English teacher Matthew Henry publishes poetry book “the Colored Page”


Nico Barbieri

Dr. Henry with his new poetry book

Nico Barbieri, Opinion Editor

  English teacher Dr. Matthew E. Henry has released his new book of poetry, “the Colored page,” published on July 19, 2022. The book, which is Henry’s third and his first full collection, is self-described as a “semi-autobiographical account of a black kid in predominantly white institutions.” 

    Henry’s new book is a mix of older poems he’d written in the past  and newer poems written specifically for “the Colored page.”

    “I would say that technically it was being written over the course of ten years,” Henry said. “I think more than half of [it] was written in the last 18 months or so.” 

     Despite having now published three books of poetry, Henry wasn’t interested in poetry for all of high school, which he attributes to not being taught the right poems.

    “I wasn’t a poet until sophomore year of college,” Henry said. “It was in college I was exposed to more poetry and poetry I didn’t think was garbage. I encountered some of the same [poets] in college, but the poems we were given from those people in high school were all school-appropriate and safe. And they were horrible.”

     Henry wrote many of the poems in this collection in the mornings before school started. Working at WHS has had an impact on Henry’s creation of these poems.  First, he often arrives at school before his work day begins and spends that time writing. And of course being a teacher has also affected Henry’s writing.

     “A piece of that teacher-student connection is that I’m often inspired by things I see in the classroom,” Henry said.

     Henry donated 50% of his pre-order sales to Boston-Weston METCO’s scholarship fund. Henry himself was a METCO student in Wellesley. 

      On August 4 Henry presented his poetry at a live reading at the Weston Public Library.  Alida Hanson, a librarian at WHS, attended the reading.

      “Dr. Henry’s poetry makes people talk,” Hanson said. “I think the way people understand and experience Dr. Henry’s poems depends on who they are and what their life experiences are.”

      Hanson believes that students should read or purchase Henry’s new book.

      “I would recommend [his books] because they are accessible and thought-provoking,” Hanson said. “His poetry is deceptive: it’s easy to read and understand on the surface, but it’s much more challenging to engage with it beyond the surface.”

     Fellow English teacher Michael Kelley appreciates Henry’s honesty in his writing.

     “Poets often write from experience, and I appreciate the truth Dr. Henry is willing to speak,” Kelleysaid. “He has a powerful voice in his poetry, and he has a vantage point that is markedly different from my own despite the fact that we share the same profession.”

    Kelley also admires Henry’s values and experiences.

    “I appreciate being able to hear from an author [at a reading], particularly what they say about a poem’s inspiration and some of their artistic choices,” Kelley said. “In the world of literature there is such a long history of particular groups being silenced by the publishing world, which has long been dominated by straight, white men, and I’m glad that Dr. Henry is able to be heard.”

    Henry’s writing is affected by his experiences being a teacher in school districts lacking diversity.

    “For much of my career, I was one of few black or brown faces in the district,” Henry said. “In [“the Colored page”], there were a bunch of things I wanted to share about my life… having been raised in a bowl of milk.”

    The poem’s cover was drawn by artist Jackie Liu, who graduated from WHS in 2021. Jackie Liu currently attends Stanford University and has a very high opinion of her former teacher.

   “Dr. Henry is one of the most intelligent, loving, courageous, passionate, wise, supportive humans I have ever encountered,” Liu stated on her Instagram.

   Henry will be reading from his book at Wellesley Books, 82 Central Street, Wellesley on Friday, October 7 at 7:00 pm, and all who would like to hear more are encouraged to attend.