The second poem in David Clewell's eighth and most recent book, Taken Somehow by Surprise, is called "This Poem Had Better Be About the World We Actually Live In." If it's possible for one title to sum up a poet's entire body of work, for Clewell this would be it. The world he actually lives in is a wondrous place, full of odd characters (his Uncle Bud) and neglected historical figures (Jack Ruby), random memories (Clewell's early career as a weight guesser on the boardwalk in his native New Jersey) and an equally random assortment of kitschy treasures plucked from flea markets (Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela, an album purportedly recorded on the moon by the St. Louis-born nightclub singer). When Governor Jay Nixon appointed Clewell Missouri's poet laureate last year, the Webster University prof said his mission was "to try to remind people that poetry for me is stuff about real human lives on this planet, not off in aerie-fairy land." Read his work, and you'll see exactly what he means.
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