October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, by Lesléa Newman
My take: The author of Heather Has Two Mommies had been due to deliver the keynote speech at the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week just days after gay student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in 1998. She ultimately delivered her talk, but understandably felt the incident at her core. Since then, she has completed this collection of poems about Matthew, his attack, and its aftermath in which she writes imagined responses from assorted perspectives — the attackers, Matthew’s family, a police officer, the fence upon which Matthew was strung up, a nearby deer, the road.
It was beautiful and stark and painful to read, and ultimately I felt I needed to keep it at arm’s length in order to get through it. I can see this being a good addition to a resource room or school library. I also think it would pair well with recordings or performances of modern slam poetry to explore verse as a tool for recording and understanding current and historic events.