Across America, powerful imagery and musical cadence ring out in coffee shops and onto the page during National Poetry Month. Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, the month-long recognition celebrates the poets’ integral role in our culture and society. We are reminded that poetry matters.
Evermore’s very own Jena Kirkpatrick (editor of this newsletter!) has been a poet for over three decades, and when her son, Ellis, died, she was gifted What Have You Lost?, an anthology of more than a hundred poems selected by acclaimed poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Nye called on poets to help answer this question, and for Kirkpatrick, these collected works helped her cope with her pain.
So, to honor our losses and the great poets who help us find words to describe the indescribable, Kirkpatrick spoke with some of the nation’s most distinguished poets — Naomi Shihab Nye, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Beth Wood, Brady Peterson, Regie Gibson, and Nathan Brown to share their thoughts on grief, how it affects their writing, and how poetry can help grieving and bereaved people.
Each of these poets, acclaimed in their own right, generously shared their personal insights following their own losses, their poetry, and the navigation of delicately placed words we choose to honor our beloved.
About Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent more than 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspire students of all ages. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Her awards and honors are numerous — among them are the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House. In 2019-2020 she was the editor of the New York Times Magazine poems. She was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation and, in 2020, awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle. Nye is a Professor of Creative Writing – Poetry at Texas State University. Nye is the author of dozens of poetry books that can be found here.
About Regie Gibson
Regie Gibson is a literary performer, songwriter, author, workshop facilitator, and educator. Regie and his work appears in the New Line Cinema film love jones, based largely on events in his life. He is a former National Poetry Slam Individual Champion, and was selected as one of Chicago Tribune’s Artist of the Year for Excellence for his poetry. He has co-judged the Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Competition, has been regularly featured on NPR and has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. He is the author of Storms Beneath the Skin.
About Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Rosemerry lives with her husband and daughter in Placerville, Colorado, on the banks of the wild and undammed San Miguel River. Devoted to helping others explore their creative potential, Rosemerry is the co-host of Emerging Form, a podcast on the creative process. She also directed the Telluride Writers Guild for ten years. She has 12 collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in O Magazine, A Prairie Home Companion, PBS NewsHour, American Life in Poetry, on fences, in back alleys, on Carnegie Hall Stage, and on hundreds of river rocks she leaves around town. Beneath All Appearances is a new, collective work of collages and poems by bereaved mothers Rashani Réa, Damascena Tanis, and Trommer; it has been called “a pole star for those who grieve.” This month, Samara Press will release her next collection, All the Honey. She’s won the Fischer Prize, Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge (thrice), the Dwell Press Solstice Prize, the Writer’s Studio Literary Contest (twice), and The Blackberry Peach Prize.
About Brady Peterson
Brady Peterson lives near Belton, Texas, where he worked building houses for much of the past thirty years or teaching rhetoric and literature at a local university. He once worked a forklift in a lumber yard in east Austin, tried to teach eighth graders the importance of using language, worked briefly as a technical writer, and helped raise five daughters. He has run one marathon, fought in one karate tournament, climbed one mountain, failed to make the UT baseball team as a walk-on, and took tango lessons with his wife. He is the author of Dust, Between Stations, From an Upstairs Window, García Lorca is Somewhere in Produce and At the Edge of Town.
About Beth Wood
Beth Wood is a modern-day troubadour, poet, and believer in the power of word and song. Beth has been writing, performing, and creating for twenty-five years. In addition to releasing fifteen albums, Beth has released three books of poetry, Kazoo Symphonies, Ladder to the Light (2019 finalist for the Oregon Book Award Stafford/Hall award for poetry and 2019 Winner of the Oregon Book Award Readers’ Choice Award) and Believe the Bird (Winner of the San Francisco Book Festival Poetry Award). She has been recognized by the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Award, The Sisters Folk Festival Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Award, the Billboard World Song Contest, The Oregon Book Awards, and many more. Beth lives in Sisters, Oregon, with her rescue dog Hannah and is continuously writing and rewriting her artist’s manifesto.
About Nathan Brown
Nathan Brown is an author, songwriter, and award-winning poet living in Wimberley, Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in English and Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, where he’s taught for over 20 years. He served as Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma in 2013/14 and now travels full-time performing readings, concerts, workshops and speaking on creativity, poetry, and songwriting. Nathan has published over 20 books. Most recent are his new collection of poems, In the Days of Our Seclusion, the first in a series, now known as the Pandemic Poems Project, that deals with the year of the pandemic, and a new travel memoir Just Another Honeymoon in France: A Vagabond at Large. Karma Crisis: New and Selected Poems, was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Oklahoma Book Award. His earlier book, Two Tables Over, won the 2009 Oklahoma Book Award. Brown’s poem “Nevertheless, It Moves” comes from his book To Sing Hallucinated: First Thoughts on Last Words.