I first discovered the phenomenal poet Pat Parker (1944-1989) in my early 20’s and immediately fell in love with her poetry. I discovered her poetry around the same time that she passed away, so unfortunately I never had the opportunity
I want to talk about the work of Marilyn Nelson, whose poems fill me with the same mixture of awe, reverence and exultation that I experienced last month standing in the Philadelphia Museum of Art in front of the Van Gogh exhibition. It is the sense of privilege at having witnessed this miracle: that it is possible to take suffering, pain, and man’s brutal inhumanity to man and transform them, through the alchemy of art and genius, into works of sheer glory that become a lifelong blessing to the beholder, comforting us with the knowledge that the pain and the suffering were not wasted, not meaningless, for this beautiful work of art came out of it all, to spread its balm upon the human spirit and remind us that the artist’s sacred mission is to heal the world. Only recently I was overjoyed to see that Nelson (who has been honored many times for her work) was the 2011 recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s highest honor, the Frost Medal.