I first met my 93 year-old friend Mildred nearly a decade ago when she answered an ad in the paper I had placed for help with a project for my students. We became fast friends as she cultivated a love of poetry in my students. Before I knew it she had uncovered a depth of feeling in them that I had never been able to tap. The resulting progressive poem still remains on stations along the nature trail at White County Intermediate School, and our poetry club that year was a great success. Mildred and I have been kindred spirits ever since. Teachers who love their subject matter and their students always bond to one another. I had no idea at that time that she was a well-known poet, and had won the Georgia State Poetry Society contest or the Charles B. Dickens honor. Twice. No one else has ever done that. I did not yet know she had published two chapbooks and was in process of writing her book Moving Gone Dancing when we met. I thought she was simply a nice lady who answered my ad. Turns out I was right.
When I heard that Columbus State University had named a poetry award after her I was not surprised in the least. Mr. Keith Badowski and Mr. Ron Self, both from Brick Road Poetry Press, have long been admirers of Mrs. Greear’s work. I agree with them that the Brick Road Greear Prize for Poetry is a lovely way to honor her life’s work and to insure that her legacy lives on for future generations. The honor is one of the four awards included in the Carson McCullers Literary Awards. It is the one designed to recognize one Georgia high school student, and one Columbus State University student for excellence in poetry composition. The winners receive a $150 cash prize and publication in CSU’s Arden Literary Journal. In this inaugural year of the award, the winners were Bodie Fox from Armuchee High School in Rome Ga. and Morgan Lamberson from CSU. The honorable mentions went to Hayley Schroeder from Harrison High School in Acworth GA, and Jeremy Andrews from CSU.
When I spoke with Mildred she couldn’t have been more proud that these students have won an award that bears her name. They demonstrated a love for poetry, which is her passion, and received recognition because of it. This made her giddy with excitement. There is nothing a poet likes better than to see poetry celebrated. Mildred is hopeful that next year’s contestants might include some White County High School students.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone in our own community won this award?”
I had to answer with a firm, “Yes. It would be wonderful indeed.”