I wish to write about Marina Keegan today not only because April is National Poetry Month, but also because Marina’s life reminds me of a sad and lyrical sonnet – brief but deeply moving. I wish I had known her, but I didn’t.
Marina (Yale Class of 2012) was a true champion of the arts, not just in her personal orientation, but also as an activist. In fact, her life embodies the universal struggle so many of us face in life, between meaning and money. She opted for the former.
In my youth, I believe I felt like she did. The difference was that I lacked her courage and conviction as I moved through the years. Marina, a prolific writer, actress and activist, died in a car accident in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in May of 2012, five days after her graduation from Yale. She was 22. Announcing her death, the Yale Daily News wrote: “At Yale, Keegan distinguished herself as a leader across disciplines: in addition to writing and starring in several campus plays, Keegan served as president of the Yale College Democrats, and last fall sparked a campus discussion on careers in finance and consulting that ultimately spread to other Ivy League campuses and the pages of the New York Times.”
So, even as we do not for a moment disparage those who choose careers in science, medicine, law, engineering or commerce, we pay homage to the brave souls who opt to serve the arts – as poets, writers, artists, musicians – and the certain struggles such choices entail.
As I write these words, I am drawn irresistibly to the life and work of one of our beloved authors, Evelyn Mattern (“Ordinary Places, Sacred Spaces”, Bayeux, 2005). Mattern, a poet, author, mystic, activist and member of Sisters for Christian Community, died in 2003 at Sacred Heart Home in her native Philadelphia. Mattern’s friends gathered at United Church of Chapel Hill, N.C., for a memorial service to tell stories about the woman who was a champion of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, and who devoted her life to working for justice and peace.
Friends joked that Mattern was better known for campaigns that ended in failure. A front-page tribute to her in The (Raleigh) News & Observer was headlined: “Triumphs lie in fights, not wins.” We end this homage to poets and writers with words from one of Marina’s poems: “I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short,”