Jamar Jackson, a high school junior in Chicago, has poems running through his head all day, and stories he wants to share. In spring 2022, Jackson won first place in the Pulitzer Center’s annual student poetry contest for “One Bullet, One Hundred Sets of Hands,” his moving, kinetic poem about gun violence. Written in response to the Buzzfeed News story "One Bullet Can Kill, but It Takes More Than 100 People To Save a Gunshot Victim’s Life,” it amplifies the journalistic narrative of those involved in caring for a gunshot victim and the toll of their work. At the same time, it casts the story in a new light personal to Jackson’s own experiences and perspective.
Sharing insights into his writing and thought processes, Jackson was interviewed by Paige Skinner of Buzzfeed News, one of the reporters who worked on the news story his poem responded to. In one passage, he explains his personal connection to the story he chose:
“When I scrolled and I saw your article, that was something that struck me because … this is something that resonates with me, this is something that’s been on my mind a lot,” he said, “[something] me and a lot of people I know have to go through. This is something that I can write about and I can tell a story about this. People can heavily relate to [this].”
Jackson’s poem, and those by his fellow Fighting Words Poetry Contest winners, amplify underreported global issues, and demonstrate how these issues hit home. Students’ work often highlights additional dimensions of the reporting they respond to, illuminating the intersecting nature of global issues and the emotional immediacy of the poetic form. Jackson, for example, goes beyond the Buzzfeed News article to examine the disproportionate impact of gun violence on Black communities in his poem.
“By the time I finished the article, it was so easy for me to see myself on the way to the hospital, dealing with doctors or going through therapy or other treatment because it’s a fear that’s been planted into Black children from the beginning,” Jackson said in a text message. “I also thought about police brutality and the fact that weapons are so easily accessible in neighborhoods such as mine on the South Side. I think that whether people have experienced gun violence firsthand or not, it’s something that we battle internally and externally continuously in our lives, simply because our skin causes so much conflict between us and people like police officers, or even our own people.”
The sixth annual Fighting Words Poetry Contest will open in March 2023. Sign up for the Pulitzer Center’s weekly education newsletter for updates and resources.