49 words for Mari Evans: 1919-2017

Journey of Our Half-Century PoetShip

by Eugene B. Redmond

O Nightstar, ankhor’d in Clarity of memwar,

you jazzed Knights of Etheridge. Pruned Gwen

& Joanne’s “furious flowers.” Laid Eyes on

Zora pre-casting Oprah’s. “Renewed” slavery-mangled

loves “look[ing] on” you, as I staged

your words – & Dumas’ – in Baton Rouge,

Harlem, Sacramento, Lagos & East Saint Louis.

Poet Mari Evans enjoys the dedication of her mural, painted by Michael Alkemi Jordan, at the Athenaeum in Indianapolis on Aug. 13, 2016. – Photo: Jenna Watson, Indy Star
Mari Evans visits Michael Alkemi Jordan to check his progress on the gigantic mural of her in Indianapolis in early August.


The huge mural of Mari Evans, on Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis, keeps company with a similar sized mural of Kurt Vonnegut nearby.

Poet-composer-playwright-critic Mari Evans Phemster was funeralized March 21, 2017, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Participants included poet-friends Sonia Sanchez, Haki R. Madhubuti and Joanne V. Gabbin, pastors, choir members, Carl Himes’ jazzers and the brilliant “souloist” Vicki Daniels. Among poets and publishers attending: Angela Jackson, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, y’all’s truly. Like her friend, Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), Mari’s output preceded the Black Arts Movement, though many of her titles and themes – like “I Am a Black Woman” – became anthems of BAM.

Eugene B. Redmond, poet laureate of East St. Louis, emeritus professor of English at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and author of the best-selling book, “Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry,” the posthumously published works of Henry Dumas and 25 volumes of poetry, can be reached at eredmon@siue.edu.