September 30, 2016

A tinfoil hat time

Former Poet Laureate of Missouri and Webster University professor David Clewell sets the mood for his newest collection of poems by saying there will never be a time when there will not be something a little intimidating or fear-inspiring.

In celebration of the completion of his collection Almost Nothing To Be Scared Of, a reading of a few of the poems was held March 24 in the Pearson House.

Clewell said readings give poems a chance to come alive and express themselves in a way that silent reading can not.

He said while reading aloud is to allowing the author to produce the cadence embedded in a poem, it is mainly a way to accentuate the many components that go into individual poems.

Murray Farish, another English professor and friend of Clewell, strongly urged Clewell to be part of Webster’s Visiting Writers series.

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Webster University professor David Clewell speaks to a crowded room of students and faculty at the reading of his new poetry collection. JORDAN PALMER / The Journal

The series seeks to increase public exposure to the styles and writing of contemporary authors and provide people a chance to meet with prominent writers.

Clewell read a selection of poems, including crowd favorites such as “What If All Along We’ve Been Wrong About Tinfoil Hats,” and “Post-Reading Q&A; or, When Van-Morrison Finishes a Concert, He’s Not Obliged to Do This Sort of Thing,” among many others.

Clewell’s “What If All Along We’ve Been Wrong About Tinfoil Hats” discussed presumptions and expectations of both tinfoil hats and their wearers.

“We live in a tinfoil hat time,” Clewell said when jokingly asked whether or not he endorsed the purchasing of tinfoil hats. “Depending what you want to do with that fact, whether you want to protect yourself with [a hat], or leave yourself wide open, that’s going to depend on who you are.”

Associate Professor of English Sheila Wang said she admired the wit and the humorous, almost rambling nature of the poems.

“I really liked the one about the tin hats,” Wang said.

Patti Riggle, adjunct professor in the department of music and education, said she enjoyed at Clewell’s style as well.

“I thought it was wonderful,” Riggle said. “Every poem spoke to me.”

Clewell said he can tell when an event goes well when the audience smiles and audibly laughs.

“Post-Reading Q&A; or, When Van Morrison Finishes a Concert, He’s Not Obliged to Do This Sort of Thing” is a poem that takes on the format of a typical Q&A.

When discussing the poem, Clewell said that it was based off of an actual Q&A he attended in the past.

After the reading, a YouTube video of a Van Morrison concert was played as Clewell moved to a nearby table to begin selling and signing copies of his collection, which nearly sold out.

Clewell said that young people should decide for themselves whether or not they want to read poetry, but should consider what they can get out of it.

“If people gave themselves a chance to listen to and read more poems, they would find more to poetry,” Clewell said.

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