Thanks to a program offered by Muddy Ford Press, much loved and respected speaker and author Ann-Chadwell Humphries can add published poet to her long list of achievements. The family-owned publishing company located in Chapin launched The Laureate Series several years ago in a nod to the time-honored literary tradition of experienced writers mentoring and encouraging newer, noteworthy voices. A laureate chooses a poet whose excellent work has not yet been published in book form. Ann was chosen and mentored by Columbia City laureate Dr. Ed Madden.
A popular and highly respected speaker on business etiquette, founder of ETICON, and author of “The Right Moves,” Ann, prior to her retirement, enthralled her audiences, who in the past were often unaware that Ann’s vision was slowly shrinking due to retinitis pigmentosa. After she was originally diagnosed with the genetic disorder, she had left her successful career in the medical field while raising children and planning her future. Since childhood, she has loved writing poetry and has pursued it seriously for a number of years. Vivacious and curly-haired, the expert on dressing for business success still enthralls audiences, now with poetry readings live and online.
Several poetic themes course through Ann’s book, An Eclipse and a Butcher. Memory is one of these, as Ann contemplates the experiences we all have that we may not quite understand or expect, and thus linger in our thoughts. Ann’s poetry also concerns family, growing up, and community. Ed, who served as editor, writes in the introduction, “But memory here is neither sentimental nor nostalgic. She is aware that unspoken relations stitch every scene, determine how we move through the world and what it offers us … Over and over Humphries offers little stories in which family, geography, catastrophe, nation are gravities that may push us together or pull us apart. What happens far away — in time or space — casts a shadow on what is near.”
Ann’s website features the banner “Ann-Chadwell Humphries, Poet” with braille underneath that spells out these words. Because Ann is blind, another theme in the book concerns sight and blindness and how to come to terms with living well.
If Ann needs assistance, she will sometimes ask, “I no longer see with my eyes, do you mind showing me where …?” Ann occasionally counts up the senses she does have, and some of the 16 she has tallied, such as sense of humor, are listed on her website.
Ann and her husband, Kirk, have lived in Columbia since 1970, and in the many seasons of her life she has contributed widely to the well-being of her adopted city. Ann grew up in Texas, and in the poem that lends the book its name, “An Eclipse and a Butcher,” she remembers a specific outing on July 20, 1963. Her mother and siblings had driven to town for weekly supplies. In anticipation of the upcoming total solar eclipse, the children asked the butcher if he would give them cardboard boxes so they could make pinhole cameras. “…On/our way out, we passed San Antonio/papers which headlined the President/and Mrs. Kennedy’s pending trip/to Dallas. But on that day, in the gravel lot/of a small town’s grocer, a family/turned its back to the sky/to watch the moon slide across the sun.”
Poet laureate Ed Madden notes that this book of poetry reflects resilience, beauty, and love. He applauds the poet’s economy of language and her ability to sketch entire portraits in a single line. He writes, “Straightforward language can carry unspoken cargoes of meaning, how the loss of something is not darkness but a moment that may limn the world around us with its rippling, unexpected light.”