Storytelling is not unique to the South; it is a universal characteristic of us humans. Poets have been reciting since the ancient Greeks. But Southern storytelling is special, and Glenis Redmond‘s poetry is masterful. She spins her stories through rich language and metaphor, and she delivers them with a captivating voice. Yet Redmond does more than recite; she lures in her listeners with dramatic imagery, countless facial expressions, and gestures that belong on the stage. Her acting ability shines as she declares she has “the disposition of a poet,” words she read from her collection of poetry, What My Hand Say (2016, Press 53). On this occasion, she addressed K-12 students and families through an online streaming event hosted by The Schaefer Center‘s APPlause! Series at Appalachian State University. Glenis Redmond is an inspiration.

With experience teaching all ages, Redmond is at ease in front of a camera. She walked us on a poetry exploration beginning with a study guide that would make any Language Arts teacher smile. She taught us through verse, personal vignettes, and historical sketches, only stopping to breathe. Her deliberate and strong voice grabbed me; I laughed and I cried. Speaking in the vernacular of “we, the people,” she speaks from the heart of one who grew up feeling loved. She opened her program with her poem “Mamma’s Magic,” a tribute to her mother. “I had no idea we were poor,” she said to her listeners.

Redmond continued her life story with the poem “Pilot’s License.” She introduced the poem with a little story about how she mastered her signature while practicing with green marker on white walls of her bedroom to earn a library card. (We did not learn of her punishment, but she got into “big trouble that day”). The library was a place where she learned to “fly,” a metaphor she uses again for her poem about Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates, “I’m Fly.”

In junior high, Redmond penned her earliest work during morning journal writing in Miss Sergeant’s English class. Years later, Miss Sergeant gave her, now a grown student, roses while attending Redmond’s writing workshop in Albermarle, NC. It was then the teacher revealed “it was my first year teaching” and that she had no idea the young student filled a notebook with poetry. Redmond’s poem “Lifeline” is a tribute to her school experience.

Redmond read poems about other individuals who inspired her: her grandmother; Harriet Tubman; and David Drake, an enslaved potter who taught himself to write. Her penultimate reading was “Self Portrait: Bard in the Making,” inspired by a tenth-grade student, Yolanda Walker, and her recitation of Jackie Earley‘s poem “1,968 Winters.”

The poet suggested to students they spend time with a journal, listen to the stories of their grandparents, and even pay attention in school. If you read poetry for pleasure but never write a word, and you skipped the study guide altogether, you will still enjoy this class. And if you are ready for more poetry, Glenis Redmond has published a number of books you will love, including Under the Sun (2013, Main Street Rag) and The Three Harriets and Others (2022, Finishing Line Press). They are available on her website and on Amazon. Her collection Praise Songs for Dave the Potter, with art by Jonathon Green, will be published in the fall of 2022 by University of Georgia Press.  

You can listen to this program until April 27. It is free, but you must register.