ways,

I lose sight of her red coat

But the thought of her lingers in my mind The women's red coat

Like the Shield of Achilles 

Protecting her from the storm

Mira Schroeder   William Howard Taft High School
1 south wacker.jpg
1 South Wacker

I walk down the street approach the train stop no destination in mind.

I walk in and tap my card

at the little machine.

As I walk through the gates, The lady stares at me.

I think to myself “ I'd stare at people all day too.”

All different kinds of people ride public transport

they each have their own stories, 

and this is mine

I get on the train

find a seat near the back

This man in front of me reads a newspaper with a huge skyscraper on it, the caption reads

“1 South Wacker".

my attention drawn to the beautiful architecture.

My mind was lost and mesmerized

by the big glass windows and odd form 

a futuristic design for its time

and still to this day adds

to the urbanization of chicago

realizing I'm still on the train and have made it to the heart of the loop.

I jolt up and look out the window, 

I feel the train roughly stop

I quickly get myself together. I step onto the train platform walk down the stairs and out the train stop.

I find myself wandering for a couple blocks before

I'm met 

with the most breathtaking piece of history

1 South Wacker.

Justin Simpson, Kenwood Academy High School
Chicago’s Blood

Placed in broken-up sections of what should be a happy home 

Then break the spirit like a raw bone

The kitchenette then breaks 

Burning crosses at the stake

Ashes and black blood flow into the lake 

Same blood that redlined us

On the documents

same red undermined us 

Coax me, kill me, cash me

Anything to get past me 

Redlining redlining!

Red summer

City blood stained

No more the Yankees

My dearest stoned in the waves down under 

Black churches tinted red, but naught of wine. 

The religion we turn to is naught sanctified 

Black people ain't meant to burn

Redlining Redlining!

The kitchenettes burnt out

Throw those blacks to the south side 

They can all drown in Bronzeville

Let them croak where they reside 

Bronze-tinted black haven

Of course, they're gonna hate it

We ought to fight their craft beer and martini bars to save it

But it's awful too late for saving

They preyed on this land since they threw it at our feet to start grazing

Lease Me Loot me let me die out

No health or recreation centers 

So the boys are always out 

Bloodshed all about

 The grand plan 

Turn it to a warzone

Before we clear it out

This is the modern day

Redlining redlining!

We up the stake more than two-fold 

134 percent up, we're no lincoln park 

but we sure struck gold

Man the story never gets old 

Uninvest and reinvest

By the power vested in me

We shall see the Bronzeville

One day filled with more white 

than actual bronze 

More salad bars with croutons

Fewer schools and

Even less help for those we deem far gone 

But which road should we place this bar on? 

Redlining Redlining!!


Estelle Wong, William Fremd High School

Year of dragon 2023.jpg
The Year of the Dragon in Chinatown

Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown

I repeat your name like a praying chant

You started as a refuge carved out for shunned immigrants

And now you are a home to those near and far

Your name evokes the heritage of a persistent people

Whose legacy was born across the stars

Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown

I repeat your name like a praying chant

Here you are now

You take the form of a lion’s dance

Flowing like the movements of a fierce, rushing river

You grant the fortune of another lunar year’s chance


Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown

I repeat your name like a praying chant


You forged an identity out of contradictions

As a representation of the spirit of both old anew

Where the worlds of East and West intersect

Yet constantly. You blended and bridged the two


Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown

I repeat your name like a praying chant


For you breath like a living dragon

Your heart pounds with the bustle of people and business,

You sing the metaphors of a hundred different tongues

Your blood roars with ancient history and cultural richness 

Chinatown, Chinatown, Chinatown

Repeated five times and more,

I realized such the truth:

You are a community to the world

A home for all, for the elders and the youth


Nora Wunsch, Jones College Prep

Men on the moon.jpg
Men on the Moon

somewhere up there 

in the swirling void

is a man doing the impossible.

he bounds over mountains and craters

carved into the moon's face from millions of years of solitude. 

but somewhere down here a child screams,

and when the day ends, the balloons fall back down to earth.

my mother goes back to her ironing and my father lights another cigar

before sprinkling the ashes onto a carpet she has to clean.

the tv flickers to life and armstrong yells,

“one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

my father cuffs me on the back of the head before leaving for the galway arms 

like he does after every bears game, win or lose,

leaving me and my mom to keep food warm

so when he staggers home he can eat.

mom looks out the window up to the sky 

and i know what she is thinking.

she is wondering if life is better up there,

and if in another universe she gets a degree 

and someone else makes her dinner.

i don't tell her that it is she who is doing the impossible

in the swirling void.

she bounds over my brothers grave 

and holes in the pavement

she patches up my scraped knees

and weathers my father's heavy hand and heart

somewhere down here,

is a woman doing the impossible.

thirty years later when my father has died from congestive heart failure,

i will drive my mother to the community college

and she will enroll in astronomy 101


Ginevra Kellogg , William Howard Taft High School

Chicago Fire.jpg
Chicago Fire Wreckage

Everything is gone

Serenity to terror in a matter of hours 

Flames like knives

Piercing through towns

What is left for there to see

As nothing was left be

The aftermath of dust

Ash pervades the air

Nothing is left untouched

Houses have lamented

Rubble caps the ground

Everything is gone

Broken and destroyed

What is there left to see

Everything is gone