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About Shirley

Baltimore City

BIO UPDATED DECEMBER 30, 2014 Shirley J. Brewer (Baltimore, MD) is a poet, educator, and workshop facilitator. She is currently poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts and Technology in Towson. Shirley won First, Second and Third Prizes in the Maryland Writers' Association 2010 Short Works Contest for Poetry, and First Prize in 2004. Shirley received an Honorable Mention in Passager'?s national Poetry Contest in 2005, 2009, 2012, and 2013. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009 by... more

A Little Breast Music

A Little Breast Music, my first poetry collection, was published in 2008 by Passager Books, which is affiliated with the University of Baltimore. A Little Breast Music was the first in a series of chapbooks called Six Over Sixty, which celebrates the older writer. My poems deal with family, love, loss and personal transformation. In his blurb, poet Stephen Dunn - winner of the Pulitzer Prize - says "A Little Breast Music is Brewer's book of delights and laments, evidence of a resilient and complicated heart."

Thomas Lux, author of numerous books of poetry, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and Bourne Professor of Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology:

"Shirley J. Brewer's poems are so alert to the reverberant specifics of life, so alive with sensory energy, that I lose myself (a benefit!) in the lost worlds they evoke. A Little Breast Music sings!"

Bruce Sager, winner of the Asheville Poetry Prize in 2014 (judged by Billy Collins); winner of the second annual Harriss Poetry Prize in 2010 for his book, Famous; recipient of Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards in both fiction (2008) and poetry (2011):

"Admission: I must read – or scan, at least – upwards of 500 poetry books every year. My opinions are shaped by the poetry, not the poets. Name recognition carries no weight in this quiet enterprise; quality’s the sole determinant of excellence. The quirky, sharp, memorable, droll, artful, wise and exquisitely lovable bantam of a book called A Little Breast Music sat on my nightstand for two years like a tiny box of dark chocolates – just a little taste before bed, night after night. Even when I finally shelved it, I shelved it in a special section of my library, the one reserved for those books I turn to again and again. Pure pleasure. Shirley Brewer’s wee opus nests alphabetically, and very democratically, amongst the best of Bass, Bukowski, Cleary, Collins and Dunn in this small, very private universe of Meritocracy in Action. A must read."

After Words - Poetry

After Words is a poetry collection written in the aftermath of the murder of Stephen Bradley Pitcairn, a Johns Hopkins researcher, who was stabbed to death on July 25, 2010, in Baltimore, MD.

After Words will be published by Apprentice House/Loyola University in March of 2013.

Life in Me Like Grass on Fire

The Maryland Writers' Association published its first Poetry Anthology in April, 2011. Laura Shovan is the editor. I wrote the Introduction for the section, Love as We Age, and also contributed 5 poems to the anthology. I've included the Introduction as well as the 5 poems:
Blue, Given the Space Between Trees, Kentucky Valentine, Voyage and Tryst with Artist.

Evolution

Shirley's evolution as a writer.

I wanted one of the Projects to be me!!
Although I began writing at a young age - fairy tales in elementary school, poems in high school and college - I put aside my writing for many years while I worked as a speech therapist in the Anne Arundel County public schools. I did use poetry to help my students improve their communication skills, but I wasn't writing much myself.

In 1996, that changed! I took a creative writing class at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, and reconnected with my long-dormant passion. The following year, I immersed myself in poetry classes at Anne Arundel Community College, and began participating in local poetry workshops. I also traveled to states including New Jersey,Maine, Florida,New Mexico, and to countries including Italy and Ireland - to work with poets Stephen Dunn, Thomas Lux, Marie Howe, Billy Collins, Campbell McGrath, and other excellent teachers.

At age 54 - after 32 years in education - I retired early to pursue a more creative life. It was a leap of faith! Friends asked if I had "a plan." I shook my head.

I pursued a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing/Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore, graduating in the spring of 2005, with 3.91 GPA. I have taught writing at the University of Baltimore, at Anne Arundel and Howard Community Colleges, at LitMore - Baltimore's fledgling literary arts center. I've also taught in after school programs at the Village Learning Place in Baltimore - in a program championed by Poetry in Community - and in the PVA (Performing and Visual Arts) program at Brooklyn Park Middle School (Anne Arundel County). I've developed poetry classes for home schooled children and teens in Westminster, Maryland. Currently, I serve as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts and Technology in Towson, Maryland.

I've had two books published: A Little Breast Music (Passager Books, 2008), and After Words (Apprentice House, 2013). I have also completed a full-length poetry manuscript, Bistro in Another Realm, which I am in the process of sending out to publishers. And I am working on a fourth manuscript, with a tentative title of The Wife Poems, that focuses on the wives of famous and not-so-famous men.

I read and write poetry every day, and am always seeking ways to share my passion for poetry with my community. I read my poetry at venues in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Beyond.

I'm proud to have my poems published in numerous literary journals, and to have received prizes for my writing, including:
Maryland Writers' Association, First, Second, and Third Prizes for Poetry, Short Works Contest, 2010.
Passager Journal, Honorable Mention, Poetry Contest, in 2005, 2009, 2012, and 2013.

As I look into the near future, I plan to continue writing, and to explore ways to expand my Creative Pursuits. One way I hope to do this is via Creativity Workshops, where I can help adolescents and adults strengthen their own creative spirits. Another venue is Poetic License - poems in verse that capture a person's life on one page.

My self-definition is: I am Shimmering Goddess Energy. I see my Creative/Poetic/Literary self as Always Growing. Always Glowing.

The photos I've included in this Project illustrate aspects of my Life Journey.

  • Beacon Cover Story

    Speech therapist Shirley Brewer went back to school at the University of Baltimore to earn a degree in creative writing, and now writes and teaches poetry. She joins a growing number of older adults who are returning to the classroom to pursue unfulfilled dreams...
  • "I Am Shimmering Goddess Energy"

    From Defining Ourselves, Words and Portraits Bonnie J. Schupp, 2009 "How do you define yourself? Answer in one sentence that begins with 'I am...'"

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Shirley's Curated Collection

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