David Clewell, Missouri Poet Laureate
On March 3, 2010, Governor Jay Nixon appointed David Clewell, Professor of English at Webster University in St. Louis, as Missouri’s new Poet Laureate. Clewell’s appointment runs for two years, and expires on January 31, 2012.
David Clewell has published seven collections of poems (most recently, The Low End of Higher Things) and two book length poems (The Conspiracy Quartet and Jack Ruby’s America). His work has appeared regularly in a wide variety of magazines, including Harper’s, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, Ontario Review, New Letters and Yankee. His poetry is represented in five dozen anthologies. He has been the recipient of the Pollak Poetry Prize (for Now We’re Getting Somewhere) and the Lavan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His Blessings in Disguise was a winner in the national Poetry Series. Clewell teaches poetry workshops (introductory and advanced), 19th and 20th Century literature, and topics-in-poetry seminars. He directs the Creative Writing program and coordinates the attendant Visiting Writer Series, which he started in 1986.
David Clewell Publications (PDF version)
Room To Breathe, Milwaukee: Pentagon Press, 1977
The Blood Knows To Keep Moving, Boston: Chowder Review, 1980
As Far as the Eye Can See, St. Louis: Neverthless Press, 1989
Blessings In Disguise, New York: Viking/Penguin, 1991
Lost In the Fire, St. Louis: Garlic Press, 1993
Now We're Getting Somewhere, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994
The Conspiracy Quartet, St. Louis: Garlic Press, 1997
Jack Ruby’s America, St. Louis: Garlic Press, 2000
The Low End of Higher Things, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003
Robert Pherigo, Missouri Composer Laureate
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Robert was named the 2011 Missouri Composer Laureate and commissioned to write a new song setting a poem by Missouri Poet Laureate, David Clewell. He attended Arizona State University and received his bachelor’s degree in piano performance under the teaching of Arnold Bullock and Robert Hamilton. He also met and married his fellow student, flutist Lyra Pherigo, who was at ASU getting her flute performance degree. Having had enough of schooling, he then commenced to perform in Florida, Chicago for nine years, and since 1993 in the Kansas City area. The highlights of his musical life have so far been: studying voice with Ronald Combs in Chicago and twice making it to the regional semi-finals of the Metropolitan Opera national Council Audition; singing in the Chicago Symphony Chorus under, among others, conductors Sir George Solti and Claudio Abbado; singing in the Kansas City Chorale with Charles Bruffy conducting for 10 years, at which time the five recordings they made for Naxos were recorded and released. He has accompanied the studio of Chicago Symphony piccoloist and flutist Walfrid Kujala and been Mr. Kujala’s regular recital partner, playing Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude at the American Cathedral in Paris in may 2001. He has enjoyed the many wonderful performances with his wife, Lyra; performing Liszt’s Annees de Pelerinage, Second Year: Italy; and being the pianist and occasional tenor or conductor for newEar, Kansas City’s premiere contemporary chamber ensemble. Robert has performed his arrangement, Sing We Now Noel!, written for the Lawrence Children’s Choir published by Santa Barbara Musical Press; conducted Conrad Susa’s Christmas opera The Wise Women for Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City; and heard Mendelssohn sung at the Buchenwald concentration camp, whose music was forbidden during WWII. Lastly, he enjoys hearing his compositions come to life, being sung or played by the wonderful musicians with whom he works.
Presently Robert is the pianist for the Lee’s Summit North High School music department and for Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City. He also gives private lessons. His son, Lucas, is a freshman majoring in voice performance and composition at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri, Kansas City. When he’s not doing music, Robert enjoys reading, movies, good television, exploring new places, meditation and taking long bike rides.
Missouri’s Composers and Poets in Tonight’s Program
(1850-1895) was born in St. Louis, Missouri where today his boyhood home is open to the public as The Eugene Field House and the St. Louis Toy Museum. Field's father, attorney Roswell Martin Field, was famous for his representation of Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom. Field attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He dropped out of Williams after eight months. Next he went to to Knox College in in Galesburg, Illimois, but dropped out after a year. Then he went to the Univeristy of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, where his brother Roswell was also attending. He tried acting and studied law with little success, and also wrote for the student newspaper. He then set off for a trip through Europe but returned to the United States six months later, penniless. Field then set to work as a journalist for the St. Joseph Gazette
in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1875. That same year he married Julia Comstock, with whom he had eight children. Field soon rose to become city editor of the Gazette
. He became known for his light, humorous articles written in a gossipy style, some of which were reprinted by other newspapers around the country. It was during this time that he wrote the famous poem Lovers Lane, about a street in St. Joseph. From 1876 through 1880 Field lived in St. Louis. In 1883 Field moved to Chicago. Field first started publishing poetry in 1879, when his poem "Christmas Treasures" appeared in A Little Book of Western Verse
. Over a dozen volumes of poetry followed and he became well known for his light-hearted poems for children, perhaps the most famous of which is Wynken, Blynken and Nod
, a resident of Kansas City, had little idea of the foundation he was laying for his future career in music as a beginning piano student at ten years of age. From those inauspicious beginnings in northern Illinois, his career has blossomed into international tours to Europe, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Brazil. Now an internationally known writer, his music can be found in the music libraries of the finest churches and universities in the country, and he is in increasing demand for choral clinics and concerts.
Today Hayes’ vocal and instrumental writing is widely acclaimed and performed across the nation. He is well-known for his unique choral settings which draw from such diverse styles as gospel, jazz, pop, folk, and classical to achieve a truly “American sound.” The popularity of his music is evident in the numerous offers of commissions he receives from universities and churches throughout the country.
Mark first conducted his Te Deum
at Carnegie Hall in New York in May 2007, with additional performances in 2008 & 2009. Hayes conducted the Community and Church Honor Choir at the 2008 MCDA Convention, and led the Community and Church Honor Choir at the SWACDA Regional convention in 2010 featuring his Gloria
. Mark will be conducting the world premiere of his new work for chorus and orchestra, The American Spirit
, at Lincoln Center in May 2011.
His personal catalog, compiled over the last 32 years, includes well over 700 published original compositions and arrangements which are distributed by several leading publishers. Hayes has produced and arranged over 50 recordings for various artists and publishers, 50 keyboard folios, and 21 vocal solo collections.
In addition to his involvement in the sacred and secular choral music fields, Hayes is increasingly sought after as an orchestrator and record producer. Mark Hayes is a recurring recipient of the Standard Award from ASCAP, and his album I’ve Just Seen Jesus
received the Dove Award, the equivalent to a Grammy in gospel music. He received the Award for Exemplary Leadership in Christian Music from Baylor University Center for Christian Music Studies.
James Langston Hughes
was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, and eventually settled with his family in Cleveland, Ohio. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. He held odd jobs and traveled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes’ first book of poetry, The Weary Blues
, a volume of jazz poems, was published in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania
three years later. In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter
, won the Harmon gold medal or literature. Hughes is known for his portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays as well as poetry. His life and work were important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. Often hailed as the “Negro Poet Laureate”, Hughes died in Harlem on May 22, 1967.
grew up first in Wilmington, North Carolina and then Springfield, Missouri. Susan A. LaBarr (b.1981) has been active as a singer, pianist, and composer much of her life. Susan is a graduate of Missouri State University where she received a bachelor of arts in music and a master of music in music theory. At Missouri State, Susan studied composition and arranging with John Prescott, piano with Dr. Peter Collins, and sang in the Missouri State University Concert Chorale under the direction of Dr. Guy Webb. Susan was a member of MSU's premiere female a cappella group, A Cub Bella, for five years, and served as music director, president, and choreographer throughout her time in the group. She has arranged over twenty pieces for A Cub Bella. Susan's compositions are performed by university, high school, church, and community choirs across the United States and Europe. Currently, three of her arrangements are published with Santa Barbara Music: You Cannot Lose My Love
, and Under the Willow
. Susan and her husband, Cameron, reside in Texas where she works as the Choral Editor for Choristers Guild and is Associate Director of Music at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, TX. For more information, visit susanlabarrmusic.com
was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest child of John Warren Teasdale, a prominent businessman. Her parents were staunch Baptists with a Puritan heritage. Teasdale suffered poor health, and was sheltered and protected by her family. She was educated at home until she was nine, and then was sent to a girl’s school. She lived at home, with only brief times away to travel within the U.S. and to Europe, until her late twenties. In 1913, Teasdale fell in love with poet Vachel Lindsay. She married Ernst Filsinger in 1914. In 1918, her poetry collection Love Songs
won the Columbia University Poetry Society prize, the 1918 Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the annual prize of the Poetry Society of America. In 1994, Teasdale was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. She is interred in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
was born on April 4, 1953, in Guangzhou, China. Chen's parents were both doctors; they were adherents of the Christian faith, and were interested in Western music and culture. Chen started violin and piano lessons at age three, and her two siblings both went on to careers as classical musicians. In 1986 Chen became the first woman in China to receive a master's degree in composition, and a concert of her music was presented on Chinese television. That year, Chen left China for New York to study with Chinese-American composer Chou Wen-Chung at Columbia University. She also studied with Mario Davidovsky at Columbia, receiving her doctoral degree there in 1993. Chen and her husband both joined the faculty of the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 1998. The following year Chen became a United States citizen. In 2001 she added a major prize to her growing list of awards: the American Academy of Arts and Letters named her as the recipient of the Charles Ives Living, a $225,000 cash grant awarded with the sole requirement that she work full-time at composing. In the years following her receipt of the award, she began several major projects, including a symphony to be premiered by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, a piece for the prestigious Cleveland Orchestra, and a cello concerto for famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma
Verses and Voices
is an educational program founded in Missouri in 2008 to inspire greater creative vision in our students. Verses and Voices
is about poetry (Verses) and the many ways we express creative words (Voices). When young people learn to express meaningful words creatively, seeing colors and images, feeling movement and rhythm, hearing sound and music, they are enabled to see, shape, and share their creative vision and voice. Verses and Voice
s gives students the opportunity to creatively interact with America’s Poets Laureate. The students do this through interpretive readings and visual art interpretations of poems by Poets Laureate. The goal is to help students find their creative voice by connecting them to the creative voices of the Poets Laureate. Another central focus of Verses and Voices is to inspire students to share their creative voice through original poetry. Participating schools host a Verses and Voices Festival
to present displays of original student poetry and collaborative visual art interpretations of the poetry. The poetry and artworks are adjudicated and the highest level poems and artworks receive a Poet Laureate Award for Vision and Creativity
or a First Lady’s Award for Vision and Creativity
, certificates that bear the name of First Lady Georganne Nixon and David Clewell, Missouri’s current Poet Laureate.
Missouri’s Literary Heritage
Missouri has long been recognized for its rich literary history. Missouri authors have been making valuable contributions to American literature since Lewis and Clark first wrote about the state in the early 1800’s. One of Missouri’s most famous writers, Mark Twain, featured his hometown, Hannibal, in many of his works. T.S. Eliot, born in St. Louis, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948. An influential literary figure of the 20th century, Eliot is best known for The Waste Land
and the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
, a poem whose main character was named after a business in St. Louis. Tennessee Williams attended Washington University and set his first play, The Glass Menagerie
, in St. Louis. Influential Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes describes his childhood in Joplin, Missouri in his autobiography, The Big Sea
. Marianne Moore, born in Kirkwood, edited an important nliterary journal, The Dial
, and won Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes. St. Louis native Sara Teasdale won Columbia University’s Poetry Prize for Love Songs
in 1918. Mona Van Duyn, a faculty member of Washington University, became the first woman appointed U.S. Poet Laureate in 1992. She won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Near Changes
. Maya Angelou, although born in Missouri, left the state as a child, but writes about time spent here in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The literature of Missouri grew in part out of the state’s newspaper culture. Twain’s first writing experience was for Missouri newspapers, and Ernest Hemingway got his start as a general hospital reporter for the Kansas City Star
. Joseph Pulitzer formed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
and established prizes in his name to recognize outstanding writers. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in Mansfield and was a journalist for The Missouri Ruralist
before she published her first book at age 65. Eugene Field, known mostly for his children’s poetry, wrote for the St. Joseph Gazette
and several other Missouri newspapers.
Acknowledgements and Thanks
Walter Bargen, Kevin Griffin, Darren Verbick, Jonnie Kemmerling, Kristi Reedy, Chad Crooks, Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church, Teresa Fankhauser, Taylor Glascock, Huffman Memorial United Methodist Church, Keiko Ishida, Diane Jacobs, KFEQ, KQ2, KXCV, Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph News Press, St. Joseph School District, St. Joseph Host Lions Club, Savannah R-III School District, Lees Summit School District, Jefferson City School District, Steve Van Dyke, Matt Gilmour, Carol Criss, Steve Kellepouris, Diane Wood, Shirley Kiner, Jane Frick, Bill Church, First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City, Dr. Roger Hale, Jeff Fuson.
Missouri Verses and Voices Executive Committee
Georganne Nixon, First Lady of Missouri, Honorary Chair
Walter Bargen, First Missouri Poet Laureate
Dr. David Benz, Artistic Director
David Clewell, Current Missouri Poet Laureate
Mary Ann Haenni, Executive Director
Download a PDF of this program here
Go to the Governor's Verses and Voices Festival Concert of Missouri main page