Versify #19: Thank God For That Judge

Photo courtesy Helen German
Being in love often requires making sacrifices, but for Helen German, the sacrifice was a big one: Finding romance meant losing the approval of her family. Today, Helen relates the details of her life story, from surviving the air raids of World War II to sustaining a 65 year marriage, while managing to hold on to her beliefs. Helen shares her story to poet Bryan Byrdlong, who turns her lifetime of perseverance into poetry.

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Versify #18: Never Forget Your Name, Lyzette

Photo courtesy Lyzette Garza
For Lyzette Garza, learning to embrace her Mexican American heritage has been a lifelong journey. Lyzette speaks with poet Kelley Bell about her formative childhood moments: hearing stories from her dad under the stars, encountering prejudice on a family trip to Colorado, and how those experiences — along with her father’s enduring love of boots — have helped shape Lyzette’s perspective on her culture. And Kelley takes Lyzette’s account and turns it into poetry.

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Neighbors: Red State Mama

Neighbors: Red State Mama
photo courtesy Marlo Mack

Marlo Mack has a young transgender daughter. She met another woman named Debi Jackson who has a very similar parenting story to her own, the only difference is where they live. Marlo lives in a liberal community where she and her transgender daughter are supported. Debi grew up a Southern Baptist conservative in a Red State. This transition has cost her a lot more, than Marlo and her daughter.

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Versify #17: Ending The Game With Sunset

Photo courtesy Paresh Sheth
For most people, living with your parents past your early 20s isn’t something to make a point of bringing up in public. But Paresh Sheth says that living with his mom and dad in a three generation household has deepened his understanding of commitment — especially now that his mother is in the hospital. Paresh shares his story of witnessing the evolution of his parent’s relationship to poet Alicia Marie Brandewie, who takes their struggle, love and change and turns it into poetry.

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Neighbors: Our Father

Neighbors: Our Father
photo courtesy Thomas McKenzie

Jakob issues himself a challenge to redo the first story he ever made, about Anglican priest Father Thomas McKenzie and his dad. The title of Father can come with some pretty weird and difficult territory—counseling people through tough times, performing weddings, visiting people on their deathbed. Most are routine to Thomas, but he was stopped in his tracks when he got a call saying that his own father was dying.

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Versify #16: Acknowledgement Of Paternity For A Child Born To An Unmarried Woman


Amelia and Mark share the story of their intense uncertainty about having their first child, Silas — but the surprising joy of his first year. As 30-something New Yorkers transplanted to Nashville, they’re more ironic than emotive in telling this tale, but their words resonate with poet Susannah Felts, who weaves a detail-laden poem to crystallize the family’s first year.

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Neighbors: Miso’s Brother

Neighbors: Miso’s Brother
Photo credit: Eric England

Miso and Dejan are Bosnian refugees who met as children when they were both resettled in the same apartment complex in Nashville, Tenn. After they each turned 30 they made a pilgrimage all the way back to Bosnia to visit the grave of Miso’s younger brother. In confronting generations of grief and the void left in his family, Miso finds the brother he actually does have.

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Versify #15: How They Met

Photo courtesy Marcia Barker
When our poets ask people to share an important story from their lives, they often like to tell us about how they met their partners. And though she admits it’s a bit cliché…Marcia Barker shares the story of an unlikely first encounter with a handsome stranger named Brent, and a resulting romance full of jetsetting, serendipity and suspicion.

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