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The International Writers Magazine
: A Tribute


MATTIE STEPANEK:
A TRIBUTE TO A ‘POET-HERO’
Augustine Nwaka

"I write to express my thoughts and feelings.
Your heartsong is your inner beauty,..
It's the song in your heart that wants you to help make yourself a better person, and to help other people do the same. Everybody has one."
—Mattie Stepanek.

Mattie J.T. Stepanek, better known as American poet-hero and peacemaker in the US and the UK, and some other parts of the world has passed away in a twinkle of an eye. Mattie started writing poetry when he was three years old. Mattie suffered from a terminal illness of muscular dystrophy and died at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, June 22, 2004. Mattie's artistic poetry had inspired many young people who had been privileged to read his heartsong of books. The, then 12-year-old child poet, who had been incurably indisposed in Rockville has restored hope and peace to many lives… Millions of copies of Mattie’s five volumes of poetry had been sold in the US. All five of his books of poetry have become New York Times bestsellers. Mattie’s book has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, People Magazine, and USA Today and he has appeared on Oprah Winfrey Show, a popular show in the States, Cable News Network, CNN, and Prime Time Live.

Mattie was the Maryland State and National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, MDA. He has led his Association to many events and has donated aids through fundraisings for the sick of neuromuscular diseases in the US. He was a recipient of many poetry and non-poetry awards, which include the 2002 Venison Courage Award, the Melinda Award and the 2002 Children’s Hope medal Honour. These awards are truly deserved for him because he had a creative sincerity and humility to humanity at large. Mattie had a unique positive solicitude and an informed pertinence to humankind.

In 2000, Mattie presented some of his inspirational books to the American Library of Congress in Maryland during fall. He was a member of the International Society of Poets, ISP, USA until 2003. His poetry collections such as Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs, Hope Though Heartsongs, and Loving Through Heartsongs. Loving Through Heartsongs was published in January 2003 by Hyperion Books, remain a ‘golden book’ in the States. Mattie has had encounters with the 39th president of the United States (1977-1981), Jimmy Carter, in 2001 and has simultaneously appeared with him on Oprah Winfrey show. He has had issues on Bosnia and Africa discussed with the former US President. I have listened to him on CNN’s Larry King Live show sometime in June 2004 in Nigeria when he talked genially on his heartsongs of hope and peace for the world. I was pleased with the way he viewed life and how he hoped to achieve his message of hope and peace for the world. Mattie talked spontaneously, as desirous as he was, to put an end to war and arms race. This is a product of an ingenious and precocious mind of a little child who was determined to change the world order.

The American peace poet is a child of many colours… many dreams, many inspirations, but untimely as it was, he was cut short of this promising destiny. A peacemaker-poet, a promising child of destiny with a unique perspective, is a lost to a young generation. His always-smiling countenance and glasses spoke volumes of his Heartsongs. He acknowledged in one of his lines of poetry and I quote: ’’ … in every life, there are storms. But we must remember to play after every storm and celebrate the gift of life… we must always listen to the song in our heart and share that song with others’’. This expression refocuses one’s attitude to life. It also suggests that when we are at war, we should always listen to the rhythmic sonorous songs that poured in from our innermost hearts. This is a one step to peace of mind and hope of life eternal. Your heartsongs can be therapeutic to your distressed mind, and it can go as far as restoring peace to your ‘frail’ mind.

Mattie has preached hope and peace to many hearers and he had emphasized his aspiration to be a peacemaker at various occasions and events in the States. His love for humanity has endeared him to many poetry readers and admirers of his endowed works. The child poet’s inspiring poetic artistry manifests a far-fetched strength that has earned him the hearts of many admirers who had loved his sonorous style of writing. In spite of Mattie’s health, he had received credence in the US and other places of the world, and his continued writings, with heartfelt lines of poetry, have made his readers passionate of how hope and peace he preached could be attained in the world.

The world has lost a rare gem! A great child of support to the MDA and the sick. The MDA lives forever to remember him. Oh! Mattie… you have died, but your Heartsongs will keep your inspirations firmly in the world, and we hope they will restore hope and peace to them. I am vexed that I could not have the time to visit you in the US: my elegiac poem on you published in Ohio, US, will continue to remind your affable admirers your exceptional and insightful mission of poetry on earth. I have been deeply touched and many Africans too by your heartsongs poetry. My poetry friends in the UK and the States, and Europe respectively miss you too.Your demise was a rude shock to many of us. We shall continue to keep you in our writings in any part of the world we are. Mattie, we love you, but God loves you most Jenni Stepanek, Mattie’s mum, take heart and solace in heartsongs of Mattie and celebrate life. God knows the best. Adieu Mattie!
© Augustine Nwaka - September 2004
Poet-contributor, Muse Apprentice Guild California, USA
(E-mail:nwakaaustine@yahoo.com)
Augustine wrote in from Enugu, Nigeria

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