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Gretna Wilkinson’s passion for words was cultivated where she was born and raised in Guyana, South America. Today she is known to speak mostly on love, human suffering, political and social commentary and childhood. She has published five volumes of poetry, “Opening the Drawer” being her most recently published.

Wilkinson came to the United States in 1981 with degrees in accounting and teaching already under her belt. Wilkinson earned a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in literature at Drew University upon coming to the United States. She was the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in the U.S.A.

She began working as a professor at the County College of Morris in New Jersey in the English department, specializing in literature, writing and intercultural communications for 16 years, until switching gears to where she now runs the creative program for the Red Bank Regional High School arts academy while giving several performances each year.

Here is an excerpt from her poem “On Becoming Aware:”

Sit in one of the spaces between the busy
obligations of your life,
Listen as heart beat and deep lung-filling
breaths blend their rhythms to sustain a sweet
lullaby for your soul,
Feel your spirit buoyed by the hand of the
Merciful One; sit, listen, feel, hush
If you look; if you look; if you dare, look!
You will find yourself in the center of God’s
shadow
God was there all the time.

From “On Becoming Aware” by Dr. Gretna Wilkinson, “Opening the Drawer,” publisher CoolWomen Press, 2011; fifth book of poetry.

— Compiled by Kaitlyn McCarthy

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