By Rae Jefferson
The female legacy in Texas is as strong as the women of all walks of life who have given themselves to art, writing and music.
A new anthology titled “Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song,” which celebrates this feminine heritage, was the subject of an event featuring poetry reading from anthology contributors Tuesday evening at Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library.
The event was hosted by the anthology’s co-editors Donna Walker-Nixon; Dr. Cassy Burleson, senior lecturer of journalism, public relations and new media; and Rachel Crawford, as well as its publisher, Bryce Milligan.
Texas Poet Laureate Rosemary Catacalos and international poet Naomi Shihab Nye read original works aloud to an audience.
“I have to say – I haven’t done a reading in quite a while and also lost my mother, but I cannot think of a better feeling that I’ve had in a long time. Thank you very much,” Catacalos said to the audience before beginning her presentation. “This is a wonderful, wonderful treasure.”
“Her Texas” is a collection of literary works from 60 women of various cultures, disciplines and generations that has been in the works for the past three years, Burleson said. This diversity extended to the public esteem of the anthology contributors.
“Many people are well recognized in the book — they’re Poet Laureates, or they’ve won Pushcart Prizes or some kind of awards,” Burleson said. “We also, very deliberately, tried to find new and emerging women artists of all kinds.”
Milligan, who published the first all-Latina anthology, said “Her Texas” is a book that will benefit more people than just those who read it.
“All editors are donating all of their royalties toward the research of ovarian and breast cancer,” he said.
At the event, Burleson said the book is important because it brings women of different trades and interests together in one place, and is even an example of how many of these women are able to be successful in more than one arena.
“I believe that the arts are converging, and I think that it’s important to represent that in the book with the kinds of genres that we have,” Burleson said. “You’ll find women in there who are photographers and poets and short story writers, or painters, or sculptors. They have more than one talent and I think that is the way things are moving.
Burleson said “Her Texas” aims to create unity among readers, female and male.
“Our hope is that women who read ‘Her Texas’ can find other women with whom they can identify — and that men who read it will find it helps them better understand the women in their lives,” said Burleson in a press release.
One of the stories in the book centers on the experience of Elizabeth Bates, an assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media. In the anthology, Bates describes the effects of her cancer diagnosis.
“My husband cried when he read what I wrote,” she said in a press release. “I expressed the devastation I felt after being diagnosed, but also the hope I have now because I have him and my son to fight for.”
During her recitation, Nye said she wished to see the book influence readers in the very place she found herself so often as a child — the library.
“I hope this book will live in every Texas library, and all the small town libraries,” she said. “Let’s do a tiny town tour of Texas and make sure it’s everywhere.”