Spoken word The prose poem has often been regarded as the “homely second cousin” of the lyric family, suggests prose-poet David Shumate. But the longtime Marian College professor has recently been named the campus’ first “poet-in-residence” for his achievements in the field, notably the publication of his new, first book High Water Mark from the prestigious University of Pittsburgh Press Pitt Poetry Series. The work won the Press’ $5,000 Starrett Poetry Prize last year.
Shumate’s genre may ignore the line breaks and stanzas of more typical verse, but its language and detail fulfill poetry’s need for precise imagery and dense emotion. And the stories within the poems — whether of Coronado, Custer, Freud, Hitler’s barber or everyman — startle with their odd twists and compelling coherence. In “Passing Through a Small Town” he writes, “As I turn to head west, I become the schoolteacher living above the barber shop. Polishing my shoes each evening. Gazing at the square below. In time I befriend the waitress at the café and she winks as she pours my coffee. Soon people begin to talk. And for good reason.”
The poet’s work has appeared in such literary magazines as North American Review, Mississippi Review, Mid-American Review and Maize, and was recently featured on PBS radio’s Writers’ Almanac.
Shumate will share his “homely” verse on Thursday, Oct. 28 at Marian’s Allison Mansion, 3200 Cold Springs Road, at 7 p.m. Call 955-6395 for further information.