INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Disciples of the written word gathered at the home of the late poet Laura (Riding) Jackson for In a Southerly Light, a poetry reading featuring three talented writers, whose books were published as part of the Anhinga Press Florida Poetry Series.
More than 100 literary lovers, many established writers in their own right, enjoyed a gorgeous Florida afternoon alongside the quaint cracker-style home, where chairs had been set up under an open-air tent for the reading. A full Bono’s BBQ dinner and all the fixings was enjoyed after the reading, at picnic tables set up in the original Jackson pole barn, accompanied by bluegrass music by the Hot Sauce Boys.
“We wanted to do a program for the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation in honor of National Poetry Month,” said Indian River County native Sean Sexton.
Blood Writing, Sexton’s newly published book of poetry, was one of those presented. By day, Sexton manages the family’s Treasure Hammock Ranch, but he and his wife Sharon are also both accomplished artists.
“I’ve been writing poetry quite a while; since my early 20s,” said Sexton. “But I was surprised that they wanted to publish the book; I had just asked them for advice on how to self-publish. I’ve entered a whole literary world I’d not been connected with before.”
Prior to the readings, guests wandered throughout the historic home of Laura Riding, a noted poet of the 20th century, and husband Schuyler Jackson. The home was transported about 12 years ago from Wabasso to its current location on the grounds of the Environmental Learning Center campus.
As Charlotte Terry, LRJ Foundation Board President, stood at the home’s porch to direct the flow, long-time friend J.J. Wilson smiled up at her and said, “You’ve got your organizing look on.”
And indeed she did. In fact, she’s been organizing its fundraising events for years. In addition to the home’s preservation, the foundation hosts writers’ workshops, oral history programs and retreats, each with a focus on literature, history and the environment.
“I was intrigued with the house; I had a personal connection” said Terry. “Laura and her husband used to raise citrus and pack fruit. When I first visited the house I saw a match box and shipping label from my grandfather’s wholesale grocery.”
The guest speakers were introduced by Rev. Casey Baggott, who confessed her deep love of poetry and asked the group, “Can you remember the first time falling in love with a poem?”
The first to read, Silvia Curbelo, author of the Secret History of Water, immigrated to the United States with her parents as a child. The soft fluidity of her words caresses the imagery of a simpler guileless stage of her life.
Reading from his book, Like Happiness, poet Michael Hettich brought laughter and a return to innocence through childhood memories and the changes that come with aging. Hettich also read a few pieces from The Animals Beyond Us, a new book due for release this fall.
Sexton’s poetry reflects the gritty life and death struggle of life on the ranch, but also offers a peek into his life as a young married man.
“Some of the poems have been 25 years in the writing,” said Sexton, adding that when he went back to edit them, he needed to be kind to that younger man.
“Thank you all for coming out to a poetry reading,” said Sexton in closing. “You don’t know how radical you all are.”