An Urban Center in Detroit for Spiritual Renewal and Social Justice

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Vespers Poetry with UU Detroit

Every month on the fourth Thursday (with some exceptions, due to holidays for example), from 7:00-8:00pm, UU Detroit sponsors a poetry reading with music to match. The program may be led by one of our in-house church poets, or by guests from the Detroit area and around the country. The content of the program is the creative effort of the presenter/s and is not approved or sanctioned by the UU Detroit church. Nancy Owen Nelson is the chair of our Vespers Planning Committee, so please contact Nancy at with any questions.

We meet online via Zoom --
  Phone 312-626-6799 Meeting ID: 999 7985 2182, Passcode: 178251
If you wish to attend the Zoom session with others, you can do so at Allegria Village (15101 Ford Rd, Dearborn, MI) Call Lencha Acker at 313-720-5797 for more information.

The May 25, 2023 vespers will be held via Zoom and will feature UU Detroit's own Ruby Jones with The Ron Allen Project.

Join us on ZOOM or in person (local Dearborn).


The April 27, 2023 vespers featured UU Detroit's own Nancy Owen Nelson on the theme Finding My Way Back Home. Nancy will read from her poetry, including selections from her new book, Five Points South: Poems from an Alabama Pilgrimage.

Nancy Owen Nelson's poems have been published in The South Dakota Review, Graffiti Rag, What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest, The MacGuffin, A Cloud of Possibility, Oberon, and This/That/Lit online journal. Publications include her memoirs, Searching for Nannie B, 2015 and Divine Aphasia: A Woman's Search for Her Father (2021), her poetry chapbook, My Heart Wears No Colors, 2018, and Portals: A Memoir in Verse, 2019. In 2019, her poem, "Africatown," was awarded second place for free verse in the Alabama Writers Conclave competition. She is currently the coordinator of the UU Detroit Poetry Vespers program. Nelson's books, including signed copies, can be purchased by visiting her website,

Zoom Recording

The March 23, 2023 vespers featured award winning poet and novelist Linda Sienkiewicz on the theme of Hold Close Those You Love. Linda read from her poetry, including selections from her forthcoming chapbook, Sleepwalker.

Linda K. Sienkiewicz's short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. Her debut novel, In the Context of Love, was a finalist for multiple awards. She is the recipient of a poetry chapbook award from Heartlands Today and a Pushcart Prize nomination. Her forthcoming poetry chapbook, Sleepwalker (Finishing Line Press), examines life after losing a son to suicide. She has authored three other chapbooks, and wrote and illustrated a children's picture book, Gordy and the Ghost Crab. She holds an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

Her web site states that "Sienkiewicz's poems speak with intense fierceness to hard-earned compassion and painful healing after her eldest son's suicide. Trying to make sense of tragedy, she unearths the heartbreak of motherhood and loss, revealing tender, resilient love in poems that embrace who her son was and what he will never be. Those who have suffered such a loss will know they are not alone."

Recording & Related Information

The February 23, 2023 vespers featured Charlie and Judy Brice speaking on the theme of The Seasons.

Judith Alexander Brice has had over 100 poems published in journals and anthologies, including The Golden Streetcar,, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Magnolia Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere. Judy has authored four poetry books: Renditions in a Palette (2013), Overhead From Longing (2017), Imbibe the Air (January, 2021), as well as the chapbook, Shards of Shadows: A Covid Diary. Her poem, "Mourning Calls," set to music by Tony Manfredonia, can be heard on his web-site:

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. He has authored seven full-length poetry collections: Flashcuts Out of Chaos, Mnemosyne's Hand, An Accident of Blood, The Broad Grin of Eternity, The Ventriloquist, Pinnacles of Hope, and Miracles That Keep Me Going (forthcoming from WordTech Editions). His chapbook, All the Songs Sung, was published in 2021 by Angel Flight Books and his hybrid collection with photographer Jim Hutt, Old Woodshop, was published in 2022 by Impspired Books. His poetry has been nominated three time each for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net anthology.

Recording & Related Information

The January 26, 2023 vespers featured Dr. Gloria House, aka Aneb Kgositsile. Dr. House's presentation, "Long Journey to Justice", will consist of poems and music evoking Africans' centuries-long struggles for freedom and justice in the United States.

Born in Tampa, Florida, House began expressing herself through poetry before her age reached double digits. She published her first books of poetry in the 1980s, including Blood River (1983) and Rainrituals (1989), both published by Broadside Press. In 2003, her third collection, Shrines, was published by Third World Press. Medicine, her most recent book, was published in 2017 as a joint endeavor of Broadside Lotus and University of Detroit Mercy Press. All of House's poetry collections have been published under her chosen name, Aneb Kgositsile.

Zoom Recording

The December 22, 2022 vespers featured Lee Thume, Ann Esu, Lencha Acker, Nancy Owen Nelson, Steve Curtin, Michelle Morouse, Ruby Jones, Dwight Stackhouse, and Nancy Shattuck reading and singing personally written holiday poems and music.

  Zoom Recording

The November 17, 2022 vespers poetry featured former poet laureate of Alabama, Jennifer Horne on the theme of Ordinary Gratitude: Giving Thanks for the Daily".

Jennifer returned to Vespers to offer a theme for our Thanksgiving holiday season!

Raised in Arkansas and a longtime resident of Alabama, Horne is a writer, editor, and teacher who explores Southern identity and experience, especially women's, through prose, poetry, fiction, and anthologies and in classrooms and workshops across the South.

Raised in Arkansas and a longtime re Her latest book is a collection of poems, a chapbook titled Borrowed Light, from Mule on a Ferris Wheel Press. Her previous collection, Little Wanderer, was published in Ireland by Salmon Publishing. Tell the World You're a Wildflower is a collection of short stories in the voices of Southern women and girls. She is also the author of two other poetry chapbooks and another poetry collection, Bottle Tree, and the editor of Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets. With Wendy Reed, she co-edited the essay collections All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality and Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality. With Don Noble, she edited Belles' Letters II, an anthology of short fiction by Alabama women, and she also is at work on a biography of writer Sara Mayfield.

Raised in Arkansas and a longtime re She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Seaside Institute in Florida, and in 2015 she gave the Rhoda Ellison Lecture at Huntingdon University in Montgomery, Alabama and was awarded the Druid City Literary Arts Award, given by the Tuscaloosa Arts Council. For the spring semester of 2018, she was the Visiting Writer-in- Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina.

Raised in Arkansas and a longtime re Her web page and blog, "A Map of the World," are at:

Program & Zoom Recording

The October 27, 2022 vespers featured Felix and Paula Sirls on the theme Caveats from Life, a work of poetic snap shots of Felix's life, feelings, and emotions set in print with love.

Felix Sirls retired from the Detroit Health Department in 2013, as a Substance abuse counselor and HIV tester. He has been a major contributor providing wisdom, love and peace to anyone living with disabilities throughout his career by advocating for the best quality of life and service for one person at a time.

Paula Sirls is currently working with Gospel Against AIDS (GAA) as the Program Manager and Felix as the head HIV trainer from 2002 - today. Shortly after she and her husband saw the need to open a heterosexual support group for People living with HIV and their families. The support group Positive Support Organization is still up and running and has been since 2004.

As a result of years of working in the field of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse they also joined the MRC Disability council in 2005. Felix was appointed by then Governor Granholm. The husband and wife team has also been very instrumental with community involvement, sitting on several Community Advisory Boards, being co-chair with MHAC, SEMAC, Unified in all 3 location. The Sirls continue to work with men who are and were incarcerated along with their writing campaign to write the man behind bars and beyond. The Sirls has also partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service assisting with there Surveillance Team. With surveillance one has been very instrumental in testing up to 500 people yearly and gathering vital information that will help to end the HIV epidemic or at best Make MI an HIV friendlier place to live one's life out loud!!!

Zoom Recording

The September 22, 2022 vespers featured Joe Kidd, Michigan's Beat Poet Laureate, with music from Sheila Burke, on the theme of The Word Made Flesh.

Growing up in Southwest Detroit, Joe Kidd experienced the broader world after high school include hitchhiking through the Midwest for two summers and joining the White Panther Party. In the early 80s Joe and his brother formed a Rock Band called The White Lines. They recorded on AutoMotive Records, a local label. At one point he attended Sacred Heart Catholic Seminary for a number of years studying Theology and Church History. He formed a life-changing bond with vocalist and writer, Sheila Burke. In 2015 they released their first album of original songs titled Everybody Has A Purpose.

In 2017 Joe was inducted into the Michigan Rock & Roll Legends Hall of Fame. In 2020 he published his first full book of poetry titled The Invisible Waterhole. Joe has also written articles as well as music, book, and film reviews for a number of publications. His work is continuously published in numerous anthologies, magazines, & websites. This year Joe was named Official Poet of the Nation of Birland, a tiny country in northeast Africa. And this month he will be installed as the Beat Poet Laureate of the State of Michigan 2022-2024.

Zoom Recording

The August 25, 2022 vespers featured Ohio's Beat Poet Laureate, Sandra Feen, on the theme of On Every Path, Poetry: Navigating Each Transformative Step.

Sandra Feen was the speaker and workshop facilitator at the 2022 NFSP (National Federation of State Poetry Societies) Convention, Renewal through Poetry. A member of the poetry troupe Concrete Wink, with Rikki Santer and Chuck Salmons, her first photography show became intrinsic to their Winks, Drinks and Vibes reading, held at the Sunbear Studio, in Westerville, Ohio, in February 2022. Concrete Wink wrote and read ekphrastic poems to two dozen of her photos on display. In addition, Sandy and Rikki won Heavy Feather Review's second-annual Zachary Doss Friends in Letters Fellowship, for their poetry collaboration titled, Emotion Bus. Sandy is a former associate editor of Pudding magazine, former urban fiction editor, and was in the RedKitchen poetry troupe, founded by Jennifer Bosveld.

A 2020 VALA recipient, member of the Ohio Poetry Association, and Bistro Poets writing critique group, Sandy is the former director of the Ohio Poetry Therapy Writers' Group. She has given poetry therapy workshops throughout Ohio and has 70 hours toward certification. Sandy has a BFA in Creative Writing and a BS in English Education from Bowling Green State University, as well as an MA in Literature from Wright State University.

Sandra Feen is the author of Evidence of Starving (Voice Lux Journal 2021) Meat and Bone (Luchador Press 2019), and Fragile Capacities: School Poems (NightBallet Press 2018). Fragile Capacities - nominated for the Ohioana Book Award - highlights her 32-year teaching career in an urban school system. The poem "Palms Monday" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

She will be inducted as the next Ohio Beat Poet Laureate by the National Beat Poetry Foundation, Inc., in New Hartford, Connecticut, in September.

Zoom Recording

The July 28, 2022 vespers featured Detroit's Hero Poet John Jeffire speaking on the theme of A Temple for Tomorrows.

"John Jeffire is Detroit's Hero Poet. He writes gritty, feisty poems from his urban experience of being a stranger in a strange land. Jeffire's poems make you feel, think, question and rebel against a callus world that offers little to the working people in America. John is a writer who was a wrestler, a coach, a high school teacher, and one the most unique and distinct voices on Detroit's literary scene. In A Temple for Tomorrows, readers will find poems that reach up, grab you by the soul and force you to look closer at the rawness of life in the 21st Century. This is John Jeffire's finest collection. Savor it, treasure it and learn from it." [M.L. Liebler]

John Jeffire was born in Detroit. In 2005, his novel Motown Burning was named Grand Prize Winner in the Mount Arrowsmith Novel Competition and in 2007 it won a Gold Medal for Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishing Awards. Speaking of Motown Burning, former chair of the Pulitzer Jury Philip F. O'Connor said, "It works. I don't often say that, but it has a drive and integrity that gives it credible life....I find a novel with heart." In 2009, Andra Milacca included Motown Burning in her list of "Six Savory Novels Set in Detroit" along with works by Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffrey Eugenides. His first book of poetry, Stone + Fist + Brick + Bone, was nominated for a Michigan Notable Book Award in 2009. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine called the book "a terrific one for our city." His short story "Boss" appeared in Coolest American Stories 2022, which won the International Book Awards Prize for Fiction Anthologies. Jeffire's most recent poetry collection, A Temple for Tomorrows, was named one of four finalists for the American Writing Awards and is available through Detroit's Aquarius Press. For more on the author and his work, visit

Zoom Recording

The June 23, 2022 vespers featured award winning poet Dr. Sandra Staton-Taiwo. Dr. Staton-Taiwo spoke on the theme of Let the Forgiven, Forgive -- her exploration of the personal and political lives of W. E. B. Du Bois.

Dr. Sandra Stanton-Taiwo teaches high school in Montgomery Alabama. She is connected to UU Detroit via the recent Horizons in Poetry (Ron Allen Project) online event. Her recently published book, Broad Sympathies in a Narrow World: The Legacy of W.E.B. Dubois, is a "collection of poetic reflections on the public and private life of an American intellectual giant." She was the winner of the 2018 Naomi Long Madgett award.

Dr. Sandra Staton-Taiwo earned a doctorate in African American literature from Howard University in 2001. She has taught at several colleges, including Penn State York, Gettysburg College, and Alabama State University. She taught courses in English Composition, Black American Literature, poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, Black Aesthetics, African American Studies, and a seminar on W. E. B. Du Bois. Publications include essays about faculty of color, W. E. B. Du Bois's literature, and Langston Hughes's poetry. As a current resident of Montgomery, Alabama, which is about thirty miles from Lowndes County, she is developing a manuscript surrounding Du Bois's 1906 sociological input in Lowndes County. When his input was strategically destroyed, Du Bois transformed it into literary output in his first novel, The Quest of the Silver Fleece.

Program & Zoom Recording

The May 26, 2022 vespers featured Arizona poet Gene Twaronite on Learning to Feel.

Learning to Feel is the title for one of the poems I plan to read, which is based on a scientific article about the fact that we are not born knowing how to feel, but must learn it. It is also about getting in touch with my own feelings about people, places, and this sacred earth, not to mention myself, and how to express this in my poetry. I like to think of poetry as compressed emotion on the page, harking back to Wordsworth's definition as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." I think poetry helps us get more centered and in touch with our feelings about our lives and the life around us.

Gene Twaronite is the author of four collections of poetry as well as the rhyming picture book How to Eat Breakfast. His first poetry book Trash Picker on Mars, published by Kelsay Books, was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His newest poetry collection Shopping Cart Dreams will be published by Kelsay Books in 2022. Gene's poems have been described as: "ranging from edgy to whimsical to inscrutable ... playfully haunting and hauntingly playful." A former New Englander, Gene now lives in Tucson. Follow more of his poetry at

Program & Zoom Recording

The April 28, 2022 vespers featured poet Cindy Frenkel on The Art of Observance. Cindy read poems on delighting in the smallest detail: Seeing the world's marvel closely helps usher in joy. Additionally, she read about the darker side, including a brief reading on suicide awareness and prevention.

Cindy Frenkel's The Plague of the Tender-Hearted was recently released from Finishing Line Press. A writer and educator, her writing has appeared in numerous places from Vanity Fair to WIRED online (including in the past month) to The New York Observer, where she was a columnist. She was a writer-in-residence for InsideOut Literary Arts Project, and her essay, "Sharing Voices, Acting Crazy" appears in their anthology To Light a Fire. She was the writer/editor for the Detroit Institute of Arts magazine (DIA) and co-authored 100 Essential Books for Jewish Readers with Rabbi Daniel B. Syme. A Hambidge fellow, for the past 12 years, she has taught college; her essay "15 lessons from 9 years of teaching" appeared in Writers in Education. To learn more, please visit

Zoom Recording

The March 24, 2022 vespers featured Russell Thorburn, John Freeman, and Steve Curtin on "Poetry and Music of the Great Lakes: A Celebration".".

Program & Zoom Recording

The February 24, 2022 vespers featured poets Dorothy Gilbert and Frances Hillyard on "Justice, Hope, and Love".

Frances Hillyard is a poet and activist in Berkeley, California. She was the first poet laureate of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, and now chairs the poetry committee. She has been most active in a constellation of prison, death penalty and racial justice issues, worked against war starting with the Viet Nam war, and now concentrates on single payer/Medicare for all and voting rights. She takes her poetic inspiration from nature, the arts, her own perceptions and delight.

DOROTHY GILBERT is the author, most recently, of Fox Woman, a collection of original poems published by Sugartown Publishing in 2020. A medieval scholar, she has also published two award-winning book length verse translations from Old French: Marie de France: Poetry, a Norton Critical Edition, and Erec and Enide by Chretien de Troyes (University of California Press), the first known Arthurian romance. Marie de France won a 2016 Northern California Book Reviewers award for a translation of a poetic work in 2016, also a Modern Language Association Honorable Mention; Erec and Enide won an award from Columbia University'sTranslation Center. Dorothy Gilbert's original poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Iowa Review, The California Quarterly, and other print journals, and also in the online Tattoo Highway and Persimmon Tree. She has won several first prizes from the venerable Ina Coolbrith Poetry Circle here in northern California. Before retiring, she taught writing and literature in UC Berkeley's Fall Program for Freshmen for many years, and creative writing and literature at UC Davis and elsewhere. She was also on the staff of PEN, the writers' advocacy organization, for many years. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is active in environmental issues, especially preservation of the shore.

Zoom Recording

The January 27, 2022 vespers featured poet Michelle Morouse on "Canines and Other Obsessions". Michelle is a Detroit area pediatrician. Her flash fiction and poetry has appeared recently in Unbroken, Litro Online, The Citron Review, Ponder Review, Necessary Fiction, Wigleaf, Peregrine, Lullwater Review, The MacGuffin, Pembroke Magazine, and Cease, Cows. She serves on the board of Detroit Working Writers.

Zoom Recording

The December 30, 2021 vespers featured holiday poetry and music presented by many of our regular contributors.

Zoom Recording

The November 18, 2021 vespers on the theme of Poems of Gratitude featured readings by eight different members of our poetry community. Despite the challenges of our time, through poetry we find solace. These readers have chosen poems to convey gratitude and thanksgiving.

Zoom Recording

The October 28, 2021 vespers on the theme of Wilderness and Grace featured poet, musician, and visual artist Jake Berry along with poet Harry Moore.

Harry Moore is the author of the poetry collections Bearing the Farm Away (Kelsay Books, 2018) and Broken and Blended: Love's Alchemy (KelsayBooks, 2021), along with four chapbooks. In 2014 he received the Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. His poems have appeared in Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Plainsongs, Xavier Review, Slipstream, and other journals. Retired after teaching writing and literature for four decades in Alabama community colleges, he currently lives with his wife, Cassandra, in Decatur, Alabama, and serves as an assistant editor of POEM magazine.

Jake Berry is a poet, musician and visual artist. The author of Brambu Drezi, Species of Abandoned Light, Drafts of the Sorcery, Genesis Suicide and numerous other books. He has been an active member of the global arts and literary community for more than 30 years. His poems, fiction, essays, reviews and other writings have been published widely in both print and electronic mediums. He regularly records and performs his compositions solo and with the groups Bare Knuckles, The Ascension Brothers and Six Mile. Lightning Scars, his 12th solo album, was released in 2019.

Program and Zoom Recording

The September 23, 2021 vespers presentation featured painter and poet Lori Zurvalec with the theme of "Songs of Praise & Sorrow".

Lori Zurvalec is a visual artist and poet. She has exhibited artwork in over 300 juried exhibitions and has won over 110 awards, including a Best in Show at the Detroit Artists Market 2021 All-Media Juried Exhibition. Her paintings can be found in the collections of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan-Dearborn Alfred Berkowitz Gallery, St. Joseph Mercy of Macomb Hospital, the Grosse Pointe Public Library, as well as in numerous private collections. She is an International Society of Experimental Artists Nautilus Fellowship/Signature Member and a Michigan Water Color Society Great Lakes Fellow/Signature Member. She is the organizer of the Call & Response: Poets & Artists in Dialogue program at Grosse Pointe Congregational Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. Lori's poem Premonition will be included in the 2021 edition of the Poetry Society of Michigan's Peninsula Poets Contest Edition.

Lori has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in Women's Studies and a Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University. She lives in Grosse Pointe with her spouse, sons and four cats. Her presentation will include readings from her poetry and her artwork.

Of her work, she writes, "My work reflects a personal response to a challenging world. In my visual art I paint from life or sketchbook drawings. My compositions are usually worked out in my sketchbooks. My poetry is composed from notes, stream of consciousness jottings or word sketches. All of my art is influenced by a spiritual connection to the natural world, the positives and negatives found in nature, and by my experiences and relationships with others and myself. I also want my works to make a connection, tell a story, but also to evoke in viewers a response related to their own story."

Program and Zoom Recording

The August 26, 2021 vespers poetry presentation featured Detroit poet Diane Shipley DeCillis. Diane read from her new book, When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double.

Diane previously spoke in our church on October 22, 2017 about hope. She also attended our church as a child and remembers mostly the cookies during religious education. She was dedicated in the font which still resides in our sanctuary. Much more information about Diane can be found at

Diane DeCillis' poetry collection, Strings Attached (Wayne State Univ. Press) was a Michigan Notable Book for 2015, won the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award, and was a finalist for the Forward Indie Fab Book Award. Her most recent collection When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double (Wayne State University Press, April 2021) was selected by Publisher's Weekly as one of eight books for Weathering the Times: Poetry 2021. Four of DeCillis' poems are included in an anthology for the Writers on the Moon project to be launched to the moon on the Peregrine Lander, 2022 and will remain there permanently in a time capsule for the future.

Zoom Recording

The July 22, 2021 vespers poetry presentation featured award winning and internationally known Detroit poet M.L. Liebler as our presenter. M.L. read from his forthcoming book (2023), Hound Dog: A Poet's Memoir of Rock,Revolution & Redemption.

M. L. Liebler is an internationally known & widely published Detroit poet, university professor, literary arts activist and arts organizer. He was named The 2017-2018 Murray E. Jackson Scholar in the Arts Award at Wayne State University. Liebler is the author of 15 books and chapbooks and has been St. Clair Shores (his hometown) first Poet Laureate since 2005. Liebler has read and performed his work in Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Russia, China, Europe and most of the 50 States. In September 2020, M. L. was awarded the Michigan Humanities Champion of the Year.

Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The June 24, 2021 vespers poetry presentation featured Nancy Shattuck reading from her unpublished chapbook, Father's Day is for Boys, with musical interludes from George Winston. Father's Day is For Boys covers an eight-day hike on the Appalachian Trail with a companion; the hike encompasses Father's Day weekend, when Shattuck feels she's hiking in a "male other land."

Nancy Shattuck is the author of a travel memoir, a children's book, and three historical novels in a series titled The Watertown Chronicles. She writes in Farmington Hills, Michigan where she lives with her adopted cat Houdini. After retiring from a career in Information Technology, she taught English Composition at WSU and several other local colleges for ten years. She has received two Bachelors Degrees, one in English Literature from Wayne State University and one in Information Technology from Washington University and a Master's Degree in Comparative and Japanese Literature from Washington University.

Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The May 27, 2021 vespers featured Anita Ruby Jones sharing from Leslie Reese's 1987 book, Upside Down Tapestry Mosaic History - "An integrative voice fuses the poems in this collection into an orchestrated whole, into a concerto-like composition based on the traditional African-American performances pattern of call and response." Alvin Aubert - Professor of English, Wayne State University. Jones also shared music of Detroit Jazz musicians, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, and Marion Hayden.

Native Detroiter Leslie Reese is a Chicago-based writer, poet, and teaching artist. She is the Chicago Poetry Center Poet-in-Residence at Swift Elementary School. Leslie is the founder of folklore & literacy, which uses poetry, books, visual art, music, movement, and performance as gateways to literacy, discovery, and self-expression. As a volunteer, she has developed and facilitated Adult Learner reading and writing classes with Literacy Chicago, and been a kindergarten reading mentor with WITS (Working in the Schools).

Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The April 22, 2021 vespers featured Adventures in Translation -- readings of poems in the original Arabic, Armenian, and French and in translation by two artful wordsmiths, along with thematically related music. Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

Alex Vartan Gubbins earned a B.A. in African Languages and Literature at University of Wisconsin - Madison and an MFA in Poetry at Northern Michigan University. He formerly taught at the American University of Armenia. He currently teaches at the Henry Ford Academy. His poetry and poetry translations have appeared in several publications, including The North American Review; And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017; War, Literature & the Arts; Metamorphoses; and Asymptote.

Dorothy Gilbert has served on the faculties of the University of California at Davis, Mills College, Merritt College, and the California State University, East Bay and the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, she has long been secretary of the West Coast branch of PEN, the writers' international advocacy organization. She is the translator of Marie de France: Poetry: A Norton Critical Edition and of Erec and Enide by Chretien de Troyes, the first known Arthurian romance; also the author of Fox Woman: Poems. Her original poetry has appeared in many journals, print and online.

The March 25, 2021 vespers celebrated the work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Ferlinghetti's life spanned an entire century when he died on February 22, 2021 at 101 years old. The New York Times hailed him as "the spiritual godfather of the Beat movement," and he supported the work of major Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Michael McClure, though he did not consider himself a Beat poet. Ferlinghetti was a social activist who was arrested for lewdness when he published Ginsberg's famous poem "Howl". His acquittal represented a significant First Amendment case. Participants in this vespers program included Steven Curtin (original music), Russell Thorburn (former Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula), Alex Vartan Gubbins (poet, teacher, and translator), Lencha Acker, (retired teacher and a mainstay of our vespers program), and Nancy Owen Nelson (poet, memoir writer). Original works were inspired by Lawrence Ferlinghetti's provocative work. Indeed, he said of poetry, "We have to raise the consciousness; the only way poets can change the world is to raise the consciousness of the general populace."
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The February 25, 2021 vespers featured Detroit poet Mary Minnock presenting Borne on Catchy Tunes: A Time When You Know a House: Poems of Detroit.

Mary Minock grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in the dense Southwest Detroit parish of Holy Redeemer during a time of remarkable changes. Though she left Detroit and lived in a series of college towns and New York City, she moved back to Detroit in 1996,where she fixed up her childhood home. Her memoir The Way-Back Room: A Memoir of a Detroit Childhood, was published by Bottom Dog Press, 2011. Minock's first book of poetry, Love in the Upstairs Flat, was published in 1995. Her poetry awards include a Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and three-time winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Award for Poetry from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

Mary taught at Wayne State University, New York Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan and has recently retired as professor emerita from Madonna University.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The January 28, 2021 vespers poetry and music presentation was titled: January Men: Two Dylan Thomases. Welsh poet, Peter Thabit Jones, and Scottish American poet Jim Edwards read selected poems of Dylan Thomas. Thabit Jones also read some of his own poetry, including selections from his new book Garden of Clouds. Jim Edwards, as Dylan Thomas, shared excerpts from an untitled play by Russell Thorburn. The poet and playwright, Thorburn, read his own poetry, with musical accompaniment by Greg Ormson and Steven Curtin.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The December 17, 2020 vespers poetry gathering featured holiday poetry and music from a number of UU Detroit members and friends. It was more informal than our usual gatherings, with time set aside for conversation.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The November 19, 2020 vespers poetry presentation focused on the theme of HEALING with love, kindness, compassion, and hope. Mary Stebbens Taitt and Alinda Wasner presented poetry, music, and art, with help from Sally Borden and Nancy Owen Nelson.
More on this month's poet presenters.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The October 22, 2020 vespers poetry presentation featured Detroit Poet Dawn McDuffie with the theme of Autumn Changes.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

During her years of teaching creative writing, Dawn McDuffie compiled a thematic collection of poems for every lesson. This Vespers collection on the theme of autumn and change is a continuation of that tradition.

Dawn McDuffie moved to Detroit in 1968 to teach English at Central High School. Since then the city of Detroit has been an ongoing inspiration. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Third Wednesday, and Feminist Studies, and in the anthology, Good Poems- American Places edited by Garrison Keillor. Her chapbook, Carmina Detroit, was published in 2006 by Adastra Press. Finishing Line Press published Bulky Pick Up Day in 2011, and a second Adastra chapbook, Flag Day in Detroit, was published in 2012. Her new chapbook, Happenstance and Miracles is available from Finishing Line Press.

The September 24, 2020 vespers poetry presentation featured Lencha Acker, Lee Thume, Sally Borden, Nancy Owen Nelson, and special guest Mary Stebbins Taitt with the theme of Hope and Light.
Zoom recording, audio, and program notes

The August 27, 2020 vespers poetry presentation featured Jennifer Horne with the theme of Borrowed Light.

What are the sources of light we live by? How do we sustain ourselves when times are dark? In Borrowed Light, Jennifer Horne uses an architectural term that refers to bringing sunlight to rooms without windows as a metaphor for finding illumination through nature, art, dreams, and other people. Many different kinds of light appear in this book: morning light and twilight, porch light and candle light, the glow of fireflies and the hard clarity of winter light. Seeking "light, perspective, something new", Horne imagines a world in which both choice and serendipity play their parts. She will read poems from "Borrowed Light" as well as a few other light-centered poems by others.

Jennifer Horne is the Poet Laureate of Alabama, 2017-2021. Raised in Arkansas and a longtime resident of Alabama, Horne is a writer, editor, and teacher who explores Southern identity and experience, especially women's, through prose, poetry, fiction, and anthologies and in classrooms and workshops across the South.

Her latest book is a collection of poems, a chapbook titled Borrowed Light, from Mule on a Ferris Wheel Press. Her previous collection, Little Wanderer, was published in Ireland by Salmon Publishing. Tell the World You're a Wildflower is a collection of short stories in the voices of Southern women and girls. She is also the author of two other poetry chapbooks and another poetry collection, Bottle Tree, and the editor of Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets. With Wendy Reed, she co-edited the essay collections All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality and Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality. With Don Noble, she edited Belles' Letters II, an anthology of short fiction by Alabama women, and she also is at work on a biography of writer Sara Mayfield.

She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Seaside Institute in Florida, and in 2015 she gave the Rhoda Ellison Lecture at Huntingdon University in Montgomery, Alabama and was awarded the Druid City Literary Arts Award, given by the Tuscaloosa Arts Council. For the spring semester of 2018, she was the Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina.

Her web page and blog, "A Map of the World," are at:

On July 23, 2020, Lencha Acker, long-time member of First UU Detroit, presented the poetry and music of Joy Harjo, U. S. Poet Laureate. Harjo is a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation and is the first Native American Poet Laureate recipient. She was active in the second-wave Native American Renaissance.

On June 25, 2020, we had a VERY unusual offering for Vespers--a Zoom play by Upper Peninsula Poet Laureate, Russell Thorburn. Thorburn, poet and playwright, is the author of four books of poems. Somewhere We'll Leave the World, published by Wayne State University Press, draws on the poet's own experiences while imagining fictional characters and personal heroes. In a previous book, Misfit Hearts, he chronicles the making of The Misfits through the filming-location photographs of Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. He has received numerous grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. An artist-in-residence at the National Mojave Preserve where his poetry was featured in an exhibition at the Kelso Depot Museum. His radio play, Happy Birthday James Joyce, was aired on Public Radio 90 and later performed Off-Off-Broadway. Thorburn was the first poet laureate of the Upper Michigan in 2013. He teaches composition at Northern Michigan University.

The play: A retro-alternate-reality apocalyptic neo-noir where the Cold War gets hot in more ways than one—one-act play written by Russell Thorburn, adapted for stage and zoom by Christopher Scott Leith, with an original guitar score by Jeremy Morelock. It features the following actors from Marquette: Tiina and Endla Harris, Chet Defonso, and Christopher Scott Leith.

On May 28, 2020, Elayne Sikelianos presented "A Higgledy-Piggledy of Classical Poetry, Detroit poetry, and the Poetry of Eleni Sikelianos", accompanied by music from the late Detroit "Queen of the Blues" Alberta Adams.

Merriam Webster defines "higgledy-piggledy" as "in a confused, disordered, or random manner." However, Elayne Sikelianos is anything but! Her selections will be thoughtful and accessible within the poetic tradition established by Chaucer—to express creatively imagery in the vernacular, or in the language of the people.

A member of First UU Detroit since 2005, Elayne has served on the Board, the Worship Committee, and she has cooked for the Women’s Alliance for a number of years. Coming from a musical family, Elayne has been involved in the worlds of both Blues and Jazz, and served as a chauffeur for Blues icon John Lee Hooker when she lived in California.

On April 30, 2020, Dorothy Gilbert presented music and poetry. Dorothy has served on the faculties of the University of California at Davis, Mills College, Merritt College, and the California State University, East Bay and the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, she has long been secretary of the West Coast branch of PEN, the writers' international advocacy organization. She is translator of Marie de France: Poetry, and the forthcoming, Fox Woman.

Dorothy is Steve Curtin's aunt and Steve provided live music to accompany Dorothy's readings.

January 22, 2020 vespers featured Caroline Maun on the theme of Creativity and Well Being.
Caroline Maun is an associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches creative writing and American literature and is the Chair. Her poetry publications include the volumes The Sleeping (Marick Press, 2006), What Remains (Main Street Rag, 2013), and three chapbooks, Cures and Poisons and Greatest Hits, both published by Puddinghouse Press, and Accident, published by Alice Greene & Co. Her poetry has appeared in The Bear River Review, The MacGuffin, Third Wednesday, Peninsula Poets, and Eleven Eleven, among other places.

On September 25, 2019, Nancy Owen Nelson presented poetry while employing music as a motif. She shared some of her own poems from her recently published books as well as those of other poets.
Nancy Owen Nelson, along with her husband Roger Zeigler, has been a member of UU Detroit church since the spring of 2012. She is a college English professor who has recently turned her attention toward research and writing about her ancestry in the South. This includes a memoir and two books of poetry. More info at

On August 28, 2019 Anne Gautreau shared poems she was compelled to write simply because she paid close attention to particular moments in life. For her, poetry is not so much something that is created as it is something that occurs. Former poet laureate, Howard Nemverov says: "Poetry enables me to carry on an interesting relation with my own life. What's more important in life than something that's interesting?"
Anne Gautreau holds degrees from WMU and UM and has taken courses at Harvard, Berkeley, SUNY, Northeastern, Skidmore, Creighton, and Trinity in Dublin. She taught humanities, leadership training, film study and creative writing at Edsel Ford High School and composition classes at HFC as an adjunct.

On July 24, 2019 Dawn McDuffie presented original poetry along with other appropriate musical and poetry selections, in a program entitled Voices of Summer => Program.

On June 26, 2019, Nancy Shattuck presented a sampling of world-wide poetry in which the poets speak directly to higher beings / spirits. On the list were Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rumi, Dickenson, Izumi Shikibu, Jack Gilbert, and others. Music-wise, there was some Indo-persian instrumental music, a native American song to Wankan Tanka, 'Anthem' by Leonard Cohen, and more.

On May 22, 2019, Dwight 'Skip' Stackhouse shared some of his original poetry on topics including family, romance, and nature.

On April 24 2019, Nancy Owen Nelson and Alexander Payne Morgan presented poetry about the historical and more recent South. Nancy read from her memoir, Searching for Nannie B: Connecting Three Generations of Southern Women (2015) and her poetry chapbook, My Heart Wears No Colors (2018). Alex's poetry has appeared in Dunes Review, The MacGuffin, Peninsula Poets, Sequestrum, and Crack the Spine among others. His chapbook Loneliness Among Primates was published in 2018 by Kelsay Books.

On March 27, 2019, Elayne Sikelianos presented Hysterical Women i Have Not Known, in honor of Women's History Month. She presented Sappho, Native American women poets, some Rembetiko Women, Maya Angelou and others, along with some appropriately themed music.

On February 27, 2019, Amy Jackson & Wiladel Johnson presented Gifts from the Ancestors, in honor of Black History Month.

On January 23, 2019, Al and Lencha Acker presented An Evening with Mary and Billy, featuring poetry by Mary Oliver and Billy Collins. Photos

On November 28, 2018, Nancy Shattuck presented Adrienne Rich's poems of activism from the sixties and seventies, accompanied by the music of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

During her second sabbatical, Anne Gautreau studied Irish literature and folklore at Trinity College Dublin. After living in a cottage on the Dingle Peninsula for two months, she deemed Seamus Heaney her favorite poet and ever after enjoyed weaving his writing into courses she taught. She shared his exquisite words at Vespers on Wednesday, October 24, 2018. You can gain a sense of how life in Ireland shaped Heaney's language via this 11-minute video: Walking Tour: Seamus Heaney - The Music of What Happens

On September 26, 2018, Anita Ruby Jones shared stories and poems from Anne Cameron's Daughters of Copper Woman along with American-Indian music. Barbara Anne Cameron (born August 20, 1938 in Nanaimo, British Columbia) is a Canadian novelist, poet, short story writer, and screenwriter. Cameron legally changed her name from her birth name, Barbara Cameron, to Cam Hubert and, later, from Cam Hubert to Anne Cameron. She has written under all these names. Much of her work is inspired by Northwest Coast First Nations' mythology and culture.

The Vespers poetry poetry program on August 22, 2018 was presented by Nancy Owen Nelson, featurind the poetry of Freya Manfred and also brief passages from her father's, Frederick's, work. Freya's web site

The Vespers poetry poetry program on July 25, 2018 featured poetry and music presented by Elayne Sikelianos, including works by her daughter Eleni, Carl Sandburg, Omar Khayyam (purportedly), and anonymous Sufis!

The Vespers poetry program on April 25, 2018 was led by Lencha Acker and Nancy Owen Nelson. They presented the poetry of Wendell Berry and Jane Kenyon. The session also included the poetry of students from Inside/Out.

The Vespers program on March 28, 2018 was led by Al and Lencha Acker who read poems by Mary Oliver and Billy Collins, with additional poetry selections from guest readers. The poetry was interspersed with musical selections.

The Vespers program on February 28, 2018 was, Medicine: New and Selected Poems, the fourth poetry collection by Dr. Gloria House, also known by her African pen name, Aneb Kgositsile. She is a Detroit poet, human rights activist and educator. Anita Ruby Jones read her poems, accompanied by musical selections.

Vespers on January 24, 2018 was led by Dan Secrest. Dan presented history, poetry, and music of the Philippines.

Vespers on November 29, 2017 was led by James Tierney. James gave a poetry recital (from a variety of masterful poets such as Rumi), including song and uplifting chanting in telling of the story of one man's journey to Awakening through the unlikely path of a years-long exploration within the scientific/rationalistic/materialistic world-view.

Vespers on October 25, 2017 was led by Nancy Owen Nelson. Nancy presented the poetry of Walt Whitman, as well as poetry related to his work, including a personal composition by Nancy. Accompanying the poetry was Civil War era music. Dan Secrest read a poem by Francis Harper from a Garrison Keillor anthology.

Vespers on September 27, 2017 was led by Anita (Ruby) Jones, celebrating the birth month of former 1stUU member, Ron Allen. We heard selected poems from Ron's published books from 1996 to 2004. We also heard selected recordings from his own CD's of poetry accompanied by music. His writing follows the arc of his life from veteran, poet, community activist, mentor and playwright to Buddhist priest.

Vespers on August 23, 2017 was led by Nancy Owen Nelson. Nancy read works by poets from the Detroit area, including some of her own work and also some by UU Detroit poet Ruby Woods. Transcript of the poems presented

Vespers in March 2017 welcomed back a favorite: Ruby Jones brought words and instruments and shared Goddess Chants and Circle songs in a Vernal Equinox Sing-a-long.

Given the current political climate and the proximity to Valentines Day, February 2017 Vespers featured poetry about all kinds of love except the Hallmark variety and some lovely music.

Vespers in November 2016 featured T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and music from the musical inspired by it, "Cats."

October 2016 vespers highlighted the poetry of early African-American poet Paul Dunbar along with selections from other poets, a taste of Halloween and recorded music.

September 2016 vespers featured famous and not so famous Unitarian-Universalist poets and poetry.

For the August 24, 2016 vespers, various people shared favorite poems, including one original work.

For our vespers on July 27, 2016, we had four talented young poets from InsideOut join us, just a week after they have participated in "Brave New Voices" a national competition in Washington, D.C. for school-age poets. Check out their website

For our June 2016 vespers, the spotlight was on the Summer Solstice.

May 25, 2016 vespers featured the poetry of recently deceased poet and antiwar activist priest Daniel Berrigan among others, interspersed with musical selections.

April 2016 was National Poetry month so vespers featured some old favorites, Mary Oliver and Billy Collins, along with several other less famous poets, interspersed with musical selections.

The March 23, 2016 vespers was entitled My Voice is My Instrument. Anita Jones shared original songs and poems along with the story of her alter ego, Ruby Woods. She sang a capella and brought along her bag of percussion instruments.

The February 24, 2016 vespers was cancelled due to snow.

January 27, 2016: Inspired by her wonderful church service last year, the first vespers of the new year featured the poetic lyrics and music of songwriter extraordinaire Lee Thume.

In November 2015, we revisited a vespers favorite, poet Mary Oliver.

The October 28, 2015 vespers featured the works of Donald Hall and his late wife, Jane Kenyon, interspersed with musical selections.

The September 30, 2015 vespers featured short poems by a wide variety of female and male poets, young and old. Autumn and moon poems were prominent as we reflected on the recent blood moon. Danny Rebb read a poem composed by our Universalist minister, Reverend Willis Moore, from the building's perspective at its dedication in April 1916. Cheryl Greene also contributed some powerful emotional readings.

The August 26, 2015 vespers featured the poem "Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot and an essay about the poem, along with Beatles music, and Ruth Seifert's selection from Garrison Keillor's book.

The July 29, 2015 vespers featured a couple of favorites: Mary Oliver and Billy Collins, plus a delightful essay from the July 5th New York Times.

The June 24, 2015 vespers featured a wide variety of poets, beginning with a poem Maryli Secrest wrote for Alena Acker's wedding. Also several authors' take on aging. Music was from a great new CD called "The Longest River" featuring singer/guitarist Olivia Cheney.

The May 27, 2015 vespers service featured a wide variety of poets, including Detroit-born Marge Piercy, Randall Jarrett and others, along with some relaxing guitar and mandolin music. Sally Borden read her selection from Garrison Keillor's book.

The April 22, 2015 vespers featured poems about goddesses. The musical interludes were by Norah Jones.

The March 25, 2015 vespers featured various poets' views of God and some poems by Philip Levine, the Detroit-born poet laureate who died in February. Also music from Paul Simon.

The February 11, 2015 vespers was presented by Nancy Owen Nelson, who read a variety of poems of her own (and at least one by her mother) about love in its many manifestations. Outline of Presentation

The January 14, 2015 vespers service featured a wide variety of LGBTQ poets and poetry. Interspersed with the poetry was music from lesbian singer k.d. lang. Transcript of January 14, 2015 poetry program.

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