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ABAC’s Newberry publishes poetry collection “How to Talk About the Dead”

 

TIFTON—Dr. Jeff Newberry, a Writing and Communication professor at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, has released “How to Talk About the Dead,” his latest poetry collection that explores memory, heritage, and how people connect to the past.

The book launch event is scheduled for Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at Edwards Hall. “How to Talk about the Dead” is available from Red Hawk Publications at https://redhawkpublications.com.

The book, dedicated to the author’s parents, delves into the complexities of the past and draws inspiration from their childhoods as sharecroppers’ kids in rural South Georgia. Through these poems, Newberry explores the ways in which we remember, honor, and preserve our personal histories.

“This collection is more explicitly about family than anything I’ve written before,” Newberry said. “I think part of everything I write is trying to figure out what it means to be a son and a father. I’ll be 50 in July, which is hard to wrap my head around. I was supposed to go out at 27 like a rock star, and here I am two decades later with a mortgage and a kid that’s about to graduate high school. This book explores that dynamic of what it means to be both a son and a father and how to negotiate all that.”

The genesis of “How to Talk About the Dead” can be traced back to a transformative trip Newberry took to his mother’s childhood home in 2015.

“My dad died when I was young, and we were never close to his side of the family, so I didn’t know much about the Newberrys. I was visiting my mom for her 50th high school reunion and a cousin took us to a cemetery out in the middle of a cotton field, a place I’d never visited,” said Newberry. “It was clearly taken care of, and we got out of the car, and she told me these were my ancestors. Standing in that rural graveyard, I was struck by how close I felt for the very first time to my past. I remember thinking that I don’t even know who these people are but for the first time I felt close to my family, but they were dead. That feeling led to the sonnet “Family Plot.” That poem gave me the inspiration for the rest of the collection.”

Newberry brings a wealth of literary expertise and teaching experience to his work. As a former editor of the college’s literary magazine, Pegasus, he has cultivated a deep appreciation for the power of words and their ability to evoke emotion and spark introspection. Previous publications include chapbooks, full-length collections, and a novel have established Newberry as a versatile and accomplished writer. His collaborative work with Justin Evans, “Cross Country,” received critical acclaim, further cementing his reputation as a poet of depth and resonance.

“ABAC has been a really good creative home for me,” Newberry said. “I’m given the creative ability and space to explore and write what I want to write. I feel like this place has grown with me, or I’ve grown with it. It’s been very good for me.”

Newberry’s poetry is known for both its accessibility and intellectual depth, striking a balance that appeals to poetry enthusiasts as well as newcomers to the genre.

“I feel poetry has a bad reputation,” Newberry said. “There’s an idea that you need a PhD to understand it, or there’s some secret code to it, that you have to have a secret decoder ring to understand. I try to write poems that are accessible to a general reader but there’s also some depth there. I think, in the end, I write what I want to read, and that’s poetry that’s accessible, that moves beyond emotion, that has something intellectual to it but is still accessible.”

 

Dr. Jeff Newberry, a Writing and Communication professor at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, has released a new poetry collection, “How to Talk About the Dead.”

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