Akron poet returns home, speaks at KSU

Christina Stafford


A. Van Jordan speaks at the Wick Poetry Reading last night.

Credit: Adam Griffiths

“As if two girls were starting a fire/ On all sides of my daughter / She is set ablaze: the girls swing/ Two clotheslines between them/ As if they were goddesses,” read A. Van Jordan from the poem “Rope,” part of his award-winning book of poems, M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A.

Jordan read last night in the Student Center to more than 75 people as part of the 2007 Wick Poetry Series. He read out of his two published books, M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A and Rise, as well as his book to be published this summer, Quantum Lyrics.

M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A is a collection of poems that tells the story of MacNolia Cox, a teenager growing up in Akron in the 1930s.

She became the first African-American finalist in the National Spelling Bee Competition in 1936 but was eliminated from the competition when she misspelled a word not on the approved list. The story does not stop when she loses the competition – Jordan goes on to portray her as a grown, married woman. One of the poems is even told from her husband’s point of view after her death.

“You deserve to read the books in heaven,” the poem reads. “Grab a mink coat for your shoulders in heaven.”

Jordan said he was inspired to write M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A when he was visiting home and read an Akron Beacon Journal article about Cox.

Family members and friends Jordan hadn’t seen in a while were present at the reading. Born and raised on Akron’s west side, he was reading to the students of Kent State as well as visiting home.

The reading was followed by a book signing and reception, where the audience could purchase Jordan’s two books.

“You can get two books for the price of a good bottle of wine and a meal,” said Maggie Anderson, director of the Wick Poetry Center, “and they will last a lot longer.”

Earlier in the day, Jordan spoke to the Kent Scholars Program at Roosevelt High School as well as one of the poetry classes at Kent State.

“I want to thank Kent State University and the Wick Poetry Center,” Jordan finished. “It has been a great visit home.”

Contact College of Arts & Sciences reporter Christina Stafford at [email protected].