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Missouri's Poet Laureate Visits Parkway


Davide Clewell


Missouri’s Poet Laureate David Clewell told students he loves “the strange, the devious, the mysterious and the desperate” on a recent visit to Parkway Tuesday and Wednesday. This was right after he modeled his bowling shirt, replete with a spaceship on the back and the words Parkway Laureate Tour, for audiences.

As a high school student, Clewell told students he was “put off” by poetry. There was too much emphasis on hidden meanings. He couldn’t relate to those abstractions. Then and now, he wants poetry to be understandable and engaging.  “The poets I like most are human beings who show the foibles and joys of what it is to be human, writers who have a sense of humor.”

He could be describing himself. Even the term “poet laureate” is a little too abstract for his tastes. He prefers the term his 14-year-old son came up with: “poetry overlord.”

“It’s so much more understandable,” he chuckles.

“In class, we have been reading more traditional poetry than yours,” one student tells him. “This is one of the first times I’ve heard poetry with complete sentences.”  Or poetry that celebrates humor.

“He knows how to make poetry fun,” says Parkway teacher Lou Jobst, who helped bring Clewell to Parkway. Jobst also had the Parkway Laureate Tour bowling shirts made for Clewell and himself because he knows that Clewell loves bowling shirts and spaceships. “I also love my conspiracy theories,” chuckles Clewell.

“David has a unique perspective on contemporary American life,” Governor Jay Nixon once told the Riverfront Times. “David’s wry humor, tart social commentary and accessible style give his poetry a broad appeal.”

Parkway students lined up to talk more  with Clewell after he read poems from his new book of poems, “Taken Somehow by Surprise.”