Tribute to E.M. Atkinson, Assistant Professor of English, Red Deer College

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Tribute to E.M. Atkinson poem by Darlene Witte

She was so much the lost poet herself
her long brown hair wound up on her head,
her slender navy dress with the cigarette burn
near the hem.

Her face tilted down toward
books resting on her bent left arm.
Huge eyes behind seas of glass.
Lopsided smile, never focused on her path but
somewhere above, below or beside.

Her delicate English accent seduced
our prairie – tuned ears. Hers was an unfamiliar music.

One day, she handed back a small bit of my writing, and said:
“You use adjectives exactly like Wordsworth,” she smiled.

There it was, her voice, rich like plums, warm and pleased.
“And, I can’t figure out how you’re doing it.” Her eyes laughed.

“I’m starting a little group for poets. I thought you might like to join.
Thursdays at 2.” I was there. It felt odd. A place to belong.

A space in which to settle myself.
She taught the Romantics.

We kept in touch.
When the time came she gave me the navy dress. The
hem stitched by hand and folded up so not to reveal the burn.
“Too short for me now,” she explained, insisted.

I wore it to my first interview. To teach.
The fit was perfect.

Darlene Witte
Darlene Witte

Professor of Education, (retired) at Johnson State College in Vermont leads the Green Mountain Writers' Poetry & Performance workshop that meets on Zoom each month on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 7 PM ET. Find out more at

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