Minerva Gail Hawkins is a poet. That alone says a lot but not near enough to understand the complicated life that underscores her work. She started writing at the age of eight (a story about a sickly child and the balloons that floated up to her hospital room), had parents who encouraged her poetry, was a graduate of Temple University and received her graduate degree in Cultural Anthropology and Mass Media from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, then Rome as an exchange student and the tragedy that struck her far too early in her life. Her parents died, one three months after the other.
Eventually life regained some semblance of normalcy with what she calls her dream job at National Geographic as a researcher on children’s books about animals, working as part of an editorial team with photographers, artists and writers. She taught writing for twenty years. There was a fifteen-year interruption in her life from a spinal cord injury and the loss of so many connections in her life. She has recently set about to find her old friends from her academic years and the students she taught. “Google,” she says, “is the new phone book.”
Minerva is the only one now in charge of her family history, so she made a life-changing decision to read what turned out to be surprisingly romantic letters her father wrote to her mother in 1942. Minerva talks about her life, the loss of her parents and of her poetry daughter, her music, the poetry whose call she could never ignore, and Mother Downbeat who stepped in to her life when her own mother died. The letters filled some gaps, and Minerva’s insight about why they left this earth one on the heels of the other is a lesson in love.
Listen to Minerva read one of her father’s letters and feel the joy in a daughter’s voice making unexpected discoveries about a father she loves. Her poem to Mother Downbeat is a dynamic rhythm history of love and healing. Because Minerva’s is the complicated life of an exceptionally accomplished, talented, affectionate woman, and because this is just the tip of the iceberg, it is best to hear the details of it in her own powerful loving voice.