top of page


Molly Lynn Watt

Molly Lynn Watt, a poet, activist, and educator, draws on her time working at Highlander Center in Tennessee in 1963 for the heart of her most recent book “On Wings of Song—A Journey into the Civil Rights Era” (Ibbetson 2014). This memoir is about race in America told in a sequence of poems. It is about involvement in the Civil Rights Movement when she and her then-husband, Bob Gustafson, directed a workcamp to build a voter registration training facility in the Smokey Mountains with 15 black activist volunteers from Birmingham and 15 white student volunteers primarily from northern states. Under cover of night the workcampers were rousted from bed at gunpoint by members of the Klan, many of whom were deputized that day but wore no badges nor showed any ID. Luckily for the group, they were thrown into the Maryville Jail, including Molly’s daughters, Kristin aged 1 and Robin aged 3. This is an American story where the personal slams against the political. It is a story of courage, shame and optimism. The book starts during the World War II and concludes in 2014 with a poem, “Civil Rights Update” linked with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as required reading in the Dallas Public Schools. Poet Afaa Michael Weaver praised this book with these words, “On Wings of Song” is a journey into the heart, the place of deep caring for the state of being human.  Watt has written with the sincere and sympathetic hand to mark a path for the reader to return to the Civil Rights Era of the 50's and 60's, a history that never leaves us.  As she writes, “there is no time for fear”.  In the inscape of her journey we see the time for caring is now.  These are gentle but sure lines of conviction, lines worthy of a standing applause.” 

Watt’s first book of poems “Shadow People” (Ibbetson 2007) continues to be available, praised by poet Fred Marchant, “We begin as observers but by the end of this book join Molly Watt in the dance of her life.”

Her public history play coauthored and performed with her husband Dan Lynn Watt, “George and Ruth — Songs and Letters of the Spanish Civil War,” is on CD. It is based on excerpts of letters Dan’s parents exchanged between his father, George Watt, a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and his bride of a year, Ruth Watt, a student activist in New York City. Howard Zinn and Pete Seeger proclaimed this play “an important contribution keeping the spirit of democracy and conscience alive”.

Her chapbook poem “Consider This” was choreographed for Across the Ages Dance Concert.  Poet Suzanne Berger says, “This poem does everything we ever hoped a poem could do,” as it portrays a girl in the grip of incest.

Molly Lynn Watt lives in Cambridge Cohousing since 1998 with her husband Dan Lynn Watt. They were among the co-founders. It is here their little ukulele band, Common Strummers meets each week to strum and sing into the better world they dream of.


View a slideshow of Molly Lynn Watt's work




Author’s Page

My Story in the Civil Rights Movement

Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement

George and Ruth, listen to excerpts



I want to write a poem
the way a jazz man 
composes on his feet 
sways in rhythm 
taps a syncopated beat
like Krupa drives drums

I want to whisper 
slave song sorrows
wail field hand hollers
howl and growl
to a bottle neck slide
pulse with rage and heat
rap a wild wind run
like Louie on his trumpet
hit a 100 high Cs
to blast away injustice

I want to bend   contort   riff
twist and pound like thunder
crack and shatter like glass
drip blood in the gutter
scat with Ella 
to the moon

- Molly Lynn Watt


Aurora Borealis

We’ve become night travelers 
creeping along Alaskan highways
for one more chance encounter. 
She—beguiling hooker draped in ruby satins— 
flashes along Earth’s silhouette 
doing hijinks across the skies 
dazzling frost crystals in riverbeds 
whispering to crackling ground 
to join her juicy dance— 
then ripples on. 

We are shadow people 
stalking her by moonlight 
desirous of another glimpse 
as she rides the mountain ridges. 
We’ll wait all night for one caress 
from her expanding waves of sheen. 
But she’s a neon flirt 
who swirls and flares 
cavorting through celestial skies— 
a good-time girl— 
she soars alone. 

- Molly Lynn Watt

bottom of page