Girl you need to know: Kara Jackson, American Youth Poet Laureate

11 February 2020
By Fashion Quarterly

Kara Jackson

US National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson should not to be missed when she visits New Zealand this month.

At just 20 years old,  Kara Jackson uses her poetry to bravely say the things that we are too afraid to say. Performed with clarity and courage, her writing is filled with ideas around inter-generational communication, her complex relationship with her Southern American heritage, the ideal female, self-love and the importance of place.

Miss FQ’s Ruby Hamilton chatted to Kara in anticipation for her arrival to the New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020 in Wellington. 

Tell us a little about yourself, have you always wanted to be a writer/poet?
Before I’m America’s Youth Poet Laureate, I am a twenty-year old trying to make sense of my age. I am passionate about words, because of the way they help me make sense. I’ve always loved writing. I’ve been writing songs since I can remember. I didn’t start taking poetry seriously until I was 14, when I joined the Spoken Word Club at my school. I don’t think I ever conceptualized a career out of doing these things I loved; I just knew I loved them. I’ve always seen myself making music and being on stage, but that seemed more of a dream than anything. To think these dreams are actually tangible things I can tend to is pretty surreal and doesn’t seem to ever stop being surreal.

How important is women’s empowerment to you and why?
Women’s empowerment is extremely important to me! I deposit all my hope into feminism and the ways in which women have gathered to re-imagine our world. Feminist theory saved, and continues to save, my life.

Do you have any advice for Miss FQ readers on how to balance school/work/life/social activism etc?
I am cautious about giving advice on a task I am still tending to myself. This balancing act is quite new to me. I think something I’m learning even this semester is to be very patient and kind with myself. Compassion comes before college! I have been doing yoga and taking moments throughout the day to just breathe. If I place compassion at the centre of my life, I feel like I’m prioritizing the right things.

Being told no, being rejected or failure in general is a hard reality we all face at some stage. How do you deal with things when they don’t turn out as you’d hoped?
I think similarly to the last question, I am still navigating this process. Rejection is really hard and I don’t know if there is a singular way of making it less hard. I think compassion again emerges as an antidote. I am trying to respect myself and not let that respect be dampened by any kind of professional failures. I think it’s also important to understand the ways in which we have been conditioned by capitalism to assume everything is a competition. I want to eradicate the language of competition as it appears in my career and in doing the work I love. It’s hard for me to mix passion and competition. I am not competing with others nor am I competing with myself. Instead, I am merely trying to approach my work (poems and songs) as places of passion, places of scrutiny, and extensions of the respect I have for myself. Thus, when I am inevitably faced with rejection, I can endure it in a mindful way.

What do you hope for the future?
I hope the future is one filled with joy and love. This sounds corny, perhaps, but I’m finding myself only looking for love these days. I have a bad habit of thinking of my career or my profession when I think of hope or the future, but I’m finding that these goals and hopes are not sustainable. While I do hope to work on my career and to focus on doing the things I love, I also know that success in those areas doesn’t necessarily improve my quality of life. These days I am really just trying to find peace and to be happy and I am hoping the future brings me closer to these sentiments.

Kara Jackson’s Bloodstone Cowboy is on 22 February at Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington.
Tickets are available here.


Interview: Ruby Hamilton
Photos: Supplied

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover
Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Sign up to the Fashion Quarterly newsletter.

*Ts&Cs apply.
Find out more at