By Kaitlyn McCarthy
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – On Nov. 20 in Civic Hall, Gretna Wilkinson graced Camden County College with her readings of poems to students and faculty.
Originally from Guyana, South America, Wilkinson worked with inner-city children to help them find their voices and speak for themselves. After coming to the United States, she fell in love with words, and so commenced her love of poetry and writing.
She told the audience, “I have no idea what originally inspired me. I think insanity probably. When I was a little girl, I loved to play with words. I’d play with imaginary words. I think it was insanity, but growing up cured me. Or maybe I’m still mad.”
Wilkinson captivated her audience with her contagious sense of humor and smiles. Her work focuses mostly on love, women’s issues, human suffering and children’s happiness as well as the Guyanese culture. Her poems she shared covered many different aspects of her life, each one holding a slight mystery but cheeriness about them.
Many students who took part in the event were aspiring writers themselves and were curious to know how Wilkinson knew when she was ever fully satisfied with her poems after writing them.
“I’m not afraid to be insane for writing,” she stated. “I’m not afraid to just free my mind and just do it. I don’t come to the path of what could be or what should be, I just do. You eavesdrop secrets of the universe.”
Zachary Diamond, a first semester student at CCC, was touched after listening to her readings.
“Gretna’s work is different than other writers I’ve heard before,” Diamond said. “She seems to bring joy into every poem. It’s inspired me to do the same with mine.”
Diamond is a journalism major hoping to publish his own book of poems one day.
The best advice Wilkinson said she could give to future writers is this: “Most people believe you write from the head up, using your brain. No – you write from the souls of your feet up. Your whole body is involved. Keep the soul in it, and you’ll never go wrong.”
She compared herself to writers such as William Carlos Williams and Anne Sexton for the reason that they exhibit as much joy in their poems as she does.
At the end of the event, Wilkinson handed out her five published volumes of poems and welcomed the attendees to purchase the books after the night concluded, as she gladly met each person and signed her name in each book.