On the second Thursday of every month, the Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg hosts Poetry at the Dali Museum.
On October 11, 2018, I had the privilege of sitting with October’s featured poets, Erin Hoover and Wally B., for an extended period of time. Hoover and Wally B. were gracious enough to meet with students from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg from 5 until 5:45 prior to their scheduled readings in the theater. We had fantastic conversations about education, poetry, literature, and life.
Erin Hoover, currently teaching at FSU, drove down from Tallahassee with her adorable 18-month-old daughter, Hester, to share her time and words with us. She read a selection of poems from her recently published book. Barnburner (available on Amazon) was selected as the winner of Elixer Press’s 2017 Antivenom Poetry Award.
It was a phenomenal experience to sit and speak with Hoover, a recent nontraditional student, successful poet, educator, and mother. She was humble and kind, sharing her experiences and ambitions openly and honestly. Among the poems shared with the audience were “Epithalamion,” a poem written for her nephew expressing the griefs of childhood; “Nobody Wanted Such a River,” referring to the Susquehanna River and its history; and “With Gratitude to Those Who Have Made This Book Possible,” an honest portrayal involving class, community, and experience. She provides truth in a fantastically honest, blunt, and direct manner. There is no complacency in expressing the injustice and pain existing in middle America. Whether listening to Hoover deliver her words or reading them from her collection, one feels as though the blinders of polite society are being removed, leaving nothing but reality with all its pains, struggles, injustices, and inequalities. Hoover, like her poetry, is a person not to be taken lightly who has experience and wisdom to share.
Like Hoover, Wally B. has an extraordinary gift with words. In Creative Loafing’s 2011 Best of the Bay publication, he was lauded as the “Best Spoken Word Artist.” Wally B. is a husband, a father, a teacher, a minister, and a poet. He founded “Heard Em Say Teen Poetry” in 2007 as an organization for teenagers to have a place for self-expression. Wally B. and I discussed a great many topics, including life with teenaged daughters, as mine is 13 and his is a few months shy of 16. We also discussed education and the importance of meeting students at their level in order to truly be effective educators. It was a real treat spending time with him, as so much of what he does with “Heard Em Say” correlates to the research I have been doing as a graduate student at USFSP. He had a lot of wisdom to share in motivating teenagers to write and express themselves with words.
Wally B.’s CD, The Influence of Estrogen (available on CDBaby), features one of the poems he performed, “Faded Superman Logo.” He performed a few others, including “Anachronism,” a fabulously delivered poem telling all that they belong exactly in the time and space in which they were born. Wally B. provides his listeners with a realistic portrayal of the world while maintaining a pleasant optimism and kindness. His words encourage us to look at those around us and care about their plight. When asked why he began reciting poetry, he replied, “I had challenges.” His challenges found an outlet that has definitely been successful. His spoken word poetry is delivered with clarity and concision, as he has combined the arts of rhetoric, poetry, and performance perfectly.
The evening was an immense pleasure. Spending time with Helen Wallace, Wally B., Erin Hoover, Dr. Thomas Hallock, and Dr. Julie Armstrong, to discuss literature, poetry, and life was an evening not likely to be forgotten. It is always a joy to have such opportunities as a student at USFSP and a member of Sigma Tau Delta.
For those interested, Poetry at the Dali will continue to showcase two new poets every second Thursday of the month through May 2019. Each evening will include our distinguished and talented Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg and two other esteemed poets delivering poems that deal with the events current theme, “Things are not what they seem.” Perhaps we at Sigma Tau Delta will see you on November 8th to listen as Simeon Berry and Terri Witek share their poetry.