WCU Vice President had Collection of Poems Published

Dr. Garry Breland, vice president for academic affairs at William Carey University, has had his first book, entitled Whole Cloth: Sacred Stories in Verse, published by Fields Publishing, Inc., Nashville. Breland began writing the poems in 2010. All 42 poems are based on Biblical themes from both the Old and New Testament, with special emphasis on the Christmas Nativity scene and the Beatitudes, the set of teachings by Jesus that appear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

“About two years ago I was packing away the Christmas Nativity decorations and it struck me that Mary was the only female figure in the event – birth of a baby – that in any other setting would feature numerous other women,” said Breland. “It inspired me to think about how Mary must have felt, and led me to write poetry that tries to reflect other Biblical women’s points of view.”

Breland, who grew up with three sisters, says he has always had an appreciation for the role of women in the Bible. He sought to draw on unseen points of view from famous Biblical stories in his poems, such as the viewpoint of Naomi on her tribulations in the Book of Ruth. Writing from viewpoints of women such as Naomi led him to also writing poems through the eyes of male characters previously unconsidered. For example, the poem “Zebedee” shares how the title character must have felt when his sons James and John left him and their fisherman duties to follow Jesus as disciples.

“What I really like the most about these poems is that they lead people to think more deeply about the meaning of Biblical text,” Breland said. “I like to make people think.”

Breland said that often experiences, and even words, will strike him as being poetic, and will give him the “kernel of the poem.” After writing and sharing his poems with his wife and friends for years, more than one person encouraged him to work towards for publication of his poetry.

Although this is his first published book, Breland has been practicing the art of writing poetry for as long as he can remember. Other poems of his have been published in The Indigo, The Magnolia Quarterly, and The Spill, and a poem was named honorable mention in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2010 Poetry Month contest. Breland’s career path has led him through a variety of professional roles: pastor, college professors, counselor, and administrator, but poetry has always been a part of his life.

Breland and his wife, Mary Beth, live in Hattiesburg. They have two adult children and three grandchildren.

(left to right) Tammy Dossett, administrative assistant for academic affairs at WCU, accepts a copy of the collection of poems, entitled Whole Cloth: Sacred Stories in Verse from the author, Dr. Garry Breland, vice president for academic affairs at WCU. Published in late 2011, this is Dr. Breland’s first book.