'Welcome To Where We From': Chicago Through The Eyes Of A Poet
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Sometimes, a country's struggle can be best understood through its poets. Nate Marshall is a rapper and poet from the South Side of Chicago. His first book of poetry, "Wild Hundreds," was published earlier this year. Welcome to the show.
NATE MARSHALL: Hey. Thank you.
SHAPIRO: What has your reaction been to the protests this week?
MARSHALL: I think I find myself not surprised, but more appalled by a lot of the things that inspired the protest.
SHAPIRO: Will you read a poem of yours that you think speaks to this moment in Chicago?
MARSHALL: So I'll read this poem. It's called "Out South," and it starts with a quote from Robert Frost. The quote is this - (reading) And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their Affairs - Robert Frost. In Chicago, kids are beaten. They crack open. They're pavement. They don't fight; they die, bodies bruised blue with wood. Cameras catch us killing, capture danger to broadcast on Broadway's we Roseland stars, made players for the press. Apes cage from first grade until shake us. We make terrible tambourines. Packed into class, kids pass like kidney stones. Each street day is unanswered prayer for peace. News gushes from mom's mouth like schoolboy blood. Rag town crime don't stop, only waves hello. Crime waves break no surface on news. Goodbye. Every kid that's killed is one less free lunch, a fiscal coup. Welcome to where we from.
SHAPIRO: You wrote this poem before the latest round of violence and protests and arrests. How does it feel to be reading it later about events that fit the exact same sentiment?
MARSHALL: Like, what happened to Laquan McDonald and the sort of subsequent fallout, it is a new story, and it deserves to be spoken towards and remembered, but it's not a unique story, you know? So in some ways, it makes a lot of sense that I read that poem now, even though it's a poem that predates this most recent moment because this is what we always find ourselves in. We always find ourselves in these moments that are a repetition for those of us that have to live it, for those of us that have that experience.
SHAPIRO: That's poet Nate Marshall in Chicago. He read "Out South" from his book of poems called "Wild Hundreds." Great to talk with you, thank you.
MARSHALL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.