New Ohio poet laureate hopes to celebrate poetry in life

In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, photo, David Lucas holds up his book, Weather, in his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Lucas, Ohio's new poet laureate, says he hopes to celebrate the legacy of poetry in the state and of Ohio poets. Lucas will serve for two years in the position. Lawmakers created the post, which comes with a $5,000 stipend, in 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Author readings in the hushed and reverent atmospheres of universities and libraries have their place, but they can also discourage potential readers, says Ohio’s new poet laureate.
“It becomes forbidding and intimidating for people who might say, ‘Oh, I don’t read that kind of book,'” said David Lucas.
Trying to overcome that perception is one reason why Lucas teaches a class at Case Western Reserve University titled “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry.” He’s also co-founder of Brews + Prose, a monthly reading series in a Cleveland brew pub.
The series’ motto? “Literature is better with beer.”
Lucas, 37, was named the state’s second poet laureate this month by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Lawmakers authorized the two-year position, which comes with a $5,000 stipend, in 2014. Ohio was the 45th state to create the poet laureate post.
Lucas, of Cleveland Heights, has taught at Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic Program in Medical Humanities and John Carroll University. He succeeds the first poet laureate, suburban Columbus doctor and radiologist Amit Majmudar.
Lucas is a frequently published and award-winning poet. His first book, “Weather,” won the 2012 Ohioana Book Award in poetry.
“Like us they have come a long way/from their various elsewheres/for reasons they cannot quite articulate/following the trace of a faint star/into the diminishing distance,” he writes in “Three Kings” from 2016.
Lucas says he’s tried unsuccessfully to compose on a schedule, sitting before a computer screen. But his best work comes as he’s moving around, whether driving someplace or running errands like grocery shopping.
“I do better when I steal time from other tasks,” Lucas joked. “There’s nothing like having 20 papers to grade to get a poem written.”
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AP: Why should people read poetry?
Lucas: “Because it can be a way of making meaning out of their lives and out of the lives of others.”
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AP: What makes a good poem?
Lucas: “Something in its language that grabs their attention and keeps their attention long after the poem is over.”
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AP: What are your goals as Ohio poet laureate?
Lucas: “I hope to celebrate the legacy of poetry in Ohio and of Ohio poets, both in terms of what we might think of as traditional poems, but also to celebrate poetry as we encounter it in song lyrics, and conversations and metaphors and slang and jokes, and all of the ways in which we use language that are not purely functional.”
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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .