Andrew Oerke’s Last Poems: Boyhood in Bayfield (PC Staff)


Poet Andrew Oerke (PC staff: Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Jamaica 1966-71), who received the 2015 William Meredith Award for Poetry, died unexpectedly in 2014. His widow, Doctor Anitra Thorhaug, has just published Boyhood in Bayfield: Poems, Andrew’s first poems about his boyhood in Bayfield, Wisconsin that includes photographs and insights into his past and her own. Like fellow pilgrims in a challenging landscape, she gives a sense of place from which the poems were born, both the physical and cultural landscape.

Andrew OerkeOerke was not only a poet, but also the CEO of an environmental foundation, president of a microfinance organization, Golden Gloves boxing champion, academic, and Peace Corps Country Director in Malawi and Jamaica.

This ‘final’ collection of his poems has been published by Poets’ Choice Publishing.

For more about Andrew, go to


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  • Andrew apparently arrived after my generation of volunteers in Nyasaland, soon to become Malawi, had finished up. Esconced, and barricaded in their office above the central grocery store in Blantyre, their reality was very different from the volunteers, mostly teachers, scattered about the Nyanja counryside. Nothing wrong with that — just a very different view of reality.

    The two seemed to converge and clash with travel-writer Paul Theroux and his early, published PC-based essays. Then, everything that subsequently would happen in what then was neighbouring Southern Rhodesia and Rep of South Africa.

    It’s a story still to be unfolded, put into perspective, and told. PCVs were there.

    John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment 1963-64-65.

  • Thanks John for an interesting set. Although I was not in Malwai with Andrew, I have been led by Tom Powers, MD, Jack Allison, MD, Jerry Glenn and others, to understand that staff and volunters spent much of their time moving about the countryside and teaching , healing, and reaching out to Malawians. Especially setting up the first public health program, which was embraced.
    Perhaps you will want to read the poems in Andrew Oerke’s earlier ” Elephant Cakewalk” or “African Siltdancer” 2003, which won the UN Literary Award for Excellence. These were set both in Malawi and the many nations Andrew led micro enterprise efforts in as Director of Partnership for Productivity an NGO specializing in very small loans in 38 nations since 1967 in Kakamega, Kenya.

  • John Turnbull: Has anyone told the story of the Malawi volunteers’ clash with the US Ambassador over the Viet Nam war in the mid-1960s? Were you in-country at the time? David

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