• February 25, 2021

Poet and teacher reflects on upcoming honor - Odessa American: Education

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Poet and teacher reflects on upcoming honor

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Posted: Monday, February 3, 2020 4:40 pm

Reagan Magnet Elementary School music teacher and poet Loretta Diane Walker has earned many honors, the latest is her upcoming induction into the Texas Institute of Letters.

New members will be inducted at the upcoming TIL annual meeting to be held March 27-29 in Georgetown. 

“I’ve been published in over 200 different journals throughout the United States and Canada, the UK, India, Ireland, just various places. They look at things like that, your track record. Last year, I was selected out of 60 poets to be included in an international anthology. That was the one of the ones out of India. There’s prestige with many of these awards. I’m still grateful and I’m honored. This award, along with some others, they’re dreams I didn’t know how to dream,” Walker said. “You dream about writing a book, but you don’t know how to dream about receiving awards. They’re just things I didn’t know how to dream. They’re gifts that have been handed to me and I look at them that way.”

Interviewed in her music room at Reagan on Monday, Walker said she has five collections of poetry.

“Out of the five, my students are included in at least four. I’m basically a nature poet. … I write about everyday things. The last poem that I had accepted was about an undertaker. I just write about the everyday. Everything around us; everything is a poem. You can find a poem in anything,” Walker said.

Other inductees are poets Cyrus Cassells, ir’ene lara silva, Emily Perez; award-winning playwrights Octavio Solis and Regina Taylor (a Golden Globe winner); novelist Glenn Blake, Kathleen Kent and Natalia Sylvester; bestselling journalists/editors/publishers Nate Blakeslee, Dan Goodgame and Dan Williams; award-winning songwriters James McMurtry and Robert Earl Keen; environmental writer and editor Andrew Sansom; scholars Andrew R. Graybill and Emma Perez; children’s and YA author J.B. (Jessica) Powers; and photo-historian of award-winning Southwestern cultural histories Bill Wright.

“I am so honored because I will be … with people that I’ve read, people that I have on my shelf, people that I’ve admired, people that I’ve looked up to … It’s still hard for me to wrap my brains around it, so to speak, that I’ll be a part of that group,” Walker said.

Walker, who teaches music to students in grades kindergarten through five, grew up in Odessa and graduated from Ector High School. She took some classes at Odessa College, but got her bachelor’s of music at Texas Tech University and a master’s in elementary education with an emphasis in reading from University of Texas Permian Basin.

She said it’s hard to peg her poetry.

“I write a lot about West Texas, especially our sky. Our sky is amazing. You can write about it every day because there’s something always unfolding. I write a lot about nature. My students are inspiration and I said this during the convocation and I meant it: I gather so much information from lunch duty because they are not trying to please you, not really. They’re not trying to please the teacher. They’re just themselves and I get inspiration from them and inspiration just from everyday life. One of my books, ‘In this House,’ that book is about my journey with my first bout of breast cancer and my mother’s decline with diabetes,” Walker said.

She added that it also takes in houses that have been broken, homes that have been repaired and “just houses in the Earth as a home.” Walker noted that she writes about things people anywhere can relate to like shoes and socks and how they disappear in the dryer.

Her mother, although she has passed away, influences Walker quite a bit, along with her family and friends. With tears in her eyes, Walker said winning the awards is a double-edged sword because a lot of her work is about her mother, and she’s not here to see it.

But she said the last collection is more about her mother’s life than her death and the lessons and values provided.

Walker started writing poetry when she was a little kid.

“I absolutely love Dr. Seuss, but we had class assignments where you write poetry for Valentine’s cards … but when I was in fifth grade, Elaine Hunt read us the poem ‘If’ and I fell in love with poetry. At that time, something connected with me with that poem. I didn’t understand everything, but I just thought I want to do that. I wrote poems. I was a closet writer and like I said in 1999 or 2000, it was somewhere around there I attended the New Jersey Writing Project,” she said.

She had to answer questions and communicated with the workshop presenters. Walker said she answered questions via poetry and one of the workshop leaders told her, “You need to do something with this that’s how I got started in that respect.”

Another of her honors was being the commencement speaker at UTPB in 2016. She said it was because of the Phyllis Wheatley Book Award that she won. She added that winning the awards is something she doesn’t take for granted.

Despite her accomplishments, Walker said she still gets rejection letters.

“… I was telling the kids this morning, I said one thing you have to learn and I learned through track and PE, you have to learn how to win and you have to learn how to lose,” she said.

But each time she gets one, she still gets a twinge.

“… Because I judge poetry contests, that helps with rejection because when it comes down to the last three or four I’m thinking uhhhh I have to choose one. It’s not because I didn’t like the others; it was because I could only choose one. I usually end up choosing something that sticks with me,” Walker said.

Walker will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Ellen Noel Art Museum on her book “An Ode to My Mother’s Voice.”

Reagan Principal Wayne Squiers said everyone on campus is excited for Walker.

“… She works so hard and she’s such a wonderful lady, so we’re tickled for her,” Squiers said. “We’re celebrating with her as she’s been through some stuff personally in the last year that’s made it a rough road and it’s nice to see her come out on top again like this.”

To find a copy of Walker’s work, you can visit Amazon, or email her at walkerdl@aol.com or loretta.walker@ectorcountyisd.org.

Odessa, TX

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