The College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick Campus, hosted Maryland’s Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly last month, in a night focused on extra credit and Keats.
A majority of CSM students in attendance gave similar reasons for attended the night’s event. “I’m here to support my English teacher,” said Melissa Jenkins of Prince Frederick, while others more bluntly stated the 10 points of extra credit for their English 1020 class as their reason for attending. Others noted that it was required for class participation.
Some, like David Gornley of Chesapeake Beach, were interested in the turn out as much as the speaker. “I was kind of curious,” Gornley said. “I heard recently poetry was a dying art, a lost language and I was curious to see how alive it is.”
Throughout the night Plumly evoked the work of another poet, John Keats, whom Plumly recently wrote a book about entitled “Posthumous Keats”. During the reading Plumly recited “Constable’s Clouds,” what he called “John Constable’s eulogy for Keats,” and spoke of his own time living in England.
“I’ve been everywhere Keats walked, everywhere Keats’s lived,” Plumy said later during a meet and greet session. “To be an expert you have to live there.”
Plumly’s other readings of the night included “Cancer,” “The Jay,” “Prodigal Daughters” and “Wrong Side of the River,” which threaded together themes of life and death and the briefness of time.
“I found more of his depressing poems enjoyable,” admitted Sarah Koch of Huntingtown, whose thoughts echoed others in attendance. “I could more relate to him, his connection to nature is amazing.”
The night also had its humorous moments as well. During the question and answer session an audience member asked Plumly what made him choose poetry as his expressive outlet. “I don’t know what else I would of done, I would have had a half-life…I would have been a criminal,” he replied.
Plumly spoke candidly as well on what it meant to be a poet. “I love really good prose,” he told the audience, “human integrity could not be matched any other way. Writing is the most difficult thing we do.”
Plumly, a University of Maryland College Park professor and author of nine books of poetry, spoke as part of College of Southern Maryland’s ongoing literary series in conjunction with the school’s “Connections” magazine.
Brittanie Krauss is a CSM student and wrote this story as part of the Introduction to Media Writing course.