Monthly Archives: December 2022

What’s in a Name?


Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 8

Philippians 2:5-11

Luke 2:15-21

Prayer of the Day: Eternal Father, you gave your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be a sign of our salvation. Plant in every heart the love of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:21.

What’s in a name? Early on in life my name was not my friend. In every neighborhood somebody, it seems, has to be that one weird kid that gets picked on. I am not sure how that particular honor fell to me. But somehow, it did. One of the many indignities I had to endure as a result was the twisting of my name with suffixes like “cotton tail,” “pumpkin eater” and “rabbit.” Those were the milder epitaphs. My name also unfortunately lent itself to a number of obscene permutations denoting the male genitals. Exasperated, I one day asked my Mom, “How come you had to name me Peter!” Her reply stuck with me my whole life.

“Your Dad and me named you Peter after Jesus’ disciple,” said Mom. “The one he trusted the most and who became a bold leader of the early church. He was also the disciple who let Jesus down when Jesus needed him most. I hope that name will keep you humble in your success and confident enough in God’s forgiveness to pick yourself up when you fail and try again.” I can’t honestly say that I came away from that exchange with a new found love for my name. I still longed to be John, Bill or anyone else with a ridicule resistant name. But I never forgot what Mom said to me about my name and, over time, it helped to shape my thinking about God as the giver of the second chance. I don’t doubt that at some point Mary, Joseph or perhaps both of them had a similar conversation with Jesus about his name, where it came from and why it landed on him.

It is a great power God has given to us human beings, the power to name. It was first given to Adam at the dawn of creation. Genesis 2:19. The names we give our children, the names of our towns, city streets and landmark buildings say a lot about who we are, what we believe and the things we value. They spell out our relationships to others and connect us to prior generations. Names can be a source of pride and self esteem. They can inspire us to become more than ever imagined we could be.

Sadly, that is only half the story. The power of naming can also be destructive. During my high school years, getting stuck with a name like “homo,” “fag” or “queer” made you a target for cruel and relentless teasing, harassment, humiliation and even violence. Racial epitaphs like the “N word” dehumanize whole groups of people. Labeling someone a “right winger,” “snowflake,” “communist” or “radical” boxes them into a narrow prison of one’s own preconceived stereotypes, making it impossible to listen to or hear what they are really saying. Naming becomes a demonic power when it is used to divide and create hostility rather than to heal and unite. I believe that our lessons for this Sunday are calling us to reclaim the divine power of naming for the holy cause of God’s just, righteous and compassionate reign.

I know of a pastor who greats his congregation with the words, “Good morning beautiful children of God.” The first time I heard it, it struck me as just a bit too shmaltzy. On further reflection, however, I believe that, notwithstanding my own liturgical prejudices, he is right on target. Saint Paul could wax every bit as eloquently about the love he had for his congregations, to whom he often referred as his “children.” Of course, we know that Paul’s congregations were often anything but beautiful. The church in Corinth is a case in point, riven as it was with power struggles, factionalism, sex scandals, doctrinal disputes and money issues. Yet Paul can name this congregation the Body of Christ. “Now you are,” says Paul, “the Body of Christ.” Not, “you should be the Body of Christ” or “maybe someday you will be the Body of Christ-if you ever manage to get your act together.” Paul says, present indicative, to this sad puppy of a church, “You are the Body of Christ.” I Corinthians 12:27.

There is a particularly striking passage from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind Through the Door that I think captures the power of naming. For those of you unfamiliar with that remarkable young adult novel, the protagonist Meg seeks to uncover the cause of her younger brother, Charles’ critical illness. She and her boyfriend Calvin join forces with a friendly cherubim named Progo in facing a series of ordeals, completion of which will lead them to the answer they seek. Progo, the cherubim, suggests to Meg that she might have been called to be a Namer.

“Well, then, if I’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?”

The [cherubim’s] wings drew together, the eyes closed, singly, and then in groups, until all were shut. Small puffs of mist-like smoke rose, swirled about him. “When I was memorizing the names of stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.”[1]

God is the ultimate name giver. God named Abraham and Sarah. God named Israel. God names each one of us in baptism, “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,
   but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
   but now you have received mercy. I Peter 2:9-10.

Naming is the way in which God holds the world together against all the forces of evil that would rip it apart. Naming is a powerful way of reminding us that we are better than what we too often imagine. It is important, I believe, to use this great God-given power in a constructive way wherever and whenever we can. Those obligatory name tags grocery store employees are compelled to wear make this easy. It is important to tell the cashier, “Thanks, Kim. Have great holiday.” It is important to say, “Thanks, Jim for bagging.” Calling people by name lets them know that we recognize their humanity. It acknowledges that these individuals are not simply cogs in the wheels of commerce, but people with stories, connections and lives that matter. Naming these people lets them know that the work they do is important and appreciated. It becomes harder to hate when you know a person’s name. Harder still when you begin to understand the meaning of that name. Naming builds bridges across borders, between enemies and over seemingly irreconcilable differences. There is so very much in a name!

Here is a poem by Helen Hoyt about the power of calling one by name.


My name is beautiful to me when you say it;

A new name.

No one ever had this name before:

Your voice changes it.

It is a new name,


Never till now spoken, or any touch laid on it.

Source: Poetry, (December 1918). Helen Hoyt (1887-1972) was born in Norwalk, Connecticut. She attended Miss Baird’s School for Girls in Norwalk, Connecticut and later earned an A.B. at Barnard College. In 1921, she married fellow poet William Whittingham Lyman Jr. Early in her career, Hoyt was an Associate Editor of the journal Poetry. Several of her articles and poems were published within that magazine from 1913 to 1936. Hoyt also edited the September 1916 edition of Others: A Magazine of the New Verse. Other magazines to publish her work include The Egoist and The Masses. In addition to her own collections, her work has also been published in notable anthologies of her times, including The New Poetry: An Anthology (1917), The Second Book of Modern Verse (1920), Silver Pennies: Modern Poems for Boys and Girls (1925), May Days (1926) and The Best Poems of 1931. You can find out more about Helen Hoyt and sample more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation web site.

[1] L’Engle, Madeleine, A Wind Through the Door, (c. 1973 by Crosswicks, Ltd.) p. 78.

Jesus at the Border


Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12

John 1:1-14

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” John 1:14.

The holidays are hectic even for those of us who are retired from full time employment. I expect that you might have as little time to read as I do to write. So I will make this short and sweet.

My guess is that most of us will spend Christmas Eve at home or at the home of a loved one. I expect most of us will sleep in warm houses with comfortable sleeping arrangements. Most of us, I hope, will worship the new born king in a sanctuary surrounded by people who love us, who share our faith and would be willing to lend us a helping hand if ever we were to need it. By contrast, thousands of hungry, ill clad and homeless people will spend a cold Christmas night on the border between two countries that do not want them. They have no Christmas plans other than survival. Their future depends upon the decisions of powerful people and political forces over which they have no influence. The question that haunts me is this: in whose company are we most likely to find Jesus?

John the Evangelist’s assertion that the Word became flesh needs to be read in tandem with Matthew the Evangelist’s account of the last judgment in Matthew 25, in particular, the inquiry, “when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you…?” Matthew 25:38. The answer is now. The story of the Nativity is about homelessness, poverty, flight from political persecution and seeking refuge in a foreign land. That same old, old story is taking on human flesh as I write these words. Jesus is at the border. We either recognize and welcome him now or make that recognition too late and only on the day of judgment.

I don’t have to tell you that there is a lot of consternation and heated rhetoric surrounding immigration. There are remarks being made about migrants, their character and motives that are beneath us all. Christians don’t have to agree on matters of immigration policy or border security. But if we cannot agree that when strangers arrive at our doorstep in desperate need there can be no response other than to open our doors, then I wonder how we can call ourselves disciples of Jesus. If Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew’s parable of The Last Judgement and John’s bold claim that the Word became flesh mean anything, it is that responsibility for the wellbeing of our neighbors does not end at any humanly drawn border. That isn’t a liberal proposition or a conservative one. That isn’t Democratic or Republican policy. It isn’t right or left wing. It’s just Jesus.

I conclude with the words of this familiar hymn by Philip Brooks:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
Oh, come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel!

Jesus’ answer to this prayer is waiting at our southern border. We have only to open our home that others may find theirs; allow the holy Child of Bethlehem to descend upon us, to cast out our sins of selfishness, bigotry and fear and be born in us today.

Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) was an Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia. He later took the position of rector at Trinity Church, Boston. The words of the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem were inspired by a visit he made to the village of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, he wrote the text as a poem. His organist, Lewis Redner, put them to music.

Pillow Man Launches A New Currencey Platform

Kierkegaard’s Ghost

(News that’s fake, but credible)

Spike Swindell, well known for his manufacture and sale of pet pillows, toilet seat cushions and conspiracy theories, announced today that he is expanding his business into the hot new field of alternative currencies with his new product, “My Money.” Unlike so many other such financial products, however, his is not based in cyberspace. “This isn’t crypto currency,” said Swindell, “you know, that imaginary money you can erase with a key stroke. This is real money, paper money you can hold in your hand, put in your wallet or take to the bank-well, my bank anyway. And you get $200 dollars just for being in the game!”

The concept is simple according to Swindell. “You give me your money and I give you mine.” Swindell, an honors graduate of Trump University School of Economics, claims that his currency is more valuable and safer than the U.S. dollar. “My Money is not under the control of the corrupt banking system run by deep state operatives on the Federal Reserve,” he said. “Its value is determined by the market and the market alone-with a little help from my bank.” He went on to point out that his new currency opens up endless opportunities for investment not available anywhere else. “We have a wide range of properties ready for purchase and development,” he told our Ghost  reporter. “While our high end properties, like Boardwalk and Park Place, are probably out of reach for the average investor, we also have more moderately priced lots on Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues. What’s more,” he went on to say, “all of our properties have tremendous development potential. A hotel built on Baltic Avenue can generate profits in multiples of your original investment.”

Investment opportunities are not limited to real estate. Swindell explained that My Money opens up channels for buying into utilities and railroads as well. “And the best part about it,” said Swindell, “you can rest assured that the deep state EPA won’t try to regulate what you do with your property. The FBI won’t raid your houses or hotels. The Department of Transportation won’t meddle with your trains.  You don’t pay any taxes either-unless you happen to land in the wrong place at the wrong time.” When asked whether his operations are strictly legal, Swindell hedged. “Well, we skate pretty close to the limits of the law. And sometimes we go over. Sure, you can end up in jail playing this game. But just like everywhere else in America, you can buy your way out if you have the funds. Why, with the right connections, we can get you out of jail scott-free. It’s kind of like a presidential pardon.”

Many high profile investors have praised My Money. “It’s as sure a thing as my win in 2020” said former president Donald J. Trump. “It’s as solid as my border wall,” declared former presidential strategist Steve Bannon. “It’s as genuine as my sheriff’s badge,” said Georgia senatorial candidate Herschel Walker. My Money will soon be availabe for purchase in bars, seedy hotels, outside porn shops and wherever else its agent, Rudy Giuliani, can be found.


FAKE NEWS ALERT: The above article is satirical. The events it describes didn’t happen.  “There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.” John Steinbeck

Un-Immaculate Conception?


Isaiah 7:10-16

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-25

Prayer of the Day: Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that hinders our faith, that eagerly we may receive your promises, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18.

By way of further testimony, Luke’s gospel tells Mary that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Luke 1:35. Traditionally, these two verses have been cited in support of the doctrines of “the virgin birth” and the “Immaculate Conception.” The former asserts that Jesus was conceived without sexual intercourse between Mary and any man. The latter asserts that Mary was “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pious IX. Taken together, these doctrines purport to explain how it is that Jesus, though fully human, nevertheless remains untouched by the sin of Adam and Eve infecting all of humanity. This understanding of Jesus’ birth is deemed necessary to some understandings of Jesus’ atoning work. Jesus must have been without sin from conception to his death on the cross in order for him to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin, thereby making God’s mercy and forgiveness possible.

I have encountered numerous people who tell me that this miraculous view of Jesus’ birth is the sine qua non for genuine faith. To deny it is to reject the divinity of Jesus, the efficacy of the cross and the significance of the Resurrection. I do not for one minute wish to dismiss the possibility that Jesus was in fact so conceived. After all, I wasn’t there and, near as I can tell, neither was anyone else-except Mary and she isn’t talking. Yes, our modernistic prejudices-and that is exactly what they are-make no room for what cannot adequately be explained in scientific terms. But the latter half of the Twentieth Century has made all too clear just how shaky our modernistic assumptions spun out of the Enlightenment actually are. It turns out that human reason, culturally shaped and limited as it is, can blind as well as enlighten. A lot of beliefs that were once supported by the science of the day have proven by subsequent scientific research to have been false or at least only partially true. We are finding that the universe is far more complex than we ever imangined. More often than answers, scientific inquiry tends to raise more questions. I cannot explain how Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus could have come about apart from sexual intercourse with a man. But I can’t even explain how these letters I type find their way to my computer screen and into cyberspace. Just because something is beyond human understanding does not mean it is impossible. And, of course, “with God nothing will be impossible.”

All that being said, the gospels do not tell us anything about how Jesus was conceived. They simply affirm that, however Jesus was conceived, the Holy Spirit was working “in, with and under” the process-to use a Lutheran phrase. That is, I believe, the point of the lenghty genealogy preceeding Sunday’s gospel reading. I understand very well why the makers of the common lectionary did not include these vss. 1-17 in our reading. None of us preachers would relish reading that long list of unpronounceable names any more than our hearers would appreciate listening to it. But I believe the genealogy plays an important part in our interpretation of the captioned verse.

Note well that, after tracing the lineage of Joseph from Abraham through David and finally to his own father, the gospel goes on to say, “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way…”  The account that follows makes clear that Joseph’s genealogy is irrelevant. If anybody’s genealogy matters, it is Mary’s. But we know nothing about that. Jesus’ conception thus involves a break in Matthew’s carefully reconstructed genealogy. Upon closer inspection however, Joseph’s genealogy is itself somewhat broken. First of all, the line is traced through Perez, born to the patriarch Judah by Tamar through prostitution and in a manner bordering on incest. See Genesis 38 for the sordid details. Second, Boaz the grandfather of King David sired the king’s father Jesse by the Canaanite prostitute, Rahab. Matthew 1:5. Third, David’s royal successor Solomon sprang from an adulterous relationship between the king and his general’s wife, Bathsheba. Matthew 1:6. Far from immaculate, the Spirit’s involvement in this line of biblical ancestors involves some very sordid circumstances. Thus, the angel’s assurance to Joseph that Mary’s conception was through the work of the Holy Spirit might not have been all that comforting to him.

Am I suggesting that Mary was unfaithful or somehow became pregnant through an illicit or perhaps abusive sexual relationship? No. That, too, would be mere speculation. Again, I do not know how Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. I only know that he was. That is enough. I would add, however, that it is comforting to me that God is able to work creatively and redemptively through flawed, broken and shattered human relationships. It is comforting to know that God sees more in my confused, conflicted and often misdirected life than I do. It is comforting to know that the flesh which the Word becomes is nail scarred, wounded and subject to death. That is comforting because my life and the world in which I live is far from immaculate. So, it is good to know that the God we worship and trust is not afraid to get dirty in handling us. However that mystery we call the Incarnation occurred, through it we discover Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Here is a poem by Jane Kenyon with a unique perspective on the Incarnation.

Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, 1993

On the doomed ceiling
God is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what the do?
I know their hearts
and arguments:

We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and the rash alike must
come for water?”

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her the mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

Source: Poetry, December 1995. Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan in her hometown and completed her master’s degree there in 1972. It was there also that she met her husband, the poet Donald Hall, who taught there. Kenyon moved with Hall to Eagle Pond Farm, in New Hampshire where she lived until her untimely death in 1995 at age 47. You can read more of Jane Kenyon’s poetry and find out more about her at the Poetry Foundation Website.

John the Baptist and the Martha’s Vineyard Miracle


Isaiah 35:1-10

Luke 1:46-55

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11

Prayer of the Day: Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith in your coming, that, transformed by grace, we may walk in your way; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.” Matthew 12:4-6.

That well may be. But John the Baptist is still in prison and, for all we know, the henchmen dispatched from Herod’s birthday party are on their way to relieve him of his head. Though Mary sings of tyranny being uprooted and the hungry filled with good things as though it were a fait accompli, her people are still firmly under the boot heel of Rome. Isaiah prophesied that a paradisal highway would rise up from the desert paving the way for Judean exiles’ return from Babylonian captivity to their homeland. Though the exiles did manage to return, they did not find the promised highway-just desert. The lessons for today are rich in promises that have, at best, been only partially fulfilled. They are hardly enough to inspire euphoric enthusiasm, but perhaps they give us enough to keep the spark of hope alive. Sometimes that is all we get. It is not all we might ask for. But it is enough. It has to be.

The trouble with signs is that they are not definitive. They point to something that is not yet present or complete. Every person Jesus healed, raised from death or gladdened with the promise of good news eventually died without seeing the day promised by Isaiah when

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
   and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
   and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
   and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
   and the thirsty ground springs of water…” Isaiah 35:5-7.

Signs do not prove anything. Jesus’ miracles did not convince his critics who witnessed them firsthand. Those of us who receive the good news from the witness of the prophets and apostles have even a stronger basis for doubting it. Like poor John, we receive news about the inbreaking of God’s reign as we wait in the darkness of our present bondage.

Or perhaps not. There are events occurring all around us that might be signs. This September two planes carrying migrants from across our southern border were sent by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. These migrants were evidently rounded up by the governor’s agents, some apparently from neighboring Texas. Neither the governor of Massachusetts nor the local authorities were notified in advance of these transports. It is evident to me, as I think it must be to any fair minded observer, that the Florida governor’s action was a crual and blatant act of political theater designed to ingratiate himself to the most vile and racist elements of his constituency, a tactic occurring with depressing regularity these days. But what happened next is truly remarkable. Residents from across Martha’s Vineyard and other parts of the country raised more than $175,000 after the migrants’ arrival. There were some large donations consisting of multiple thousands of dollars, but most of the donations made for the migrants were contributions between $50 to $100 from churches, civic organizations and local citizens. So many donations of food, clothing and other necessities were received that the drop-off point for charitable donations had to be relocated to the fire department.

Is this a sign? Does it remind us that the future does not belong to tyrants like Herod and Governor DeSantis? Is this a sign of God’s just and gentle reign breaking through the structures of systemic racism and nationalistic idolatry into the hearts of ordinary people? I would love to know how John responded to Jesus’ message. Did he recognize in all that he heard about Jesus the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy? Or did he dismiss it as just one more futile protest against a ruthless regime of oppression? Matthew’s gospel does not answer that question for us. Perhaps that is because we are supposed to ponder it for ourselves.

When all is said and done, only faith can recognize a sign of God’s reign. For those who believe that God raised Jesus from death, for those who know that the future is God’s future, for those who understand that tomorrow belongs to the meek, the peace makers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, those who open their homes and hearts with hospitality, what happened with Jesus’ ministry and what recently occurred on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard are signs that God’s Incarnate Word dwells among us. They are signs that God’s Spirit is at work moving the hearts of people to acts of mercy, compassion and justice. They are signs that God’s parental providence is moving the world closer to God’s just, gentle and peaceful reign.

Here is a poem by Marilyn Nelson relating an incident that might well qualify as a sign of God’s inbreaking reign.  

Minor Miracle

Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood   

memory. I was cycling with a male friend,

through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way   

stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,   

a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,   

hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.   

My partner called, “Hey, that was a 4-way stop!”   

The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe

under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,

                “You fucking niggers!”

And sped off.

My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.   

We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.   

We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon   

between two fields of almost-ripened wheat   

bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace   

when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.   

We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.

It was the same truck. It pulled over.

A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:   

greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably   

a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful   

of martial arts techniques.

“What did you say back there!” he shouted.   

My friend said, “I said it was a 4-way stop.   

You went through it.”

“And what did I say?” the white guy asked.   

“You said: ‘You fucking niggers.’”

The afternoon froze.

“Well,” said the white guy,

shoving his hands into his pockets

and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,   

“I just want to say I’m sorry.”

He climbed back into his truck

and drove away.

Source: The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems, (c. 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 by Marilyn Nelson; pub. by Louisiana State University Press). Marilyn Nelson (b. 1946) is an American poet, translator, and children’s book author. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and a former poet laureate of Connecticut. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Melvin M. Nelson, a U.S. serviceman in the Air Force, and Johnnie Mitchell Nelson, a teacher. She grew up on military bases and began writing while in elementary school. She earned a B.A. from the University of California-Davis, an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1979. She is the recipient of numerous prizes, awards and fellowships. You can read more about Marilyn Nelson and sample more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.