NC Literary Hall of Fame



GRIT by Karen Luke Jackson

Finishing Line Press
$16.99, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-646622764
September, 2020
Available from your local bookstore or

"Karen Luke Jackson’s GRIT, a fascinating sequence of clown poems, is arresting, lively and a great 'read.' It dovetails with the current interest in popular culture in 'clown' figures, making it a timely publication."
—Tina Barr, author of Green Target, winner of Barrow Street Prize and Brockman-Campbell Award

"With narrative intensity and compassionate lyrical language, Karen Luke Jackson’s poems take us inside a 'world of rainbows and crayoned hearts.' Part tribute, part exploration, they delve beneath the clown costume and laughter into the heart of a complex woman."
—Pat Riviere-Seel, author of Nothing Below But Air and The Serial Killer’s Daughter

"A moving tribute to a sister’s life and legacy, Karen Luke Jackson’s Grit allows a community to love and grieve a woman whose laughter and silliness charmed children and unprepared adults, from school cafeterias to state conventions to the White House lawn. In the voices of friends, family, and Janis/Clancy herself, these impressive poems share the passion and challenges of a performer who confesses 'I needed a clown’s heart / to hold this worlds’ despair and ecstasy.'"
—Dr. Kenneth Chamlee, Professor Emeritus, Brevard College, author of Absolute Faith and Logic of the Lost

Two worlds coexist in GRIT, a poetry chapbook with photographs chronicling the life of Janis Luke Roberts and her alter ego, Clancey the Clown. From make-believe friends and childhood fantasies to fans grieving at her funeral, these poems explore how courage and imagination helped one woman overcome dyslexia and depression to become an award-winning performer. Travel with Janis into classrooms and hospitals, from Ocilla, Georgia, to the White House lawn. Visit Smileville where “when it rains, it rains ribbons and children can take cotton candy carpet rides.” In these pages, explore both the sacred lineage and the fear of clowns. Written by her older sister in different forms, styles and voices, this honest and heart-warming collection captures the human spirit at work and vividly portrays the resilience of a creative mind.

Karen Luke Jackson’s oral history background and contemplative practices provide a latticework for her writing. Her poems and stories have appeared in numerous journals including The Broad River Review (Ron Rash Poetry Award), Ruminate, One, The Great Smokies Review, Friends Journal, Kestrel, Kakalak, and Leaping Clear. A member of the North Carolina Writers' Network, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal, Karen resides in a cottage on a goat pasture in western North Carolina. When she’s not writing, she companions people on their spiritual journeys. For more information, visit

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