Tempe community mourns the loss of local street poet William 'Wonderful'

Friends and fans remember the lively poet's contribution to the local arts community

Earlier this week, the Tempe community lost a beloved poet, conversationalist and former ASU English professor William “Wonderful” Jenkins. 

Wonderful died from a short-term aggressive cancer on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, according to online posts from those who knew him. 

He was well known for the poems he would sell, or give, outside Ash Avenue in Tempe, near Cartel Coffee Lab and Ash Avenue Comics and Books. He was known for never putting a price on his work and instead, he accepted whatever donation people were willing to give him.

For a few years at Cartel Coffee Lab, Wonderful would recite his poetry and other works at a Friday night showcase.

Read more: The man behind the poems on Ash Avenue

Abraham Ostling, a sophomore majoring in art studies and a Cartel Coffee Lab employee, said hardly a day passed when the poet was not at the coffee shop — whether he was performing or selling his poetry.

"He was definitely widely recognized as a fixture in this neighborhood," Ostling said. "He was a very welcoming figure."

Ostling said Wonderful left a lasting impression on many regulars at the coffee shop, including himself.

"I introduced myself to him and didn’t see him for a couple months, but when I saw him months later, he still remembered my name," Ostling said. “He almost always remembers everyone’s name, no matter how long ago they met."

Cartel Coffee Lab is planning to hold a commemorative poetry night in Wonderful's honor, Ostling said. The date is not yet decided, but the coffee shop will announce details soon.

In an interview with The State Press in 2016, Wonderful said he used his platform to comment on the atrocities he saw in human relationships.

"There's always something in people that needs to be drawn out or shared, and I relish in the opportunity to draw people out of themselves," Wonderful said.

Jason Woodbury, a marketing director at Zia Records, wrote a Facebook post in remembrance of Wonderful.

"Over the years, I got to know him as one of the best conversationalists in Tempe," Woodbury wrote in the Facebook post.

Woodbury wrote that no matter how long it had been since he had seen Wonderful, he always felt as if no time had passed. 

"As work and life took me elsewhere, our talks—outside of Ash Ave or Cartel or Casey’s—grew less frequent," Woodbury wrote. "But it didn’t seem to matter that it had been a year or two since we last spoke, he picked up like no time had passed at all—consummate raconteur."

Woodbury put it simply.

"I won't forget him," he wrote. 


Reach the reporter at eborst@asu.edu and follow @ellieeborstt on Twitter.

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