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Book A Symbol of Perseverance for Alumnus Emanuel Yarbrough

JSU alumnus Emanuel Yarbrough has learned to overcome life's troubles by expressing himself through poetry. He teaches English at Barbour County High School in Eufaula.

By Sherry Kughn
News Bureau

January 24, 2005 -- Sunlight, lilac blossoms, and an angel-like girl decorate the front of Emanuel Yarbrough’s book, Shadows of Dawn: A Poetic Revelation Renaissance. The title and glowing cover suggest hope, but the poems inside are about the sorrow that Yarbrough, a JSU alumnus, experienced during his youth. The poetry is about faith, too, and it is faith that has kept Yarbrough, 24, persevering to overcome poverty and the death of his parents.

Shadows of Dawn: A Poetic Revelation Renaissance reflects Yarbrough's love for the romantic poets. The themes of his first book of poetry are overcoming grief and expressing faith.

Yarbrough, who graduated from JSU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, had worked hard during his growing up years in the Anniston schools. He focused on his studies instead of his family’s hardships. His father Clyde Yarbrough suffered from addiction, perhaps in part because of post traumatic depression. The family, which included Yarbrough’s brother, Donald, struggled financially until their father died in 1997. Life’s troubles brought about rebellion in Donald; determination in Yarbrough. Donald left home: Yarbrough took after-school jobs to supplement his mother Cathy’s income. The two relied on each other more than most mothers and sons.

In 1999, Yarbrough graduated as valedictorian at Anniston High School. To celebrate, he and his mother decided to visit Charlotte, North Carolina, where her parents, whom they had not seen for 12 years, lived. On July 12, they left Anniston in Yarbrough’s 1989 Volkswagen Fox. As they passed through Gaffney, North Carolina, Yarbrough’s car sideswiped another and then careened in front of a tractor-trailer on the other side of the interstate. Yarbrough was hurt and taken to a hospital in nearby Spartanburg. His mother died.

Two weeks went by before Yarbrough recovered enough from broken ribs, a lacerated spleen, and a punctured lung to return to Anniston.

“I remember lying in the hospital talking to my English teacher who had called me,” says Yarbrough. “She wanted to hang up because a nurse had come into the room, so I begged her to stay on the phone. I began crying because I was so lonely. I wanted to hold on to someone I knew.”

Yarbrough went to live at the home of Eskell and Mary Nell Smith, members of the 49th Street Baptist Church, where he had been a member since his early teens.  They helped him recover and loved him like a son. The community responded, too, to the good student’s plight. More than $10,000 was raised in a fund set up to help him start college. Ray Morris, Yarbrough’s minister, gave him a car. The Anniston School Foundation’s Next Start program gave him a scholarship, and he won numerous other scholarships that would help him reverse his misfortune.


Yarbrough decided to major in education and become an English teacher. He enrolled at JSU. He worked hard and fell in love with literature. He absorbed the concepts of good literature and enjoyed studying the lives of the classical authors. He especially enjoyed reading the works of the Romantic poets, Wordsworth and Poe. Their style is evident in Yarbrough’s poetry. At the end of Shadows of Dawn, he praises three of his favorite professors for their influence: Dr. Robert Felgar, head of the English department; Dr. Carmen DiBiase, associate professor of English; and Eugene Williams, retired English professor. He praised Dr. Felgar specifically for “many of the ideas and the inspiration for the introduction of the book and for the “Intimations” poem, . . .” and he praised high school English teachers, Laura Phillips, Brian McBrayer, and Rita Harris.

Early on in college, the youth who had learned to overcome obstacles discovered a new kind of heartache: His girlfriend dropped him. The pain of a failed relationship felt like death.

“I hurt so badly I wanted to die,” he says.

Out of his pain, though, grew the desire to write. During the summer of 2000, Yarbrough wrote his first poetry. He submitted it to his professors, who were tough in their criticism but encouraging. Dr. Felgar told him his poem “Vanilla” contained “mental energy.” Yarbrough was elated when it was published in a collection of student work. In the poem, Yarbrough says that “Youthful innocence and brilliance is such/ A mockery of my ever dying happiness/ And sense of being.” In it, he tells a less-than-loving lover to leave and asks her, “How can you see nothing where \nothing is left?”

Yarbrough fell in love with another woman who, once again, broke his heart. His spirit turned inward and found an outlet in his writing. The more poetry he wrote, the better he enjoyed it. His professors encouraged his work, and his creativity surged. During his remaining college years, he wrote as many as three to four poems on some days. The result is Shadows of Dawn, which he published in 2004 through a print-on-demand publisher,

In Yarbrough’s poetry, he writes of his girlfriends’ deaths, which are fictional or, in literary terms, metaphorical. His poetry on faith is more hopeful. The last section in his book is called “Shadows of Faith and Philosophy.” In it, Yarbrough expresses his love to God and his desire to live a Christian life in spite of hardships. In “Reflections On Thought, Idealism, Reality, and Truth” Yarbrough writes, “That man can live a clean, good life before God by the Lord’s wondrous mercy and grace is a reality of life.” His poetry exalts faith and love.


After his first year of teaching at Barbour County Middle School, Yarbrough’s surrogate father died. He came back to Mrs. Smith’s side during the funeral.

“Emanuel took my husband’s death hard,” says Mrs. Smith, who owns and operates Jewell’s Friendship Tax Service in Saks. The two stay in touch. “He still considers my house his home on vacation and holidays.”

Yarbrough taught another year at the middle school and then moved to Barbour County High School where he teaches English. He relates to students, he says, who struggle. He feels they listen because they know he has been through troubles.

Yarbrough’s faith has grown, too, during his adult years. He teaches Sunday school at Grace Independent Baptist Church in Eufaula, and he is active in the choir and visits the elderly and the incarcerated. One of his goals, he says, is to help spread the gospel.

Yarbrough wants to write more, too, but his teaching often takes precedent. A hundred pages of a novel are stored in his computer. It is a tragic romance, he says, and he hopes to complete it soon.

Shadows of Dawn has attracted the attention of a prestigious editor, whom he doesn’t want to name. The man is helping edit some of his poetry, says Yarbrough, and encourages him to write more.

Yarbrough wants to have the same affect on his readers as he gets from the classics. “I want to move people in the same ways,” he says. “I’d like to know people’s lives are more passionate and beautiful because of something I wrote.”

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