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Hunt Hawkins – Mourning the Dying Female Names

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This month’s Versed in Florida is with Hunt Hawkins - Chair of the English Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He previously held the same position at Florida State University. He earned both his Masters and his Ph.D. from Stanford. Hawkins specializes in Modern British Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and poetry writing. He’s published two books and many articles and poems including today’s installment in which he mourns dying American female names with WGCU’s Amy Tardif.

Mourning the Dying American Female Names

In the Altha Diner on the Florida panhandle
a stocky white-haired woman
with a plastic nameplate “Mildred”
gently turns my burger, and I fall into grief.
I remember the long, hot drives to North Carolina
to visit Aunt Alma, who put up quarts of peaches,
and my grandmother Gladys with her pieced quilts.
Many names are almost gone: Gertrude, Myrtle,
Agnes, Bernice, Hortense, Edna, Doris, and Hilda.
They were wide women, cotton-clothed, early rising.
You had to move your mouth to say their names,
and they meant strength, spear, battle, and victory.
When did women stop being Saxons and Goths?
What frog Fate turned them into Alison, Melissa,
Valerie, Natalie, Adrienne, and Lucinda,
diminished them to Wendy, Cindy, Suzy, and Vicky?
I look at these young women
and hope they are headed for the presidency,
but I fear America has other plans in mind,
that they be no longer at war
but subdued instead in amorphous corporate work,
somebody’s assistant, something in a bank,
single parent with word-processing skills.
They must have been made French
so they could be cheap foreign labor.
Well, all I can say is,
Good luck to you
Kimberly, Darlene, Cheryl, Heather, and Amy.
Good luck April, Melanie, Becky, and Kelly.
I hope it goes well for you.
But for a moment let us mourn.
Now is the time to say good-bye
to Florence, Muriel, Ethel, and Thelma.
Good-bye Minnie, Ada, Bertha, and Edith.

Amy Tardif is WGCU’s FM Station Manager and News Director. She oversees a staff of 10 full and part-time people and interns in news, production and the radio reading service. Her program Lucia's Letter on human trafficking received a coveted Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a gold medal from the New York Festivals and 1st place for Best Documentary from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. She was the first woman in radio to Chair RTDNA, having previously served as Chair-Elect and the Region 13 representative on its Board of Directors for which she helped write an e-book on plagiarism and fabrication. She also serves on the FPBS Board of Directors and served on the PRNDI Board of Directors from 2007 -2012. Tardif has been selected twice to serve as a managing editor for NPR's Next Generation Radio Project. She served on the Editorial Integrity for Public Media Project helping to write the section on employee's activities beyond their public media work. She was the producer and host of Gulf Coast Live Arts Edition for 8 years and spent 14 years as WGCU’s local host of NPR's Morning Edition. Amy spent five years as producer and managing editor of WGCU-TV’s former monthly environmental documentary programs In Focus on the Environment and Earth Edition. Prior to joining WGCU Public Media in 1993, she was the spokesperson for the Fort Myers Police Department, spent 6 years reporting and anchoring for television stations in Fort Myers and Austin, Minnesota and reported for WUSF Public Radio in Tampa. Amy has two sons in college and loves fencing, performing in local theater and horseback riding.