The Big Read Blog (Archive)

A Quick One While I’m Away

February 21, 2007
St. Louis, Missouri

A short post today to reflect a shortish day yesterday, begun with Washington University's frank, funny Cheryl Adelstein picking me up at Lambert Field, then ended a few hours later with Lowell Bergman's Frontline lullaby for my former profession, newspaper journalism. In between I attended the St. Louis regional finals for Poetry Out Loud, the NEA national initiative that gets school kids to learn and recite good poetry, midwifed last year by the agency's Dan Stone and now shepherded by Leslie Liberato. [Poetry lovers and high school teachers looking for a great project for their students should check out the Poetry Out Loud web site.]

Someone at the St. Louis Big Read's principal sponsor, Washington University, or maybe the dynamic Lisette Dennis of the Regional Arts Commission here, where the contest took place, noticed that Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach figures prominently both in the NEA's Poetry Out Loud anthology and in Fahrenheit 451, and had the bright idea of gently yoking the two together at last night's semifinals. Consequently, the sizable crowd of parents, peers and poetasters heard not only a bunch of gifted high-school students reciting from Margaret Atwood, Langston Hughes and others, but also one of the unenviable judges, actor-teacher Jack Hake, choke up the house with his reading of Dover Beach. After an understandably protracted judging huddle, the jury proclaimed an exuberant Brijhette Farmer the winner and the effortlessly natural Jeremy White her runner-up. Both are pictured above, letting the good news sink in.

Then it was off to the University City Library for an unusually engaging and well-attended book discussion of Fahrenheit 451, but I'll have to save the details for tomorrow if I don't want to miss my ride to KWMU, for their Book Club on the Air. Suffice for now to say that the library checked me out a copy of Missouri: A Guide to the "Show Me" State, so we're all sure to get our overdue WPA fix tomorrow...