Tuesday, March 12, 2013

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman YP FIC NEWMAN

Then and Now -Lesléa Newman

Then I was a son
Now I am a symbol

Then I was a brother
Now I am an absence

Then I was a friend
Now I am a memory

Then I was a person
Now I am a headline

Then I was a guy
Now I am a ghost

Then I was a student
Now I am a lesson

On October 6, 1998 a 21 year old young man was brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. Matthew Shepard became a symbol of victims of hate crimes everywhere and his case drew worldwide attention.  This book of poems from Lesléa Newman looks back at the crime, its aftermath, and the person behind the symbol.  Poems from the perspective of Matthew, the killers, the community, and the silent witnesses of the fence and other inanimate objects paint a chilling and heartbreaking picture of a life tragically lost.

This is an absolutely stunning work of poetry.  Lesléa Newman uses different voices, styles, and structures to approach the crime and tragedy form many different angles.  This works to make the story about more than a crime, but also to bring the person of Matthew to the forefront.  The poem above is an excellent example of her sparse language and use of pounding repetition to hammer hard truths home.  In other poems she uses a completely different style and structure.  She also uses poems taken from almost random inspirations like Now Showing, a list of film titles that appeared in theaters in 1998 formed into a poem. The variation is key to capturing different feelings, ideas, voices, and moods.  She does a wonderful job of giving voice to not just many people, but also things like the fence Matthew was tied to, the rope that tied him, the gun of his killers, their truck, the road they drove on, and more.  I think this should be read by just about everyone, because regardless of your feelings on homosexuality we can all come together to agree that no one should be murdered for who they are, what they believe, or how they love. This is a slender volume that you could easily read in a few hours, but will stay with you long after.  

You can check our catalog for October Mourning here.

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