Vet-turned-educator shares poems of triumph and tragedy at The Studio@620

Miesha Brundridge

BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – This Sunday, Sept. 23, The Studio@620 hosts poet Miesha Brundridge as she reads from her new book “A Beautiful Disaster.”

ae, A Beautiful Disaster BOOKBrundridge, who currently works as a paraprofessional/reading coach for the Pinellas County School Board, is a transplant from one of Lakeland’s most impoverished neighborhoods and has become a fixture in the St. Pete art scene.

Difficult childhood experiences could have emotionally paralyzed her, but like many poets, including Maya Angelou, it was a combination of pain, strength and personal drive that motivated her to transform those experiences through the alchemy of poetry.

“I started writing in middle school; there was a lot going on, and I couldn’t really talk to anybody in my family, they were moving around so much. So, I just started keeping a journal and writing about things that annoyed or bothered me,” Brundridge shared in a recent conversation. “It became my only outlet.”

Her chaotic family life resulted in her growing up mainly in her grandmother’s home, along with three aunts, her twin sister Kiesha and younger brother Antione.

Her mother was in and out of jail. She and her siblings were told their father was dead, and it wasn’t until she was in third grade that she learned the “kind gentlemen” who would bring them gifts and visit her mother — when he wasn’t in prison — was actually her dad.

Brundridge was always considered the “strongest” of the siblings, expected to protect her twin sister or help her younger brother with schoolwork. She was also often the one to question whether her father was really deceased.

They finally learned that their father was actually the family friend when an aunt from St. Pete blurted out one day: “Your father’s not dead; I just saw him at the corner store!”

Like many young women, she found herself drawn to dangerous men. “I dated all the people my mom tried to tell us to avoid, but the only examples we had were the men she was dating,” Brundridge asserted.

One of her poems documents a relationship that became so abusive that one can still hear the horror of the memories as Brundridge speaks about the domestic violence that occurred throughout her first year of college.

When she moved to St. Pete to take care of an aunt, the abuser followed her. She joined the military at 23 to get away.

“If I had stayed in Lakeland I could have been a victim or even passed away,” she admitted, recalling the violence that transpired.

She was deployed and served in the Iraqi Freedom War, which led to more anger, physical damage and surgery.

“The military made me angry. They push you to do a lot of things that you don’t want to do in the military; there’s a lot of training that they push you to do. Being a female in the military is hard – the wear and tear on the body.”

Deployment resulted in double leg surgeries; she has learned to live with the daily pain. But the years of anger and trauma led her twin Kiesha to recommend she join Celebrate Recovery at First Baptist.

It was there that she again began journaling about her pains, bad habits and past experiences. Those sessions finally encouraged her to pick up poetry she had written throughout the years, and along with new work formed the foundation for “A Beautiful Disaster.”

While in the military, Brundridge got her master’s degree in Criminal Justice.

“My parents spent so much time in the correctional system I wanted to know what the criminal justice system was and why they wanted to go back so much because they didn’t spend a lot of time at home.”

She left the military to work in juvenile detention but found she didn’t like the atmosphere.  The opportunity to substitute in Pinellas County Schools led to her becoming such a popular paraprofessional that schools have started requesting her in their classrooms.

Today, Brundridge touches the lives of children as a reading coach, sharing the love of words that have been so vital in her own life.

The cover of her new poetry book is an image of dozens of keys; she acknowledged the importance of the symbol in her life. “Some journeys hurt us, so we lock the door…some keys can set us free.”

She sums up the symbolism in her Sunday evening’s program notes: “Choose what key sets you free.”

The book launch/poetry reading for “A Beautiful Disaster” by begins with a reception at 5 p.m., and reading at 7 p.m. at The Studio@620, 620 1st Ave. S, Saint Petersburg.

To reach J.A. Jones, email

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