“October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” Lesléa Newman

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 25, 2012. Candlewick Press. 111 pp. (includes Notes, Explanation of Poetic Forms and Resources).

On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard was pistol whipped in the head with a .357 Magnum, beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead in 30 degree weather by two men who hated gays. Police reports stated the only surface on his body not covered with blood were the tear tracks on his face.

The author had been invited to be the guest speaker at the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week, where Matthew had been a student. “October Mourning” is a collection of powerful poems recounting the events leading up to Matthew’s horrific murder, his last moments, as well as the trial and convictions of his assailants. Some poems are told from the point of view of inanimate objects, like the fence to which he had been tied, and all are full of emotion. Poetic styles from Haiku to Villanelles to Pantoum and many more are used to tell Matthew’s sad story.

Newman includes real life quotes from police officers, family members, the murderers and others to bring home her story and emphasize the importance of love versus hate. “October Mourning” is a strong, no holds barred look at ignorance and hate, along with mercy and love, for mature high schoolers.