Clewell Intentions

Hell yeah! My Advanced Poetry Professor David Clewell has been named Missouri’s Poet Laureate!

David is one of the reasons I decided to go to Webster. When I first realized I wanted a degree in Creative Writing, the Pearson House was a place I had always imagined studying, and David was exactly the type of professor I hoped to have.

While Paulette’s intro class let me craft my personal favorite, David’s workshop was where I produced poems that others have claimed are my best, despite how I feel about them.

David’s office is coated with kitsch, most of it alien related. He is a master of conspiracy theories and party tricks. One day in the Pearson House courtyard, as he was opening a new pack of cigarettes, I pointed out that new packs smell exactly like a box of raisins. He was delighted, and I was delighted for delighting him.

He assigned each student in our small, exclusive class three books to read, with the intention of writing a poem inspired by each book. These books were wonderfully weird. I remember one guy had to read about the history of paint-by-number paintings. God, I wish I still had that full list. Here were mine:

  • Was This Man a Genius? Talks with Andy Kaufman by Julie Hecht. This book included tons of interviews and revealing interactions between Kaufman and Hecht. Her concensus? It’s impossible to determine what the hell Andy was thinking, ever.
  • Forgive me for forgetting the title, but in this one, a woman claims the CIA kidnapped her as a child and used mind control to develop assassin multiple personalities (book complete with drawings and documents). This book terrified me.
  • And Banvard’s Folly by Paul S. Collins – one of my all-time favorite reads. I gift this to people all the time. It includes 13 essays about people who were once famous but have since been forgotten. Like, the guy who invented the concord grape (inventions with seeds are surprisingly hard to keep exclusive), a man who painted a panorama painting of the entire Mississippi River, and a guy who tried to invent a universal language based on music. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

At the end of the semester, he gave us each a book of poetry. Each book was different, and chosen especially for us by David. My book was Ripe by Roy Jacobstein. The title poem still inspires me to this day:

Somewhere my father must be
eating the mooshy parts of a peach
as a favor for a child,
the way he once did for me.
May it be sunny there, and a lei
of light illumine his brow.
The years it’s taken to learn sweetness
resides in the bruises.


David Clewel is amazing. Even if he wasn’t an immensely talented writer, he would deserve some sort of nationally-recognized award for being so damn cool.

I mean, look at that guy. Don’t you just want to hug that guy? Don’t you want him to think you are cool, or at least tell you “Nice work”? He’s fantastic. Congratulations.

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