In memoriam: Laraine Wilkins

Laraine Wilkins died yesterday at 2 a.m. She had been in an induced coma at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center since Aug. 26 where she was taken after a terrible auto accident involving a jack-knifed semi.

I know my AMV colleagues join me in expressing our condolences to Laraine’s family and friends. Her life ended much to soon and though we didn’t know her well, we knew her well enough to understand what a fantastic, interesting, loving, vibrant person she was. I will leave it to others who knew her better to provide more fitting tributes, but let me explain as best as I can why this is such a loss for the world of Mormon letters.

Continue reading “In memoriam: Laraine Wilkins”

“Backslider” Turns 20

One of the more interesting events in Mormon Literature this year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Backslider, perhaps the finest LDS novel published to date. (The other novel widely considered for this designation is Maureen Whipple’s The Giant Joshua. Personally, I prefer The Backslider). Continue reading ““Backslider” Turns 20″

News: Welsh Poet and Retired BYU Professor Leslie Norris Dies

The Welsh poet and educator Leslie Norris suffered a massive stroke and died April 6th at 9:30 p.m. He was eighty-five years old.

Leslie Norris was born in the Welsh mining town of Merthyr Tydfil. A man of remarkable sensibilities, he felt life intensely very early on and began writing poetry as a boy. In his teens he spent hours in the company of such famous Welsh poets as Vernon Watkins and Dylan Thomas. Eventually his own poetry became world-renowned; at one time he was a candidate for poet laureate of England.

As Leslie passed out of his teens, practical considerations required his choosing a career over writing poetry. His life as an educator took off, but the more promotions he received the more distant he felt from students and from the joy writing gave him. Eventually Leslie reached a crossroads: he had to decide whether he was a poet or an educator. He began to re-engineer his career to allow him to escape from the walled world of school administration and return to a musical and meaningful relationship with words, where he felt happier and engaged. Also, Leslie needed to be with students; his advancements up the administrative ladder had robbed him of that.

In the “˜70s he accepted an invitation to teach at the University of Washington. I remember him first coming to BYU for the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Convention during that time. One way or another he was invited to teach at BYU and in 1983 took a six-month position he found very agreeable. BYU was smart enough to ask him to stay longer, naming him its poet-in-residence. The relationship between Leslie and BYU continued till the end of his life.

Leslie was not a Mormon but his influence in the Utah and Mormon literary community during those twenty plus years has been an inestimable gift. He guided and inspired many Mormon writers in the throes of developing their craft, myself among them. Besides his gifts in language Leslie possessed qualities sometimes thought antithetical to the stereotypical brooding poet–qualities such as kindness, clarity, and wisdom. Leslie’s writing and physical presence have always seemed to me completely approachable and wholly unaffected.

As more details become available I’ll post them in updates. Also I hope over the next few days to put up a post of personal remembrances of Leslie Norris. At that time AMV will invite any of our readers who have also known him to tell their own stories.