Poet Gretna Wilkinson visits CHS


Blot photo by Catie Procyk

Gretna Wilkinson recites her poetry at an assembly at CHS on Thursday.

Emma Barofsky

“There’s no sound more beautiful than the river rushing by minding its own business,” Gretna Wilkinson wrote in her poem, Down by the River

Students at CHS gathered in the cafeteria to hear poet Gretna Wilkinson recite her poems and share her life story on Thursday, Jan. 9. After listening to Wilkinson, they learned that her love for nature had sparked when she was young.

Born and raised in Guayana, South America, Wilkinson began her missionary teaching career at the age of 16 in the jungle. Wilkinson said that she “lived in the jungle for seven years.” Later on, she went to the United States, where she gained her doctorate at Drew University, and began her career as a creative writing teacher at Red Bank Regional High School.

Earlier in her life, Wilkinson’s poetry journey began when she was in kindergarten. Her class needed to recite poems each week.

“My teacher fertilized language inside of me, and I started writing ever since,” Wilkinson said. “Language is powerful. It can make or break you.”

Wilkinson has written a numerous amount of poems in her life, one of which took her a year and a half to write. She explained that she does indeed have a favorite: Underground Jazz. She wrote this poem in a unique way.

“I went to a jazz concert and there were no lights and no paper. I borrowed a pen from somebody next to me and wrote on a napkin. In a way, that poem wrote itself,” Wilkinson said.

Junior Kiera Higgins of Sea Girt was one of the many students who attended the assembly. After listening to Wilkinson’s poems, Higgins described the emotions that she felt.

“I think what inspired me was that she was very passionate about her writing and stories… I would describe her poems as captivating,” Higgins said. “They were full of energy and meaning and it gained everyone’s attention.”

Although there are many aspects to Wilkinson’s career that she enjoys, her favorite part is influencing children.

“I think I still do a kind of surgery,” Wilkinson said. “I carve young minds and show them new ways of seeing themselves and others, and new ways of navigating this life.”