Poetically Yours Ep. 20 - A Poet's Reflection On Hanukkah

Dec 18, 2020

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. This week features Aurora's poet laureate Karen Fullett-Christensen.

Karen Fullett-Christensen
Credit Latrice Murphy Design and Photography

Fullett-Christensen has been writing poetry and memory stories since high school, and credits two of her English teachers, Mr. Vespo and Mr. Brown, for their encouragement and support. She has self-published over 20 manuscripts. Her poems and creative non-fiction have appeared in a variety of print and online publications, and are available at no cost to anyone who requests copies.

She was born and raised on the North Side of Chicago, in the Albany Park and Budlong Woods neighborhoods. She is a 1968 graduate of Mather High School and a 1972 graduate of Northern Illinois University. She briefly attended graduate school at Governors State University. She has resided in several of Chicago’s south and west suburbs and in Missoula, Montana.

Fullett-Christensen has held a variety of jobs. Some include secretary, teacher, real estate agent and urban planner. She retired in 2012 after 13 years as the City of Aurora's downtown development director and manager of the neighborhood redevelopment division. She was recognized as the Kane County Planner of the Year. In 1996, she received an Earth Champion award from The Missoulian newspaper and three years later was presented with an Individual Award of Excellence from the Will/South Cook Soil & Water Conservation District. Fullett-Christensen was inducted into the Ely Chapter of Lambda Alpha International, an honorary land economics society in 2001.

Fullett-Christensen is an active community volunteer and a member of Books and Bread, the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation, InterFaith Aurora and Aurora Downtown. She also co-founded a local writers’ group in 2013 called A-Town Poetics.

Fullett-Christensen and her husband Larry are avid travelers and enjoy classes and adventures with Waubonsee Community College’s Lifelong Learning Institute and Road Scholar.

Music is of great importance to Fullett-Christensen.  She is a board member of the Fox Valley Music Foundation and has sung with the Fox Valley Festival Chorus for over ten years.

A proud mother and grandmother, Fullett-Christensen’s eldest daughter lives in Sheffield, England. Her younger daughter and granddaughter live in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

Fullett-Christensen was named as the City of Aurora’s first poet laureate in January of this year. The pandemic has delayed her planned poet laureate events but she continues to interact with the community through Facebook. Here she shares poetry from many area poets, as well as her own. Those interested in sharing their works can email her.  Here's her poem "All Those Candles - Hanukkah 2020."

Thousands of candles over the years

the message is always the same

justice and dignity: worth sacrifice

never extinguish their flame

Look to the future

strive to bring change

think of the multitudes

locked up in chains

We light our menorahs

where they can be seen

beacons of hope

much more than a dream

Re-tell our stories

give gifts to each other

feed those in need

call out to our brothers

What can our history teach

what lessons to learn:

stand up for the helpless

let freedom’s fire burn

Our ancestors struggled

bold tyrants struck hard

broke all the vessels

left nothing but shards

We are here, we are now

fill each one’s cup

speak truth to power

never give up

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.