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.

Mari-Evans-at-dedication-of-her-mural-by-Michael-Alkemi-Jordan-at-the-Athenaeum-in-Indianapolis-081316-by-Jenna-Watson-Indy-Star-225x300, 49 words for Mari Evans: 1919-2017, Culture Currents
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-his-unfinished-mural-of-her-Indianapolis-080316-225x300, 49 words for Mari Evans: 1919-2017, Culture Currents
Mari Evans visits Michael Alkemi Jordan to check his progress on the gigantic mural of her in Indianapolis in early August.


Mari-Evans-mural-at-the-Athenaeum-in-Indianapolis-300x225, 49 words for Mari Evans: 1919-2017, Culture Currents
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.