In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was kidnapped, robbed, beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. Eighteen hours passed before he was discovered and taken to a hospital. He died five days later with his family at his side. It was the beginning of Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming, and Lesléa Newman was the scheduled keynote speaker. She arrived to find a devastated campus and community. The brutality of Matt’s death shook the world.
OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD is Lesléa Newman’s personal response to this tragedy. The book is a cycle of 68 poems told in fictitious monologues from various points of view including the truck Matt was kidnapped in, the fence he was tied to, the stars that watched over him, a deer that kept him company all through the night.
Lesléa Newman is the author of 64 books for readers of ages including the poetry collections STILL LIFE WITH BUDDY, NOBODY’S MOTHER, I REMEMBER: HACHIKO SPEAKS, and SIGNS OF LOVE. Her literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation. From 2008-2010 she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA. Currently Lesléa Newman teaches writing for children and young adults at Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program. She received a Certificate in Poetics from the JKS in 1980.