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February 25, 2003

Filmmaker to share documentary
chronicling local poet’s life

Photo: Chris SimonDirector/producer Chris Simon brings her latest film, about the life of local poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, to the screen during the 11th annual Festival of the Arts, April 3-12 at California State University, Sacramento.

The film, titled Down an Old Road: The Poetic Life of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, will be shown at 3 p.m. on April 10 in the University Union Hinde Auditorium. It documents the experiences McDaniel faced as a young woman during the Dust Bowl Migration of the early 1930s.

Although the Dust Bowl included migrants from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and other Great Plains states, the migrants were generically known as “Okies,” referring to the approximately 20 percent who were from Oklahoma. The term became a fighting word, with signs saying “No Okies” posted in movie theatres and stores.

Today, visitors to the Central Valley may be surprised to hear people born and raised in California speaking with Oklahoma twangs. The word “Okie” still has a negative connotation, yet many, including McDaniel and singer Merle Haggard, have embraced it. They call themselves Okies to honor the trials they or their parents went through and to honor the heritage that has made an indelible contribution to California’s complex society.

In Down an Old Road, filmmaker Simon intertwines history and poetry to explore McDaniel’s life and vision. Her poems, the core of the film, are illuminated with images from the Dust Bowl and life in rural California today.

“This is a multifaceted jewel of a film,” says poet, novelist and CSUS English professor Mary Mackey. “Ms. Simon has recorded moments in the life and work of poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, catching her considerable lyric power as well as the tradition that inspires her.”

Now in her 80s, McDaniel still writes a poem a day on precious scraps of paper. However, she no longer keeps them in a shoebox under her bed – her poems now appear in publications all over the world.

The event is free and includes a reception with Chris Simon from 4:30 to
6 p.m. in the University Union Lobby Suite.

For more information about the Festival of the Arts, contact the CSUS School of the Arts at (916) 278-ARTS or see the links from the Festival of the Arts news release at Media assistance is available from CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.



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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
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