Myles Poydras remembered

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  • Published on September 26, 2022
  • Last Updated March 10, 2023
  • In DETOUR Desk

Professor and DETOUR publisher reflects on a mentee-turned-writing colleague.

Back in the spring of 2018, a shy baby-faced kid from New Orleans named Myles Poydras enrolled in my Intermediate Writing course at the Missouri School of Journalism. A colleague who believed Myles had promise suggested he take my course. From the first sentence of his first in-class assignment, I liked Myles. “I had taken road trips with my parents before,” he wrote on January 24, 2018. “I remember an overnight ride to Disney World, a trip to Atlanta, and other trips along the South during my childhood.” The work was clean, unfussy.

Later that semester, Myles turned in a piece about a popular university professor under fire. “Enduring is a black person’s game. It’s always been about how much, how far, how few, how many. When would the little clock expire? Its rusted hands cranky and troubled.” And about his father: “My father has always been greatly serviceable as long as I’ve known him, which has only been enough time for me to figure out a quarter of his tricks. I remember on countless occasions where he had to fix something on a whim. It’s a very fatherly trait; fixer comes very near the top of the list of Dad deeds.”

Myles was finding his way as a writer. And I kept reading him. During his summer internship at a New Orleans culture magazine, during his prestigious fellowship at The Atlantic magazine, during his graduate studies at George Mason University. I kept believing in him, too, as a good person, and very talented storyteller. When Suzanne MacNeille, my travel editor at the New York Times, asked me to recommend some talented journalists, I offered one name: Myles Poydras. Last summer, the Times published Myles’s longform feature on the intricacies of oyster farming along Maryland’s eastern shore. I called Myles after I read the piece.

You’re stealin’ my stuff, man, I teased.

We laughed.

I was proud.

About a week ago, Myles Poydras went missing in New Orleans. Today, his family buries him. I don’t know the details, except that life is cruel. I have lost students to tragedy; there was a point, though, in my mentorship of Myles when I realized we were now colleagues. Last summer, I said to him in an email: “I am writing to you as a friend, mentor, and fan of your work. I’d like to interest you in writing a short piece for DETOUR, a new digital travel and lifestyle magazine we’ve launched.”

His response was quick. “Hi Ron, Thank you for reaching out with this great opportunity! The timing is perfect too. I’m visiting home, and I have an idea that I think will work really well for this length and format. I’ll have something to you soon.”

Here’s the thing about Myles Poydras, the young writer: I never had to imagine his future. It was right there on the page, in those taut, thoughtful, soaring sentences. That’s how I’ll remember his life – taut, thoughtful, soaring.

I hope you’ll enjoy this Myles Poydras essay, published in July in DETOUR.

Ron Stodghill


This story was created by Detour, a journalism brand focused on the best stories in Black travel, in partnership with McClatchy’s The Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald. Detour’s approach to travel and storytelling seeks to tell previously under-reported or ignored narratives by shifting away from the customary routes framed in Eurocentrism. The detour team is made up of an A-list of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers, illustrators and filmmakers.

This story was originally published September 26, 2022 9:00 AM.

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