ANDERSON, Ind. —
By David Allen
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Gail Brant is not about to let the years slow her down.
Last year the 89-year-old retired public accountant became the oldest person to graduate from Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in English.
More recently, she was named Indiana Senior Poet Laureate in a national writing competition.
And, while some people might think a poem by an elderly woman submitted to a poetry contest would be traditional and syrupy, Brant’s winning poem was far removed from such stereotypes. "Too Late I Know My Brother" touches on the friendship of two soldiers from diverse racial backgrounds who become brothers in battle.
“My son’s experience during the Vietnam War inspired me,” Brant said in her East Cross Street home. “Donald was a radioman in the Air Force and was stationed for a while in Biloxi, (Miss.), where he was appalled at the treatment of blacks by the local people. He became good friends with one of the young black men he met there.”
In the poem the two men go into battle together. One steps on a mine and dies in his young friend’s arms.
“My son felt bad for him,” Brant said. “The description of their friendship is true. The event is not. My son came home safely from the jungle.
“We are a family of soldiers,” she added. “My late husband, Edward, was also in the Air Force and my grandson, Michael Smith, was a Marine who served during Desert Storm. My great-grandson, Anthony Smith, served two tours in Afghanistan.”
The award was presented by Amy Kitchener’s Angels Without Wings, a private literary society in Monterey, Calif. The poem will be published in an anthology, “Golden Words.” The contest was for poets 50 and older. More than 900 poems were submitted by 219 poets for the 2011 contest, according to the society.
There was a $3 entry fee per poem and the national runner-up winners received prizes of $500 and $100, respectively.
“It was the first national contest that I have entered,” said Brant, who grew up on a farm near Lapel. “I’ve dabbled in poetry ever since I was 12 years old. I’d write poems for friends’ birthdays and about our great Lapel High School basketball team. I even had a poem about our 4-H Club girls in the local Lapel paper.”
But writing poetry took a back seat to raising her three children and career as real estate broker and public accountant with the family business, Edward Brant Accounting. After her husband died five years ago, she decided to return to college to earn her bachelor of arts degree. While there, she got involved with the school’s literary magazine and published a few more poems.
Brant is a member of the National and Indiana State Federation of Poetry Societies. The local chapter meets every third Wednesday at the Anderson Public Library. Her entry into the “senior poets” contest was through a notice in the organization’s newsletter.
“She is an amazing, down-to-earth poet,” said Glenna Glee, president of the state organization and an Anderson resident.
“She has a real talent of taking the voice of somebody else on just about any subject and doing something special with it,” Glee, 93, said. “She’s a great addition to our group here in Anderson.”