I previously talked about how important living writers are, and tonight, I attended an event that reminded me of that. At the Gastonia Public Library, poet David E. Poston read some of his work before answering questions and signing books.
To me, David E. Poston will always be Mr. Poston, 12th grade AP English teacher, who agreed with my reading of the poem “What You Missed,” who discussed A Brave New World and Shakespeare’s plays, and who taught me that good writers borrow and great writers steal.
At first, I wanted to read the book simply for nostalgia, to be able to hold it in my hands and think, “I know this person, I studied under this person.” The more he read his poems, the more they spoke to me in a deeper way. The religious imagery in “The Childish Things He Put Away” and “R & B” remind me of my own complicated, winding relationship with Christianity. Others, like “May 35th” remind me of the joys that come with growing up in the South, but also that I must remain vigilant to keep up with a global community. And “Road to Nowhere, Bryson City, NC” reminds me of a specific day, going bird-watching with my uncle and cousins, and makes me think my own father could have written it in his life.
Any story can travel through time and space to touch a person (“Shakespeare must be a black girl,” Maya Angelou said, because he wrote exactly how she felt growing up in Louisiana), but there is something to be said for a writer who lived in your particular hometown in your particular lifetime that can speak to specific things that make your experience unique.
David Poston’s book of poetry Slow of Study is rich in imagery and deep in thought while still telling simple stories that anyone can enjoy, even if they don’t like to “tie poetry to a chair and beat the meaning out of it.” Instead, they can enjoy a story and the beauty of language. Anyone who grew up in North Carolina and anyone who likes a good story should pick up this book. Anyone who likes Southern poetry probably already has it.