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"More Clewell Than Anyone Needs in One Place": Poet Laureate Releases New CD

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Jennifer Silverberg
​Let's just have David Clewell, Webster University professor and Missouri poet laureate, talk about the newest development in his professional life, There's Going to Be Trouble, a CD of him reading some of his poems. His laureate duties had taken him on a tour around the state and he had just returned to his office when he talked to Daily RFT.

"What day is it? What city is it? OK, Wednesday. I'm a day ahead. Yeah, the dean said he was hearing from so many people wishing they could hear me that they decided to do a CD. I think that's way more Clewell than anyone needs in one place. It's two-and-a-half hours. It was fun to do, it wasn't make-work. The sound engineer who did it, Gary Gottlieb, is a good guy. It was a fun couple of days. I think it was in December, yeah, before the new year.

"They're selected poems, a sampler. I picked some things that read really well. They're not the best -- they're the most listenable. Most readings live in time, in poetry readings and open mics. I wish one person would sit and read the poems instead and experience them in their native habitats. That's Grinch-y of me, I realize. Live readings disappear into the air, people are on to the next thing, dessert at Cyrano's.

"I'm not trying to be a shrinking violet or an egomaniac. People just say they like the way I read.

"It's a not-for-sale deal. It's an odd proposition. I'm not flacking or flocking. You can't step into Euclid Records and buy it. Yeah, maybe you'll get it at a flea market in ten years. That'd be cool."

There's Going to Be Trouble is actually a double CD that contains 28 poems. Clewell himself would prefer you get a copy of one of his eleven books of poetry (the most recent, Taken Somehow By Surprise, came out earlier this year), not because he'd get royalties but because, as he writes in the liner notes:

I hope you'll want to read for yourself the collections these poems have been spirited from. There's nothing quite like experiencing a poem in its native habitat -- which most hospitably is the book where, surrounded by others of its kind, the poem nonetheless waits patiently for you. And when you get there, you can spend as much or as little time as you care to -- savoring or fuming, complaining or delighting, sighing or spitting or laughing if you must. You can be absolutely yourself: one person alone with the language, inhaling and exhaling line by line, breath after assuredly human breath. Now, that's my kind of poetry reading!

That said, there's also nothing quite like hearing Clewell read his own words in his own inimitable voice, stories about Jack Ruby, Buzz Aldrin, Coleman Hawkins, Albert Einstein, his Uncle Bud and the vegetable man who used to peddle his wares in the alley behind Clewell's first St. Louis apartment every day at 6 a.m. As the title of one poem in the collection puts it, "This Poem Had Better Be about the World We Actually Live In."

If you'd like a copy of the CD, contact Erin Rivers at Webster University at erivers@webster.edu or 314-968-7140. It's free.

Correction added June 27: The original headline on this post said that There's Going to Be Trouble is Clewell's first CD. It's not. Last year Poetry Scores released his reading of his long poem, Jack Ruby's America.


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