By Elizabeth Wroten
Review: October Mourning by Leslea Newman
On 11, Mar 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.
This was such a beautiful book. I wouldn’t exactly call this a novel in verse, but the poems weave together to paint such a haunting and vivid picture of the events surrounding Matthew Shepard’s murder, I think you can call it one. And the sparse language of the poems really highlight the emotion and feeling of the events.
I do not consider myself a person who is particularly drawn to poetry, although I have occasionally read and enjoyed some novels in verse, but this collection of poems is so evocative, eloquent and heartbreaking that I was drawn in. Some were better than others, but as a whole the book was incredibly powerful. The poems are tender and moving, which really make this seem like the only appropriate medium for telling the stories behind the tragic event.