Neva Herrington, poet and retired English professor, read from her original poetry and answered questions at Duncan Library on Wednesday evening as part of the monthly author talks program hosted by the Friends of Duncan Library.
Herrington read from her poetry collections, inlcuding "Blue Stone and Other Poems," published in 1986, "Her BMW and Other Poems," published in 2007, and a series of poems from a finished but not-yet-published book currently titled "Open Season."
One of her poems, “Woodchuck,” will be republished in the fall in an anthology released by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
In November 1994, Neva Herrington's daughter, Elizabeth, was murdered in Fredericksburg. The trail grew cold, but DNA from a single hair assisted in identifying the killer eight years later. Elizabeth’s story later became the focus of an episode of the A&E Network's "Cold Case Files."
At one point Wednesday evening, Neva described an event that had happened five months before Elizabeth had died. Elizabeth was at a 7-Eleven in Fredericksburg when she went into cardiac arrest. As a woman began CPR, two paramedics happened to stop by the store to get a cup of coffee. They brought her to Mary Washington, worked on her through the night and, after losing her on four separate occasions, brought her back to life.
“It was a miracle,” Herrington said.
Although several of the poems, mostly from "Her BMW," are centered around Elizabeth’s cardiac arrest and murder, Herrington read several poems that were on the lighter side of life. She read a poem about garlic, a neighborhood dentist she used to visit and “The Bakery Sonnet,” which is about Brenner’s Bakery and incited laughs from the crowd on several occasions.
Holley Kilcullen, a South Union Street resident and friend of Herrington, suggested Herrington to Duncan Library as a potential participant in the author talks and attended the event.
“I thought it was terrific,” said Kilcullen. “I loved it.”
During the question-and-answer portion of her talk, Herrington discussed the rigorous stages she goes through when developing a poem, how she developed her clear, engaging style of poetry reading and her philosophy of what makes a good poetry reader.
“That’s what poetry is, the connection between the words and the way the language is. That’s the only way you’ll get any kind of resonance in a poem.“ Herrington said. “If it’s just flat, flat, flat, it won’t work.”
Herrington also described the enjoyment she gets from reading the poems because of the connections they foster with the audience.
“I like that my poems seem to mean something to people,” Herrington said.
“I think with poetry, now it’s all reputation, where did you go… but it’s the poems,” said Herrington. “They mean something to somebody and they hold onto them.”
Leonard Goldstein, chair of the author talks and adult programs for the Friends of Duncan Library, was more than satisfied with Herrington’s talk and respected how Herrington's poems approached the untimely death of her daughter.
“I think that’s a pretty difficult thing to pull off,” Goldstein said. “To make something you feel deeply about felt by others."
Herrington's poems have appeared in several journals, including "The Southwest Review," "Chariton Review," "Confrontation," "Connecticut River Review," "Southern Review" and "Union Street Review," an Alexandria-based press.
Her first collection, "Blue Stone and Other Poems," was a Pushcart Foundation selection for “Writer’s Choice” in 1986.