Versify #20: Mercy At The Ryman

Photo credit: Hunter Armistead
For singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, coming to country music in her 40s was one of many things that made her feel like an industry outsider. Today, Mary speaks with poet Destiny Birdsong about her unconventional entry into the music business, and how an unforgettable performance at the Ryman redefined Mary’s relationship to her music — and to herself. Destiny takes the high notes of their conversation and composes an original poem.


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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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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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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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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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Versify #14: Insider’s Guide To Prayer

Photo courtesy of Mark Lemley
When Mark Lemley was 17, he lived through a near-death experience that fundamentally altered his outlook on life: a car accident that has haunted him for 24 years, and he wasn’t even the one in the car. In this episode hear the story of Mark’s relationship with his childhood best friend Ryan — and how Ryan’s brush with death forced Mark to reevaluate his beliefs. Mark tells his story to poet Megan Leanne, who takes his complicated history and turns it into poetry.

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Versify #13: The Thread Stretched Between Us

They say you should never go into business with family — but for Craig Fernandes, starting a patriotic clothing company with his son Brady has actually brought the two of them closer together. Craig speaks to poet Kelley Bell about how experiencing a mid-career layoff helped him get to know his son better, at a point in life where most parents and their children grow apart.

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Versify #12: A Hurricane, A Wedding, And A Flood

Photo courtesy of Betty Malo.
For Betty and Raul Malo, lead singer of country band the Mavericks, their romantic life has been punctuated by a series of severe storms. August of ’92: Hurricane Andrew throttled the Florida coastline, destroying Betty’s home just months before their wedding. So she and Raul eloped instead and moved to Nashville. But then, May of 2010: A 1,000-year flood devastated the city. In this episode, we’ll hear from Betty about the couple’s struggles over 25 years of marriage and learn why their experience resonates with poet Allison Boyd Justus, who takes what she’s heard and turns it into poetry.

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Versify #11: The Blood Tie

Photo courtesy of Emily Tan
Emily Tan comes from generations of immigrants and refugees; and she’s traveled the globe in pursuit of a family history fragmented by war. In this episode, Emily speaks with poet Destiny Birdsong about her journey to reconnect with relatives both past and present. You’ll hear about Emily’s experiences abroad, her mother’s ongoing search for the siblings she lost while fleeing Cambodia, and Emily’s own search for a relationship with her older brother, who lives in the same city but might as well be on the other side of the world.

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