A ONE-PAGE BIO!
Prose about a Poet
A One-Page Bio? Well, Here It Is. 4/6/2023 Patrice M. Wilson, PhD
A. I am born on June 25, 1952. I grow into a very Catholic girl-child, who goes to grammar school when she is 5. She learns reading, which gives her comfort and company; she learns writing, which gives her someone to listen to her. She always carries with her a writing utensil and a notebook, in case she thinks of something to say. Sometimes, she has nothing to say.
One evening just after she learned to write, about age seven, her very gentlemanly and soft-spoken grand-uncle on my mother’s side of the family, was visiting her home. He noticed her equipage and asked, “What do you want to write?” A bit taken aback, she said “Nothing.” After all, she had to have something to say to others or to herself in order to write. He sat back in his chair and said: “Good! That word is spelled n-o-t-h-i-n-g.” Again she was surprised at his not understanding what she had meant by her answer. Plus, she knew already how to spell that word.
B. I have lived in the states of New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland, DC, Virginia, and Hawaii. I am familiar with many other places, but not through travel; as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “There is no frigate like a book.” And there is no airplane like TV. I visited Canada with my family once, at which time there was no conveyance for seven people like a Volkswagen bus. (Later there would be eight people, when my youngest sibling, a girl, was born to my two sisters, two brothers, and me.) I love nature; in my New Jersey backyard grew peonies, roses, cosmos, irises, whose quiet presences colored my summer days, along with road trips to parks and to the beach. In winter, snow! Sledding! Christmas! New clothes! You get the idea. I spent all the time I could, reading.
Sudden rupture occurs--my family moves to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was 15. Culture shock quickly ensued, i.e, I hated the South. I was colored enough to be Black, but not Black enough to be understood or accepted by many. My former neighborhood was mixed, in a little burrough called Roselle. We had the lovely tall and willowy Mrs. Wheeler, a white-haired elderly widow who played piano when my two sisters and I visited her in her parlor. There were Mr. and Mrs. Earl and Ezola Adams, a few doors up the block. Dr. Coburn and his wife lived on a little hill at the corner across and up the street. He made house-calls whenever you needed him. Next door, my good friend to this day, the very blond Joanne Latko and her parents and big brother. Anglo-American. African American. Trinidadian American. Polish American. Et al. Suddenly, I was in a segregated Black neighborhood--very nice houses and yards, but the hostility
of deep-seated racism was what I felt all around me. Except at the Catholic High School.
I plotted and schemed to go back North to college. I was an excellent student who became student council president and an award-winning essay writer. I had begun to write (very bad) poetry. I was listed in Who’s Who among American High School Students. I would shake the Southern dust off my feet.
C. I attended an obscure university called Yale--but I hated it there too. Go figure. Plus I realized I could not afford the fees. So I ended up at University of Maryland (where my parents then resided) College Park: wide open green spaces, not a courtyard in sight, no sirens at night, no dearth of bathtubs--where I seriously studied poetry; my poems went from very bad to acceptable. Upon graduation, I was not interested in publishing but only in writing. I wrote and did readings while working a part time job to pay for rent in a flat shared with my girlfriend in DC. We had a hand in the beginning of the Black arts movement--hers much bigger than mine. I moved back to NJ to find work in NYC. But, zap! I get sick and have to go to my parents’ home in--Richmond, VA. I get fed up there and, at last, work as a proofreader to pay for a ticket to Honolulu to be a TA in the UH English Department to earn a Master’s Degree, which I did.
D. The M.A. in English with a creative thesis in poetry, enabled me to teach as a lecturer for a year at UH, to move on to HPU and teach there for 20 years. I worked on publishing my poems in journals--the ones I liked in my thesis, with which, after a short time after graduation, I was no longer satisfied. I revised many of the poems and sent them out too. I also enrolled in and successfully completed the Ph.D. Program in English at UH while teaching full time at HPU. My first three chapbooks and my full-length poetry collection were published during my HPU career, after which I decided to enter the Carmelite Monastery in the lovely Koolau Mountains in Kaneohe. I retired while there and left, after five years, in 2019. I now live and reside very happily in Mililani, HI, doing a careful selection of the activities I have loved to do--and I loved all that I did. Moving forward at my leisure, reminiscing, and living alone--it’s better than the life of Riley.