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Milwaukee poet Bryon Cherry’s new book draws from personal reflections during the pandemic

Local poet and musician, Bryon Cherry
Courtesy of Bryon Cherry
Local poet and musician Bryon Cherry

The coronavirus is something that remains present in our lives, but we can all recall our own experiences and feelings of what we collectively went through during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic?

For Bryon Cherry, writing every day helped him process what he was going through personally.

Cherry is a lifelong Milwaukeean, musician and poet. He has a new book of poetry called death moan, which he views as a meditation on how death tugs at us from many angles. It was written during the height of the pandemic.

While contemplating on his hometown, Cherry says, "I feel like it's a constantly evolving city and in ways it's kind of at war with itself. But it is evolving, and I just love it. The people are beautiful and kind and generous, so it's been good to me."

While elements of conflict come through in Cherry's collection of poems, he says it's also important to include the positive and even neutral parts of life. "I want to be the most realistic poet I can be and just talk about what's actually happening, so the mundane stuff is part of it."

Cover of Cherry's book, death moan
Courtesy of Bryon Cherry
Cover of Cherry's book "death moan."

The everyday of Milwaukee life is also reflected on the cover of death moan, which is a picture Cherry. After meeting with a friend and venturing outside, he noticed a corner of the city that visually embodied the contrasts that many of his poems in the book revolve around.

"So, it just struck me — the the darkness and the light there and the the blue lights on the trees in the back. You know, the the struggle between darkness and light is just kind of inherent in the picture," Cherry notes.

While the term "death moan" may have a negative connotation, Cherry sees it as a symbol for the transitions that are a natural part of the human experience. In Cherry's own life, it's reflective of transitioning into the role of a stay-at-home dad during the pandemic. "Dealing with being a father 24/7, it all just spun out into these poems coming from different places."

Cherry says, "Writing is joyful for me, it’s like a meditative state that imbues beauty upon the rest of my life. But it also helps explain my life in more clarity sometimes, which is a really cool thing that can happen."

Listening and love are two central tenants that Cherry lives by, and he thinks that these can help poetry become more accessible. "If you're listening, you're being aware, and if you can be aware enough anybody can write poems."

Cherry is also a local musician. "The creation of music is a beautiful thing. Music is sacred in a lot of ways but then, poetry does the same thing, just from a different angle," he notes. "You know, it allows me at least to be expansive in my thought and not as tied to myself as I could be."

Bryon Chery's new book of poetry is called ‘death moan.’ It’s published by Willow Books and is available at the Woodland Pattern and Lion’sTooth bookstores in Milwaukee.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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