(The staff of the Chicago Defender)
A few years ago, I was reading about Gwendolyn Brooks and stumbled across a few references to Lights and Shadows—a poetry column that ran in the Chicago Defender back in the 1920s and 30s. The column published some of Brooks’s earliest poems, written when she was a teenager living in Bronzeville. She describes that time—or I guess just a bit before that time—in her autobiography:
Dreamed a lot. As a little girl I dreamed freely, often on the top step of the back porch—morning, noon, sunset, deep twilight. I loved clouds, I loved red streaks in the sky. I loved the gold worlds I saw in the sky… I was writing all the time. My mother says I began rhyming at seven—but my notebooks date back to my eleventh year only. Careful rhymes. Lofty meditations.
I couldn’t find much information about Lights and Shadows—which made me curious, which lead me into the Defender’s archives, which lead me into a little poetic community I found totally captivating, which eventually lead me to Dewey Roscoe Jones Jr.— the son of the man who edited Lights and Shadows for most of its existence. He’s now the keeper of his father’s collected letters, papers, and writings, and he generously spoke with me and shared some of those materials.
The whole story of Lights and Shadows (at least what I could reconstruct) is up on the Poetry Foundation’s website. Check it out and please spread the word to people or communities who might know more about this history. Most—maybe all—of the poets who published in L&S have died, but I’d love to hear from any friends or relatives who have memories.
This image comes from a 1927 Defender article on Lights and Shadows, which introduced a bunch of the column’s contributing poets. The story was written by L&S editor Dewey Roscoe Jones Sr. (Click for a bigger view).
3 responses to Lights and Shadows
I’m so glad I continued to look for links to the Lasers! The collage above is not very clear, but it looks like my grandfather, Pierre R Gaillard, is #24. We have just an envelope holding the newspaper clippings of his poems and their verbal history. I have lots more research to do because I have a project in mind. So thanks for writing this article.
I just found – again in a forgotten folder in a forgotten file cabinet – several poems in original handwriting. I really must get to cataloging the poetry with the clippings, photographs and other correspondence from Big Pierre. My father, though not called junior, had the same name. A latecomer to the art, at the time of his death 20 years ago, he was also writing poetry. The next day he was scheduled to read some of his work at a poetry group in Sag Harbor, NY. If anyone is a descendant of anyone from “Lights and Shadows,” please contact me at 8x8studio (at) gmail dot com
Really glad to learn you’re still researching the Lasers and learning more about your family’s involvement. Hope you hear from other people who have connections to “Lights & Shadows.”