When I was a boy with a butterfly net perpetually over my shoulder, on one occasion I witnessed a fight between a wasp and a large spider. The spider lost the contest. The wasp dragged the spider’s paralyzed body to its burrow where it would eventually be devoured by the larva when it hatched.
When I found myself enrolled in a writing class my final semester at Drury in 1959, that scene is what I wrote about. Based on it, my professor, Dr. Clark Graham, encouraged me to become a writer.
Yesterday I found myself writing a 100-word end note about tarantulas. I wrote about the spider’s mortal enemy, a wasp called “tarantula hawk,” which stings and paralyzes the tarantula, drags its body to its burrow, and plants an egg on it for a first meal when the larva hatches.
Dr. Graham didn’t live long enough after retirement for me to have a chance to thank him. By the time my first publication came out, it was too late. But thinking about spiders and wasps and college and Dr. Graham and the beginning of my career made it a good day. Way to go, Dr. Graham!
I attended the annual Student Awards Luncheon yesterday at Drury’s School of Education and Early Child Development. I had nothing to do with it but as adjunct faculty of that school and poet laureate for Drury I get invited to nice things. I watched as nine young graduating teachers received awards for outstanding work during their student careers. Several of the awards are named for friends of mine — Wanda Gray, Polly Copper, Sharon Price, Dan Beach.
On the way home I made my way through snarled traffic around another campus, Missouri State University, and was reminded that these special ceremonies to celebrate smart and dedicated college graduates are taking place all over America. It’s a good feeling. The media keeps us up to date on trivia, trash, and tragedy. But yesterday I sat in a room watching great representatives of the next generation being recognized for the marks they’ve already made, and I felt better about our world than I have in a while.
Been having computer issues. No known reason. These things sure can be humbling.
Quick reminder for anyone in the Springfield area with the time and interest, you’re welcome to come to Drury University this Thursday the 8th at 11:00 a.m. in Stone Chapel. The event is billed as the inaugural 2015 Alumni Convocation and I’m the speaker. The event is free and open to the public so please tell others who might be interested. This might be a good opportunity for anyone with children approaching the age of choosing a college to pay a visit to the campus. The location is 900 N Benton on the corner of Central, across the street from Central High School.
The Stone Chapel is oldest stone structure in Springfield, and the cornerstone was laid on November 16, 1880. When I was a student at Drury, attending Chapel was compulsory. Now here I am going back by invitation. I must say that I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve been invited to give a convocation talk at Drury’s Stone Chapel. It will give me a chance to wear my Drury honorary doctorate hood and address a group of Distinguished Alumni Award winners as well as faculty, students of the university, and guests. I gave a convocation talk at Drury years ago before the annual series was discontinued. As I understand it, this is the first in a new series so I’m delighted to be asked.
The idea is to think back to my Drury experience in 1955-1959 and consider the ways in which that experience impacted on my life and informed my work and community outreach efforts. I’ve finished the first draft and can tell you that this is a useful exercise that I recommend. If you take a while to reminisce about your own educational experiences and trace the impact they had on your life, it’s surprising how many connections you’ll discover.
The event is at 11:00 a.m. on October 8. I don’t know if it’s open to the public but will find out if anyone is interested in attending. This takes place during reunion Weekend so I know it’s open to members of celebrating classes.
My responsibilities as poet laureate for Drury University include hosting events meant to stimulate interest in writing among students in elementary, middle, and high schools. One of our most successful ones was in 2008. It was billed as “A Celebration of Writing.” Partnering with Drury, MOREnet, and Springfield Public Libraries, we used videoconferencing and web streaming, plus live audiences of Springfield students from Boyd, Pipkin, and Central, to reach elementary, middle, and high school students in roughly 40 classes in four states.
I stood on stage in Lay Hall on the Drury campus and talked to live audiences for each of the three groups. On each occasion there were classes of students on the screen above my head so I could look up at them; and other kids, who were attending via steaming, were could watch and send questions during the session. Dr. Lauren Edmondson, interim director of the School of Education and Child Development, assisted and handed me questions that were e-mailed or texted in. I hasten to point out that the picture shows us on a different occasion and that is NOT an alcoholic beverage in our glasses!
Laurie, by the way, was my writing partner for another Drury project, LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON. For that one we created twenty 4-minute videos of me giving writing tips (getting ready, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and making it better). To complete the kit we wrote a teacher’s guide and a student writing journal. http://www.phoenixlearningresources.com/Let_s_Write___This_Week_with_David_Harrison-details.aspx.
Laurie and I have decided the time has come to reprise “A Celebration of Writing” and are planning it for late April. If you or someone you know might be interested in learning more as we go, please let me know to add you to the list. At this point I don’t know how far we can reach with the streaming. On a previous occasion I think we had kids in eleven states tuned in, but I’m still in the stage of exploring what’s possible for this event.