VOICES Poet ‘Brings Words to Life’ During Reading

St. Mary’s students gathered last Thursday evening in Daugherty-Palmer Commons to listen to poetry written and read by E. Ethelbert Miller, a writer and literary activist.

The program began with a brief biography of Miller, given by Dr. Jeffrey Coleman, an English Professor at St. Mary’s. After Dr. Coleman’s introduction, Miller was invited to the podium, and read several poems, including On Saturdays I Santana With You, Cell Phones, After the News and Weather Comes Sports, and Women. Miller also read The Equator, Freedom Candy, and Omar’s House, which are three selections from How We Sleep On The Nights We Don’t Make Love, one out of nine books of poetry that Miller has written.

The reading was filled with life and emotion, and the audience was attentive and engaged throughout. “I thought he gave a very animated interpretation of his poems,” said St. Mary’s senior Kristen VanBlargan. “He brought the words to life.”

Miller’s moving readings evoked both laughter and thoughtful silence among his audience. He explained that he “looks at poetry and literature as a bridge,” adding that much of his inspiration for writing verse comes from people in his life, and from the personal impact current events have on him.

Miller read several love poems, including You are a Galaxy to Me, and his signature poem, Divine Love. Several of his love poems are written about his past marriages and wife. Women is a poem written about Iranian women and the struggles they face, and Omar’s House is a poem written about the issues Muslim children face at school. Rafael Peuse, a freshman at St. Mary’s, was fascinated by Miller’s poems. “It [the reading] was very insightful,” Peuse said.  “Mostly, you’ll read stuff in class that you can’t relate to…like Shakespeare. But this relates much easier to our lives.”

E. Ethelbert Miller has written nine books of poetry, two memoirs, and is the editor of three poetry anthologies. He has been the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University since 1974, and is board chair of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. He has received several awards, including the Mayor’s Art Award for literature in 1982 and the Columbia Merit Award in 1993. He was made the honorary citizen of Baltimore in 1994, and How We Sleep On The Nights We Don’t Make Love, published in 2004, was an Independent Publisher Award finalist.  Miller is often heard on National Public Radio (NPR) in matters relating to poetry and literature.

Miller explained that he first desired to become a poet when he began college. “The times when I went off to college,” he remembered, “that’d be 1968…that was when Martin Luther king and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated. There was a lot of social change. There was more awareness of black consciousness…people grew Afros and were connecting to their roots.”

“I began to have models, and met people who were very interested in writing,” Miller said. “I had good teachers.”

The next Voices reading will be held on Thursday, November 12th, in Daugherty-Palmer Commons.

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