Oklahoma Poets: A Celebration for National Poetry Month

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April is National Poetry Month! Oklahoma Representative Tammy West has authored House Resolution 1012 proclaiming April as National Poetry Month in Oklahoma to coincide with National Poetry Month which was established in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets.

The Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries will help celebrate and promote the event by showcasing some of Oklahoma’s finest poets.

One poet will be recognized each day on the Oklahoma Center for the Book Facebook Page. Also, look for updates at #CelebrateOklahomaPoets on Twitter.

From N. Scott Momaday on April 1 to U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo on April 30, we'll be spotlighting Oklahoma poets a day at a time!

N. Scott Momday

N. Scott Momaday

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Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, on February 27, 1934, award winning author, poet, and painter Navarre Scott Momaday grew up on several Native American reservations in New Mexico. A member of the Kiowa Tribe, Momaday earned a doctorate degree in English in 1963 from Stanford University. A distinguished academic scholar, Momaday is tenured at Stanford University, the University of Arizona, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California-Santa Barbara. In 1969 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn. He served as the Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma in 2007 and 2008. His poetry books include Angle of Geese; The Gourd Dancer; In the Presence of the Sun; In the Bear’s House (winner of the 2000 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry); Again the Far Morning: New and Selected Poems; The Death of Sitting Bear; and Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land. In 1994 the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Momaday with the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fannone Jeffers

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Born in Kokomo, Indiana, and raised in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers now makes her home in Norman, Oklahoma, where she is a full professor at the University of Oklahoma, teaching creative writing. She is the author of one novel and five collections of poetry. Her poetry books include The Glory Gets; Red Clay Suite; Outlandish Blues; and The Gospel of Barbeque. Her latest poetry book:  The Age of Phillis: Poems received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Poetry, was longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry, and was selected as a 2021 Oklahoma Book Award finalist for poetry.

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Benjamin Myers

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Benjamin Myers served as Oklahoma Poet Laureate in 2015 and 2016. His poetry is featured in both state and national magazines including Oklahoma TodayOklahoma HumanitiesFirst ThingsThe Yale ReviewImage32 PoemsMeasureThe Christian Century, and The Imaginative Conservative. Myers earned his PhD in literature from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently serves as the Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature at Oklahoma Baptist University. His poetry book Elegy for Trains won the 2011 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry. His other poetry books include Lapse Americana and Black Sunday.

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Jessica Isaacs

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The Oklahoma landscape and people run deep in Jessica Isaacs’s poetry. She states, “Oklahoma red is in our blood, and we feel her seasons, like the weather, changing in our veins.” Born in Okemah, Oklahoma, Isaacs has lived in several areas of Oklahoma including Prague, Ada, and Oklahoma City. Each place has influenced her personally and in her writing. Isaacs, and English professor and poet, is director of Seminole State College's annual Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium. She won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry for her first full-length book of poems, Deep August. She has presented her writing at regional and national conferences and has published poems in various journals and anthologies. She is a member of the coordinating committee for the Woody Guthrie Poets and is founder and co-editor of "Dragon Poet Review," an online literary journal.

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Francine Ringold

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Francine Ringold served two consecutive terms as Oklahoma Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2006. Ringold earned her PhD from the University of Tulsa, and later served as the editor of the university’s literary magazine Nimrod International Journal. A dedicated educator, she taught for almost fifty years at the University of Tulsa. She won the Oklahoma Book Award in poetry twice for her books The Trouble with Voices (1996) and Still Dancing (2005). Ringold’s poetry books include VoicesEvery Other OneDog Days, A Way of Speaking; and The Way We See Now.

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Carl Sennhenn

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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Norman, Oklahoma, Carl Sennhenn is an award-winning poet. He served as Poet Laureate of Oklahoma in 2001 and 2002. He is a former professor at Rose State College, where he also served as Dean of Humanities. Sennhenn continues to teach creative writing for senior adults at Rose State College. His book Travels Through Enchanted Woods won the Oklahoma Book Award for poetry in 2007. He also won the Oklahoma Book Award for poetry in 2013 for his book Nocturnes and Sometimes, Even I. Sennhenn’s other poetry books include The Center of Noon and Harvest of Light.

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Linda Hogan

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A Chickasaw educator, author, and poet Linda Hogan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and a master’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She has served as a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Oklahoma. Moreover, she is the inaugural Writer-in-Residence for the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Hogan’s novel Mean Spirit won the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction in 1991. An avid environmentalist, Hogan’s poems and essays reflect her love for nature and Native American culture. Her poetry books include Rounding the Human Corners; Calling Myself Home; Daughters, I Love You; Eclipse; Seeing Through the Sun; Savings; The Book of Medicines; Indios; Dark. Sweet. New and Selected Poems; and A History of Kindness.

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Ron Wallace

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Born on December 17, 1953, in Durant, Oklahoma, Ron Wallace is an award-winning poet and educator. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 and a Master of Arts, both from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. For more than thirty years, he taught English, Humanities, American History, and coached baseball in Colbert, Oklahoma. The love he learned for reading, writing, and poetry in college never left him, however. He began writing again in the 1990s and his work has appeared in Insight; Poetic Voices; Loch Raven Review; Scorched Earth Publishing; and Grandmother Earth XIV. He has been a featured presenter at The Abydos Learning Project; the Woody Guthrie Festival; and the Tennessee Humanities Festival. His poetry books include Oklahoma Cantos; Native Son; I Come from Cowboys and Indians; and The Last Blue Sky. Wallace won the 2018 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry for his book Renegades.

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Nathan Brown

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Nathan Brown is a musician, performer, photographer, professor, and award-winning poet and songwriter. He holds a PhD in English and Journalism from the University of Oklahoma where he has taught for over twenty years. The author of twenty books, Brown served as Oklahoma Poet Laureate in 2013 and 2014. His books include 100 Years; An Honest Day's Confession; An Honest Day's Prayer; An Honest Day's Ode; My Salvaged Heart: Story of a Cautious Courtship; To Sing Hallucinated: First Thoughts on Last Words; Less Is More, More or Less; Karma Crisis: New and Selected PoemsLetters to the One-Armed Poet: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Butternut Squash Ravioli; My Sideways Heart; Not Exactly Job; Ashes over the Southwest; Suffer the Little Voices; and Hobson's Choice.  His book Two Tables Over won the 2009 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry. His most recent poetry books are In the Days of Our Seclusion, March-May 2020 and In the Days of Our Unrest, June-August 2020. Brown splits his time between Norman, Oklahoma, and Wimberly, Texas.

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Carol Hamilton

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Nominated seven times for the prestigious Pushcart Prize, Carol Hamilton is an educator, author, and poet. A native Oklahoman, Hamilton earned her bachelor’s degree from Phillips University and a master’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. She taught in the public schools as well as Rose State College and the University of Central Oklahoma. Hamilton helped found the Woody Guthrie Poets in 2004. Her articles, short stories, and poetry has appeared in periodicals such as Commonweal, The Christian Science Monitor, World Literature Today, and the New York Quarterly. Her poetry book Once the Dust won the 1992 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry. Hamilton served as Oklahoma Poet Laureate in 1995-1996.

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Alexander Posey

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Born on August 3, 1873, in Eufaula, Creek Nation, Indian Territory, Alexander Posey was a poet, humorist, and journalist. He garnered attention for his literary prowess for his Fus Fixico Letters, which were satirical editorials that focused on both state and national politics. At the age of sixteen, he enrolled in Indian University (Bacone College), where he began writing poetry. His poetry was influenced by naturalist writers John Burroughs and Henry David Thoreau. Posey’s poems were published under the pen name “Chinnubbee Harjo,” and first appeared in Twin Territories: The Indian Magazine and the Eufaula Indian Journal newspaper. Posey drowned in 1908, at the age of thirty-five, when he attempted to cross the flooded North Canadian River. Some of Posey’s collective poems have been published since his death such as The Poems of Alexander Lawrence Posey: Alex Posey, The Creek Indian Poet and Song of the Oktahutche: Collected Poems. In 2013 the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Posey posthumously with the Ralph Ellison Award.

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Sandra Soli

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Born in Birmingham, England, Sandra Soli emigrated to the United States and settled in Oklahoma following World War II. Throughout her illustrious career, she has worked as an author, editor, radio broadcaster, journalist, and poet. From 1990 to 2000 she served in Oklahoma’s “Artist in Residency” program. In addition, she worked as a columnist and poetry editor for ByLine Magazine. Soli’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and books including Voices International; The Lyric; and The Phoenix. Her poetry has also been featured on National Public Radio, and has been nominated for the AWP Intro Award, and the prestigious Pushcart Prize. Her poetry books include Silvering the Flute and What Trees Know, which won the Oklahoma Book Award for poetry in 2008.

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Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

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Jeanetta Calhoun Mish served as Oklahoma Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2020. Her poetry has been published in notable magazine and journals such as This Land; Naugatuck River Review, Concho River Review; LABOR: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas; World Literature Today; and Yellow Medicine Journal. Mish is editor of Mongrel Empire Press, recognized as the 2012 Publisher of the Year by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. She is a faculty mentor for The Red Earth Creative Writing MFA program at Oklahoma City University. Mish’s poetry books include Tongue Tied Woman, which won the 2001 Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women Competition and Work is Love Made Visible: Poetry and Family Photographs, winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry, a Wrangler Award, and the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West.

Ken Hada is a tenured professor of English and languages at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He is also an award-winning poet. Often referred to as a “red dirt poet,” Hada’s work is grounded in nature. Popular on the poetry reading circuit, he has read his poems in several states to a wide variety of audiences. Hada serves as the director of the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University. His poetry books include Sunlight & Cedar; Not Quite Pilgrims; Bring an Extry Mule; Persimmon Sunday; Contour Feathers; Margaritas and Redfish; The River White; Spare Parts; Like Father, Like Son; and The Way of the Wind. In 2018 the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Hada with the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Award.

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Joyce Carol Thomas

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Novelist, educator, playwright, motivational speaker, and poet Joyce Carol Thomas was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, on May 25, 1938. She received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from San Jose State University, and a master’s degree in education at Stanford University. She served as professor of African American studies at San Jose State University. Moreover, she was a faculty member at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Perdue University. The author of over thirty children and young adult books, Thomas’s poetry explores the African American experience in the United States. Her poetry books include Blessings; Bittersweet; Crystal Breezes; Inside the Rainbow; Gingerbread Days; A Mother’s Heart, A Daughter’s Love; and Crowing Glory. The Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Thomas in 2000 with the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. She died on August 13, 2016.

Rudolph N. Hill

Attorney, judge, and poet, Rudolph N. Hill was born on April 4, 1903, in Protem, Missouri. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1926. He became an attorney, and later served as a judge. He made his home in Wewoka, Oklahoma, where he published his first poetry book in 1929 entitled Red Ship Wings. His poetry books include Whipping-Tree and Wagon-Trails Farewell; Star of Peace on Trail of Cibola; Westward Wind and 20th Century Singing Words; Curtain Calls Before Curfew; Frontiers of Soonerland in Song and Story; and From Country Lanes to Space Age Dawn. Governor Henry Bellman named Hill the eight Oklahoma Poet Laureate, and he served in that position from 1966 to 1970. He was named Oklahoma Poet Laureate Emeritus in 1970 by Oklahoma Governor Dewey Bartlett. Hill died in 1980.

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John Berryman

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Born in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1914, John Berryman became one of the most influential poets in American literature during the last half of the twentieth century. The trauma associated with his father’s suicide greatly impacted Berryman, which he related in many of his poems. Berryman graduated from Columbia College in 1936. He studied an additional two more years at Cambridge University. He served as a professor at Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Minnesota. In 1942 Berryman published some of his early work in a book entitled Poems. His first important work of poetry entitled The Dispossessed was published in 1948. Berryman published 77 Dream Songs in 1964 and His Toy, His Dream, His Rest in 1968. He won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Dream Songs published in 1969. In 1972 Berryman committed suicide by leaping off the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2002 the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Berryman posthumously with the Ralph Ellison Award.

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Bess Truitt

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Bess B. Truitt served as Oklahoma Poet Laureate from 1945 to 1946, and as Oklahoma Poet Laureate Emeritus from 1946 to 1963. Born in Madison, Iowa, in 1883, she moved to Enid, Oklahoma, in 1893, as a result of the land run. A graduate of Enid High School, Truitt earned a bachelor and master’s degree from Phillips University. Truitt worked for thirty years as a teacher, and as a court clerk for Garfield County for eight years. Truitt edited a newspaper column entitled “Port o’ Poets,” and as editor of Journal of the Sons and Daughters of the Cherokee Strip, and Red Earth Poetry magazine. Her work also appeared in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Today, and the Enid Morning News. She served as president of the Enid Writer’s club, the National League of American Pen Women; and the Oklahoma Poetry Society. In her poem entitled “Oklahoma, A Toast,” Truitt paid homage to her adopted state writing, “Here’s to the land so great yet new, Founded by pioneers sturdy and true, Men of adventure with iron wills, Here’s to the land of a million thrills.” Truitt died in 1972.

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Melvin B. Tolson

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Poet, journalist, educator, and dramatist Melvin B. Tolson was born in Missouri in 1898. He became one of America’s premier African American poets. Influenced by the modernist tradition and the Harlem Renaissance, Tolson’s poetry explored African American issues. In 1924 he earned a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in English and comparative literature from Columbia University in 1940. Rendezvous with America became Tolson’s first published book in 1944. The book features the poem “Dark Symphony,” a poem first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1941. The poem previously won first-place in the American Negro Exposition National Poetry Contest in 1939. Tolson became a professor at Langston University, in Langston, Oklahoma, in 1947, and served in that position for seventeen years. From 1954 to 1960, Tolson served as mayor of Langston. His poetry books include Harlem Gallery: Book One; The Curator; Libretto for the Republic of Liberia; and Rendezvous with America. His plays “Black Boy” and “Black No More.” In 1999 the Oklahoma Center for the Book honored Tolson posthumously with the Ralph Ellison Award.

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Sharon Edge Martin

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Sharon Edge Martin is a writer of short fiction, children’s books, feature articles, and poetry. She wrote her first poem at the age of eight. Martin has always been surrounded by writing and books. Her grandmother read poetry to her as a child; her father wrote short stories; and her mother was a songwriter. Martin’s articles have been featured in such magazines as Outwest, True West, Family Circle, and Oklahoma Today. Her poetry has been published in Amelia, Byline, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Martin also promotes poetry in Oklahoma as she hosts a monthly reading in the historic Tidal School in Drumwright, Oklahoma. Her poetry books include I’ve Got the Blues: Seeking Justice in a Red State and Not a Prodigal, which was a finalist for the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry.