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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Recently deceased poets are honored


    Ryan Winet, a graduate student studying English, reads ʺThe Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelouʺ in the UA Poetry Center. Angelou is one of several poets who died this year who will be honored at the Day of the Dead Memorial Reading on Thursday.

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    These famous words from poet and author Maya Angelou ring ever truer to describe her timeless influence after her death this past May. Angelou is one of several poets who died in the past year whose work will be remembered on Thursday at the Day of the Dead Memorial Reading at the Helen S. Schaefer Poetry Center.

    Hannah Ensor, the events coordinator at the Poetry Center and a UA alumna, said both the recognizable and less well-known poets featured at the event offer the same inspiration Angelou spoke of.

    “I’ve spent some time reading each of [the poets’] works, and it’s been amazing — both the poets I knew already and the ones whose names I only came to as they passed away,” Ensor said. “Feeling changed, inspired, by so many of their poems, I’m glad we get to give their art a bit of lift, even as it’s tinged with sadness in this moment of thinking of how they’re no longer with us.”

    Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that honors those who have died by celebrating their lives with altars of food, candles, flowers and photos. The celebration has become a Tucson tradition with events such as the annual All Souls Procession downtown, and the Poetry Center is expanding the tradition by having local poets read the work of poets who have recently died.

    “[This] event comes a few weeks before the All Souls Procession — a magical communal coming-together — and this event will hopefully get us started in thinking about how to honor those who have passed, and honor the sacred, important act of remembering,” Ensor said.

    Community members will have the opportunity to read work from poets who have died in the past year and add an offering on the altar. Some of the poets honored include Maxine Kumin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1981, Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, and Angelou, famed author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and recipient of awards from both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

    Obama, who awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, commented on the loss of Angelou as an activist and author after her death on May 28.

    “The voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves,” Obama said.

    For those who want to relive the words of the no longer living, the Day of the Dead Memorial reading will be from 7-8 p.m. at the Poetry Center on Thursday.

    “I can’t think of a better way to think of who we’ve lost over the last year and keep their voices present, alive, with us,” Ensor said.


    Follow Mia Moran on Twitter.

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