Charlotte Mears '72 - Elizabeth McNulty Wilkinson '25 Poet
Posted 04/29/2014 10:39AM

Afterward, she was swamped by girls and guests, friends, and former teachers
at the reception in West Chester.

It was a full house in the chapel on April 17 with guests and staff peopling the choir loft as Ansie Baird introduced Charlotte Mears ’72 as the poet for year’s Elizabeth McNulty Wilkinson’ 25 reading.

It is only the second time since the event was endowed 29 years ago that a SEM graduate has been the guest poet.

Mrs. Baird ’55 invited Ms. Mears to come from her home in Madison, Mississippi to be this year’s Wilkinson poet on behalf of SEM’s English department.

 “Charlotte’s poems are concerned with the fallibilities of the human condition,” she said, and shortly thereafter the visiting poet took the podium for the first time since Class Day, 1972, and spoke with a catch in her throat.

 “SEM nurtured me and challenged me,” she said, and thanked Head of School Jody Douglass and the board for, “maintaining and enriching SEM’s highest standards.”

Ms. Mears told the assembled that her first poem was written while she was a freshman at SEM, in April 1969, upon the death of her brother. She also said it took her 10 years to feel like it was finished.

“There’s research that goes along with making a good poem. You have to make sure they’re a little bit accurate.”

Her poems are full of woodpeckers, drilling beetles, starlings, barking dogs, green lobster, a rotted seal and a heavenly whale (AKA the Goodyear blimp). 

She described her own poems as playful with an undertone of serious which seems much like the poet herself. Her most recent book of poems is Sweet Air, published by Sweet Air Press.

Her final words at the podium were a little southern, “By the way y’all, you’re going to love this place years after you’re gone.”


On This Day

His wife had spotted a blimp.
He didn’t believe her.
She said, You’ll see.
He took her shopping bag,
she looked up,
took it upon himself
to walk between her and the curb.
She smiled to the big blue sky.
Just wait. It’s huge!
He watched for obstructions,
nudged her around
bottles and trash cans,
noticed blackbirds as they steered
clear of one yellow tricycle.
LOOK! LOOK! she jabbed her finger
straight through the blue.
He was caught instead by the slenderness of her ankles.
She clapped her hands together.
He looked up. Goodyear sailed overhead
like a heavenly whale.
He felt himself on its underside,
hands light in the wind,
pointing to a man with a bag
standing beside a woman
against sidewalk traffic.
Their faces open and round.