Former Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher remembers Toni Morrison and her legacy

Shara Dae Howard
August 11, 2019 - 6:10 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison died this past week at the age of 88, and former poet laureate of both Philadelphia and Montgomery County Yolanda Wisher paid tribute. 

"We've lost an oracle. It's like we've lost someone who gave us a window into ourselves," Wisher said.  

Morrison is gone, but her living voice travels across generational and racial lines.

Wisher, one of Philadelphia's premier advocates for poetry, remembers Morrison as a mother, aunt, daughter and teacher because Morrison challenged Americans in a timeless way, Black and white, to look deeper into the moving parts of America's racial divide.

"She was able to look back into the literature of the canon and give us a new way to see Black and whiteness," Wisher added.  

Morrison achieved this, Wisher said, because it was "just the way her writing could get under your skin and transport you to another spiritual plane of thought."

She believes Morrison's legacy will endure.

Haunting novels like Morrison's "Beloved" impact Wisher's work even today because, as in much of Morrison's writing, the truth takes many forms. 

"Those are the gifts that we'll still be mining from her work as we deal with the divisions and hate," Wisher said.