Mercer Artist: McPherson Newell


This issue’s featured artist is McPherson Newell. Photo by Chas Pridgen.

McPherson Newell first began writing poetry in the second grade. His love for it grew, however, he was in seventh grade when he began writing every day and continued the trend until he graduated high school. He has continued to write several pieces of poetry while attending college.

The sophomore biomedical engineering major always thought that he would pursue a career in English. It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that he decided to change his course.

“I became disabled junior year of high school and made me focus more on prosthetics and engineering,” Newell said.

While he loves poetry and writing, Newell decided he wanted to study something in school that would help people who had a need for prosthetics and people with limited mobility.

Newell explains that most of his poetry has to do with things that are personal to him. Being transgender and disabled, he writes a lot of poetry about his body, his relationship with his body, and his body’s relationship with society.

“(Writing is) a good way to process aspects of disability that you can’t talk about with a lot of people, put words to physical pain as well as emotional pain and give that (pain) a voice when you can’t really tell others how you’re feeling,” Newell said.

Newell’s favorite poet is Walt Whitman, because he loves the way that Whitman writes about the sanctity of the body as well as how Whitman writes about the treatment of the soul.

Writing is something that Newell does as he is on the go, as well as when he is at home. This summer, Newell would write poetry while on the Marta on his way to work. Now back on campus, Newell explains that he would ideally like to write outside, but because of his chronic pain it’s not always possible, so he does a lot of his writing in his bed.

While Newell’s poems have not been published since being at college, some of his work was published while he was in high school. Most notably, one of his poems was featured in Atlanta Magazine.

Newell uses poetry as an outlet to discuss topics that are important to him. Oftentimes it can be hard for people to speak out loud what they are feeling. For Newell, poetry is a route for people to understand him, his experience and allows others to relate to him. Newell lends his voice to those who are voiceless, empowers those who feel unempowered and gives hope to those who are hopeless.  

Newell wrote “On Rejecting Sanctification” on July 27.

“This is your body which is hell on earth,

speaking your own name sacred even when it’s misspelled,

laying the foundation of a kingdom on someone else’s holy ground.

This is your will which will continue to put one foot in front of the other

even when they believe so loud it cracks the sidewalks.”

  -McPherson Newell