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Gathering Will Remember Inaugural St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in April 2015.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Friends, family and admirers will remember St. Louis poet Michael Castro during a memorial service Sunday at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. 

Castro died Dec. 23 from colon cancer, at the age of 73. He served just over two years as St. Louis’ first poet laureate.

The Board of Aldermen confirmed him to the post just weeks after a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in August of that year.

Through his poetry, Castro sought to address the racial and socio-economic divisions spotlighted by Ferguson protesters.

“Words provide moments of identity with quote-unquote ‘the other,’ moments of simple recognition of our common humanity,” he told St. Louis Public Radio in 2014.

‘We need to talk’

Born in New York City, Castro moved to St. Louis and earned a Ph.D. in American Literature from Washington University. His studies in St. Louis focused on Native American mythology and culture.

For 32 years, Castro was a professor at Lindenwood University before retiring in 2012. He also taught at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and founded the River Styx poetry group and publication.

In a signature poem, “We Need to Talk,” Castro urged all St. Louisans to view each other as simply human. 

I am more than your idea

I am tangible, touchable, a human being like you

We breathe the same air, want the same things

We need to talk

In 2015, Castro described the unrest in Ferguson and its underlying causes as wounds ready for healing.

“I think the scab has been lifted and the poison is pouring out and there’s an openness,” Castro said. “There’s a recognition that there has to be a change.

Castro will be remembered at gathering Sunday beginning at 3 p.m.

Following Castro’s death, poet and educator MK Stallings told the St. Louis American that Castro used poetry to bridge divided communities.

“Our hearts break because of what he has meant to the city and the poetry community,” Stallings said.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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